A Book Lover’s Tour of the UK

by Daniel Bingham

This one is for all the book lovers out there! If you’re anything like me, you’re fascinated with the real-world stories behind the books you love and the amazing authors who created them. Here is a guide to some of the places you can visit which are dedicated to preserving the legacy of these authors and these stories. Perhaps you could go on a literary pilgrimage and visit some of them yourself!

Visit the Home of Agatha Christie in Devon

This relaxed and atmospheric house is set in the 1950s, when Agatha and her family would spend summers and Christmases here with friends, relaxing by the river, playing croquet and clock golf, and reading her latest mystery to their guests. The family were great collectors, and the house is filled with an important and varied collection of ceramics, Tunbridgeware, silver, and books, including first editions of her novels. It is also home to archaeological artefacts acquired in the Middle East where Agatha accompanied her husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan on excavations.  In the library, a frieze was painted in 1944 when the house was requisitioned by the US Coastguards as part of the preparations for D-Day.

“Poirot,” I said. “I have been thinking.”
“An admirable exercise my friend. Continue it.”
– Agatha Christie, Peril at End House

The Georgian house you see today was built in the late 18th century for a successful sea merchant, but there has been a house on this site for over 400 years. In the 16th century, a Tudor mansion called Greenway Court was built for the Gilbert family who were leading soldiers and seafarers, who also received patents to establish colonies in Ireland, Newfoundland and Maine. In the garden, a large and romantic woodland drifts down the hillside towards the Dart estuary. The walled gardens are home to a restored peach house and vinery, as well as an allotment cared for by local school children. A visit to Greenway isn’t complete without seeing the Boathouse, the scene of the crime in ‘Dead Man’s Folly’, and the battery complete with cannon.

Visit the Home of Beatrix Potter in the Lake District

Welcome to Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s holiday home, sanctuary and studio. This cosy converted 17th-century Lakeland farmhouse is filled with Beatrix’s belongings and inspired many of her famous stories. Book your ticket to guarantee entry. Beatrix Potter purchased Hill Top Farm in 1905, with the profits from her first illustrated books, including the Tale of Peter Rabbit. She extended the old farmhouse and enjoyed furnishing it with well-chosen antiques. For Beatrix, Hill Top provided a refuge away from London and became a place of independence and inspiration.

“Peter lost one of his shoes among the cabbages, and the other shoe amongst the potatoes.”
– Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

As soon as you step inside Hill Top, you’re surrounded by Beatrix Potter’s own belongings and items she carefully chose to leave here, bringing her personality to life in each room, cupboard and with each piece of furniture. Over the years Beatrix added touches of luxury to Hill Top – look out for the marble fireplaces and fine china. She also displayed personal items, including gifts from friends and family. The plates on the kitchen wall were painted by Beatrix’s father Rupert Potter, and her brother Bertram created the large paintings in the New Room. The Treasure Room at the top of the stairs includes a display of Beatrix’s most precious things, including miniature dolls’ house food she painted for The Tale of Two Bad Mice, and was a gift from her fiancé Norman Warne.

Visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire

When ‘Wuthering Heights’ was published in 1848 one reviewer wrote: ‘the reader is shocked, disgusted, almost sickened by details of cruelty, inhumanity, and the most diabolical hate and vengeance, and anon come passages of powerful testimony to the supreme power of love – even over demons in the human form.’ It was one of the most astonishing reviews in English literary history. Nothing like it had ever been published before. Nothing has been published since.

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
– Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

How did three sisters, daughters of a country clergyman, grow up to produce some of the most powerful and dramatic novels in the English language? To find out more about the lives of the Brontës, and some of the events that influenced their work, why not check out the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire? The Brontë Parsonage Museum is a historic, intimate space. The Brontë collections are the largest and most important in the world and continue to inspire scholars, writers and artists.

Visit Shakespeare’s House in Stratford-upon-Avon

Visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace – William Shakespeare’s childhood home in the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon. Hear tales of Shakespeare’s family life and get up close to objects from the Trust’s world-class collections as you discover how the extraordinary playwright continues to shape our lives today.

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

It’s time to experience a bit of history, take a visit to the very place where William Shakespeare was born and raised, in order to save the building where William Shakespeare was born a public campaign was launched, supported by Charles Dickens. The property was purchased at auction by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847 for £3,000 and they have kept it running since and it now runs as a tourist attraction

Visit Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire

Jane Austen is one of the most famous and beloved writers in the canon of English literature, thought by many to be second only to Shakespeare. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote in 1870: ‘Miss Austen understood the smallness of life to perfection. She was a great artist, equal in her small sphere to Shakespeare…’ Her name is a byword for wit, social observation and insight into the lives of women in the early 19th century. She is celebrated as a social observer, a moralist, a comic genius, and as a popular and universal writer. It’s all quite an achievement for the younger daughter of a country Rector who completed her formal education at the age of eleven and was never publicly acknowledged as a writer during her lifetime.

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
– Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire, was Jane Austen’s final home. It was within these walls that Jane wrote and revised her six beloved novels. It is the most treasured Austen site in the world. Over the last 70 years many parts of the House have been restored and the interior has been restyled to take it back to the time when the Austens lived here. Today, Jane Austen’s House is a Grade I listed building, an accredited Museum, and one of the most important literary sites in the world. It holds an important collection of objects associated with Jane Austen, including her jewellery, first editions of her books, furniture, textiles and the table at which she wrote her much-loved novels.

Visit William Wordsworth’s Home in Cumbria

Step into another century as you experience William Wordsworth’s life at Dove Cottage. Wordsworth and his family lived in this humble Lake District cottage from 1799 to 1808. Today, Dove Cottage has been brought back to life and the sights, sounds and smells evoke memories of over 200 years ago. Little moments taken from the Wordsworths’ poems, journals and letters have been recreated, telling the story of their life here. In this time of ‘plain living and high thinking’, the everyday mixed with the extraordinary. It was whilst living here, amongst the hustle and bustle of daily life, that Wordsworth wrote many of his greatest poems and his sister Dorothy kept her fascinating Grasmere journal.

“The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.”
– William Wordsworth, Tintern Abbey

The Garden-Orchard behind Dove Cottage has been restored to resemble the ‘domestic slip of mountain’ that William and Dorothy lovingly created. Wordsworth described this humble fell-side garden as ‘the loveliest spot man hath ever found’ and the feelings of joy, solace and inspiration it provided can still be felt in this special place. Whether you encounter bluebells in spring or snowdrops in winter, the Garden-Orchard is stunning in all seasons. The Woodland is a wild space where you can play, explore and notice the little details in Nature that we might usually miss.

Visit Robert Burns birthplace in South Ayrshire

Step into the early life of Scotland’s genius national poet and visit the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum! The famous poet’s journey from rural beginnings to international fame all began in Alloway, in a small cottage built by his father. Come and visit the cottage yourself and learn more about the legendary Scottish poet! The Museum offers a highly unique encounter with the world-famous poet. The best place to get close to Burns and his creativity is his birthplace in the beautiful setting of Alloway. Whether you are a die-hard fan of his work or just looking for a day out, this experience will immerse you into the life of the legendary writer.

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men”
– Robert Burns, To A Mouse

At the museum, guests are offered the chance to visit the small rural cottage where Robert Burns was born and spent the first few years of his life. Visitors can also explore the museum which has over 5000 different artefacts from Burns’ history of poetry and personal life. There is a cafe available for visitors to celebrate the legacy of Burns and honour him with a meal of haggis, neeps, and tatties at the museum.

Visit the Home of Seamus Heaney

Visit the home of Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, where he spent his formative years. So much of Heaney’s writing deals with childhood, so embrace this unique opportunity to visit where he himself grew up. Discover how the Bellaghy area was a constant influence and inspiration throughout his life and explore anew Heaney’s expert use of words, rhythm and rhyme. Born in County Londonderry in 1939, Seamus Heaney went on to become one of the world’s most famous and beloved poets. Located only a few hundred yards from his final resting place at St Mary’s Church, you can now visit his home and go on an inspiring journey through the life of one of Ireland’s greatest writers.

“I had my existence. I was there.
Me in place and the place in me.”
– Seamus Heaney, A Herbal

Lose yourself in the warm environment of this fascinating, self-guided exhibition featuring poetry, photographs and stories. Explore the library displaying hundreds of books once owned by the poet himself, including some of his favourite writers. Go on a uniquely intimate journey to the locations linking the landscape and the literature. Read Heaney’s poem ‘The Strand and Lough Beg’, then visit the real Lough Beg, where his family’s cattle once grazed. Or walk the Moyola River, like a young Seamus Heaney would do as a child, while reflecting on his poem ‘A New Song’.

Discover Narnia at the C.S. Lewis Square

Rediscover The Chronicles of Narnia with a walk through CS Lewis Square, a public space commemorating the Belfast-born author, CS Lewis. Featuring seven bronze sculptures from ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, including Aslan, The White Witch, Mr Tumnus, The Beavers, The Robin and The Stone Table, it is a stunning display of public art. Dive head first into Narnia. Perhaps you’ve never experienced the books or the films and want to know what it’s all about? Or perhaps you’re an expert Narnian who simply wants to step inside the wardrobe in a unique way. C.S. Lewis Square is a magical experience.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
– CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

CS Lewis Square is located at the intersection of the Connswater and Comber Greenways, beside the EastSide Visitor Centre, where visitors can access information on the city’s attractions from interactive screens, interpretative panels and a wall map, connecting people to EastSide’s famous faces, places and industries. The Centre also includes a coffee bar, named after East Belfast’s famous author CS Lewis, affectionately known as ‘Jack’ to friends and family. JACK Coffee Bar features locally sourced produce and showcases products from local artists and food producers. CS Lewis Square is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is fully illuminated.

Visit Platform 9 ¾ from Harry Potter at King’s Cross Station

Calling all Potter fans! As any fan of J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series will know, King’s Cross is where students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry catch the Hogwarts Express. In the wizarding world, Harry and his friends get to the platform by dashing through a brick wall between platforms 9 and 10. Meanwhile, in the real King’s Cross, platforms 9 and 10 are separated by tracks, but you can find a platform 9¾ on the wall in the station concourse.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
– J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Look out for a luggage trolley embedded in the wall, and make-believe that you are off to start your magical school journey. The trolley is accessible at all hours, and you don’t have to pay to take your own photographs. You can have a professional photograph taken with a scarf in your house colours, which is then available for you to view and purchase inside the Harry Potter shop next door. The professional photographer is on hand between 9am and 9pm daily. Queues for the trolley can get busy during school holidays and festive periods – visit early to make sure you’re one of the first in line!

Visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London

In 1837, a young, ambitious and relatively obscure writer moved into 48 Doughty Street. His name was Charles Dickens, and while living there, he was transformed from a London journalist to an international superstar, as he published stories such as The Pickwick Papers, Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist.

“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”
– Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Today the Charles Dickens Museum preserves 48, Doughty Street as it may have looked while the Dickens family lived here, using collection items and furniture which belonged to the author. The collection is made up of about 100,000 pieces, including letters and furniture, clothes and illustrations, all relating to Charles Dickens and his creations. Yet more than that, the Charles Dickens Museum reflects life in middle-class Victorian London. How did they live, what did they eat and what did they think of the rapidly changing world around them?

Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street, London

The world-famous detective has returned to investigate new and exciting cases! Escape the London bustle, step back in time, and enter a world of gas light, Victorian curiosities, and many of the objects, letters and characters from Sherlock Holmes’ most famous cases. On arrival at 221B Baker Street, you can expect to be heartily greeted by one of Victorian London’s most recognisable figures, the famous British ‘Bobby’. You’ll enter through the iconic 221B front door, following in the footsteps of many troubled, yet hopeful people seeking the assistance of consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, and make your way up the narrow staircase to the first floor.

“You see, but you do not observe.”
– Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia

The Sherlock Holmes Museum is situated at 221B Baker Street, London, one of the world’s most famous addresses. According to the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, super sleuth Sherlock Holmes made this his residence from 1881 to 1904. His rooms have been faithfully maintained to give visitors from all round the globe an insight into the life and stories of the world’s first consulting detective, and a memorable, authentic experience of Victorian London. A splendid four-storey Georgian townhouse dating back to 1815, the Museum building served for many decades as a lodging house, but is now listed to protect its architectural and cultural heritage, boasting a blue plaque to commemorate the period of Holmes’ residency. Whether you’re a die-hard devotee of the original stories or a more recent Cumberbatch convert, step back in time to see where some of Holmes and Watson’s most famous cases began and imagine what life was like in a fascinating bygone era.

Visit Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, London

Looking to see some of the best sights in London? Then step into one of Britain’s most historically and culturally significant buildings, Westminster Abbey! This building is an architectural marvel and regardless of whether you’re interested in the history, art or spirituality of the cathedral, don’t miss the opportunity to see it for yourself while you’re in London. Steeped in ten centuries of British history, this remarkable church has been the site of coronations since 1066 A.D. Visit the tombs of Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor, and Mary Queen of Scots and learn about the history of Britain. This really is worth the visit and is 100% worth the addition to your Stack!

“the greatest scholars are not usually the wisest people”
– Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, is a place of pilgrimage for literature lovers. More than 100 poets and writers are buried or have memorials here. Many of those buried or remembered in Poets’ Corner are world-famous, like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens. Others, though popular in their day, are now less well known. The first poet to be buried here, in 1400, was Geoffrey Chaucer, author of ‘The Canterbury Tales’. Not because he was a poet but because he was Clerk of the King’s Works. Nearly 200 years later, Edmund Spenser (1553-1598) who wrote ‘The Faerie Queene’ for Elizabeth I, one of the longest poems in the English language, asked to be buried near Chaucer – perhaps with an eye on his own literary reputation.

Visit the Home of Romantic Poet John Keats in London

Discover the beauty of poetry and place in the home of Romantic poet John Keats. Keats House is the beautiful Regency villa where Romantic poet John Keats found inspiration, friendship and love. John Keats was born in 1795 and began to write poetry from the age of 18. Encouraged by his school friend, Charles Cowden Clarke, Keats abandoned his profession as an apothecary surgeon to concentrate on poetry full time. Heavily influenced by Shakespeare and Milton, Keats became one of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard, are sweeter”
– John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

During his lifetime, Keats was attacked by critics and branded as a ‘cockney poet’, but his posthumous influence has been significant. Keats wrote some of his best poems at Wentworth Place and it was here that he met and fell in love with ‘the girl next door’, Fanny Brawne. Keats House, or Wentworth Place as it was then known, was built from 1814 to 1816 by William Woods, a local builder. It was originally two separate homes, first occupied by Charles Wentworth Dilke and his family, while the smaller, eastern side was occupied by Charles Brown. In December 1818, Keats came to live on Brown’s side of the house, staying here for just 17 months before travelling to Italy where he died.

Visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London

Do you love live performances then you will love Shakespeare’s Globe in London, What to expect Performances in the Globe Theatre and Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, plus live streams, Guided Tours, online events, workshops, courses, and more!

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players”
– William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Shakespeare’s Globe is a world-renowned theatre, education centre, and cultural landmark. Located on the bank of the River Thames in London, after a show why not give the gift shop a visit the shop features a range of merchandise from Shakespeare quotes DVDs of Shakespeare plays, clothes and bags, gifts, stationery, books, media, homeware, prints and more

So there you have it! A guide to just some of the literary haunts in the UK. Why not hop on a train and see some of them today? You can bury your nose in a book until you arrive at your destination!