World Book Day gives us the perfect excuse to lose ourselves in our favourite novel, play or poem. For true bookworms, it is also an opportunity to make that long-awaited pilgrimage to the country’s most inspirational literary locations – where award-winning writers were inspired to create some of the greatest ever works of fiction.
So in honour of our nation’s favourite books, we have put together the ultimate guide to Britain’s literary landmarks.
Pack a paperback, hit the road and immerse yourself in the best of British literature.
Jamaica Inn, Cornwall
Cornwall is the eternal star of Rebecca Du Maurier’s novels, and Jamaica Inn is no exception. Her famous tale of murder and mayhem is set in the brooding Jamaica Inn on Bodwin Moor – and it is still standing today. Du Maurier stumbled across it one night in 1930 after getting lost in the fog while out on the moor. Captivated by the inn’s intense atmosphere and the innkeeper’s chilling ghost stories, she got to work on her most celebrated novel.
Hike across the moors for yourself (fog machine optional) and reward yourself with a pint and a pasty at the real life Jamaica Inn…just remember – don’t trust anyone.
Chesil Beach, Dorset
Ian McEwan has a real gift for making us feel the most profound misery through his tragic characters and their depressing lives. If you’re into that sort of thing, you absolutely have to visit Chesil Beach in Dorset – the eponymous location for his 2007 Booker-shortlisted book.
The beach is stunningly beautiful in its own right, but after you have read the book you will curse McEwan for ruining your seaside holiday.
Alternatively, win a few Instagram ‘likes’ by snapping a picture of “On Chesil Beach, on Chesil Beach”.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Fancy solving a real life literary mystery? On 3 December 1926, Agatha Christie left her home in Berkshire following a row with her cheating husband, and simply disappeared. Her car was found abandoned by a lake in Guildford, Kent a few days later, and a national manhunt attracted the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle (who hired a spirit medium to track her down). After 11 days, she was finally spotted in Harrogate, North Yorkshire – hundreds of miles from home – claiming to have amnesia.
No one has ever figured out where she went or what she did during those ‘lost’ 11 days – can you retrace her steps and solve Christie’s greatest mystery?
Whitby Abbey, Whitby
For maximum effect, go after dark, alone, and bring plenty of garlic. That’s right – Whitby Abbey is the real life inspiration behind Dracula’s Castle. During a visit to the Yorkshire town of Whitby in 1890, Bram Stoker spent some time walking around the looming ruins of the ancient abbey, and in his mind a story started to take shape… the rest is horror history.
Whitby Abbey is one of those places you’ve probably already had a dozen nightmares about, without ever actually visiting it. The shadowy arches are home to actual bats, while a steep set of the crumbling steps leads right into the sea, perfect for bringing shipwrecked vampires to the shore.
The ruins are still standing today, while Dracula’s “grave” is situated nearby.
Dylan Thomas loved Wales, and Wales loved him right back. He was born in Swansea and lived all over picturesque West Wales, but it was in the small town of Laugharne where he was truly inspired.
From a boathouse nestled in a tiny glen beside the glassy water of the Taf Estuary, he wrote the iconic Under Milk Wood, and it is not hard to see why. Laugharne is one of the most calming nooks in all of Carmarthenshire – the perfect place to loll among the daffodils and catch up on your Welsh literature.
One of England’s prettiest cities, Winchester has been responsible for inspiring some of the greatest novels every written. From her Winchester home, Jane Austen dreamed up the love story between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, a scheming young character called Emma, and many other iconic characters and stories which would go on to become global classics.
Visit Austen’s home (now a museum) in Chawton, and make some time to indulge in a long walk around the countryside, just as she did.
Incidentally, Colin Firth also hails from Winchester, so if you hang around the lakes long enough you may be lucky enough to recreate a certain scene from the BBC adaptation…
Alnwick Castle (AKA: Hogwarts), Northumberland
OK, so this is cheating a little – J.K. Rowling wasn’t technically thinking of Alnwick Castle when she wrote about Hogwarts, but thanks to the films, the castle has become synonymous with Harry Potter.
The huge castle is open to the public for most of the year, and even hosts the odd Harry Potter themed day – bring your wand and recreate the magic for yourself.
Haworth, West Yorkshire
The West Yorkshire village of Haworth was home to the Bronte sisters for many years, and it was in the Haworth Parsonage where they wrote most of their books. You can’t miss the connection when you visit – almost every landmark has a ‘Bronte’ association (the Bronte Waterfall; Bronte Bridge, etc), while the old Parsonage is now a museum.
There is no real-life Wuthering Heights, but it is widely assumed that Emily Bronte was inspired by Top Withins, a desolate and rural farmhouse approximately 3 miles outside of the village.
Best enjoyed with a friend named Cathy.
This unassuming “wee red toonie” in the east of Scotland was where Neverland was born. The hometown of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie, it features in many of his novels including Auld Licht Idylls, The Little Minister and A Window in Thrums. It was here that he wrote Peter Pan, and the rugged, lush landscape of Neverland was based on the local Angus scenery.
Kirriemuir has some of the clearest night skies in the UK, so you can map your own route to Neverland. According to Barrie, it is near the “stars of the milky way”, “second to the right, and straight on till morning”, and most easily spotted at sunrise.