5 Literary Holidays for Bookworms — Exploring the British Isles
How often, when you go on holiday, is choosing a new set of books to read one of your priorities? Reading a book by the pool or on the beach remains a mainstay holiday activity even if these days we are more likely to be using an e-reader rather than turning the pages of a printed book. If you’re an avid reader, you might consider combining your love of literature with your actual trip. You won’t be relaxing on a beach but instead, visiting places where authors like Shakespeare and the Brontës’ lived, touring places that inspired authors, or locations where movies of your favourite books were filmed.
The UK and the British Isles have some fabulous literary holidays for bookworms, here are a five to get you inspired:
Read More: A Bookish Guide to Covent Garden.
Visit Stratford — The Land of Shakespeare
When it comes to literary holidays with a Shakespeare theme, there are two great choices: Shakespeare’s London or Shakespeare’s Stratford. While London has its obvious attractions, Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace and marital home is a beautiful riverside town in Warwickshire. Of course, the town has capitalised on its association with The Bard – according to JustGo!, it is now known as ‘Shakespeare Country.’
It is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s dedicated theatre, his birthplace home is now a museum, Anne Hathaway’s cottage and gardens are open to the public, and there are various other sites including the schoolroom where he studied, (his mother) Mary Arden’s farm (now a working Tudor farm exhibit), Hall’s Croft (home of his daughter Susanna), and Shakespeare’s grave at the Holy Trinity Church. Outside of the Shakespeare attractions, Stratford is a great place to go antiquing or for a picnic and is only nine miles from Warwick Castle.
Read More: The Best Independent Bookshops in London.
Explore Literary Dublin
The Republic of Ireland has spawned many great writers and poets. The laundry list includes Oscar Wilde, Y. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Jonathon Swift, Bram Stoker, Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, George Bernard Shaw, and the more modern Roddy Doyle, Marian Keyes, and Maeve Binchy. Some of these aforementioned were born in Dublin and a visit to the city pays homage to their brilliance, but no one quite captured the city like James Joyce. Dublin truly comes to life in Ulysses, the story of 24 hours in the life of Leopold Bloom.
There are organised walking tours that visit the locations in the book, usually starting from the James Joyce Centre, but there are plenty of attractions in Dublin if you want to do your own thing. Don’t miss Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the castle, the Guinness Brewery, and the craic in the many pubs in Temple Bar. The hospitality of Dublin is legendary.
Wander Through Brontë Country
There is an area of the South Pennine Hills, west of Bradford in West Yorkshire that has been given the moniker of “Brontë Country”. The Brontë family – Anne, Charlotte, Emily, (who also had a brother, Branwell) graced the world of literature with their classic novels like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. All were heavily influenced by the stunning moorland scenery and Brontë Country is studded with attractions.
There’s the family home at Haworth Parsonage, now a world-famous museum, the sisters’ birthplace of Thornton, Top Withens (the inspiration for Wuthering Heights), Pondon Hall (immortalised as Thrushcross Grange in Wuthering Heights), and Red House and Oakwell Hall in Kirklees (which became Briarmains and Fieldhead in Shirley – by Charlotte).
The locations and influences on the Brontë sisters do go beyond Brontë Country to the surrounding area such as Wycoller (Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre) in East Pendle Witch Country, and Cowan Bridge School and the country house at Norton Conyers understood to be the inspiration for Lowood School and Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre. The Brontë Way, 69km (43 miles) long-distance footpath, takes in the major sites.
Get Lost in The Forest of Dean
Although it is conjecture, it does have a foundation in research that the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire inspired the landscapes of Middle Earth in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Many agree that it is easy to transition from the moody beautiful Lydney Park to Hobbiton. Plus there is also Puzzlewood, an ancient woodland site with Roman findings, an area where Tolkien did some excavation work in 1929. Puzzlewood is a great day out.
It is easy to wander through the woods imagining all manner of magical creatures from elves and fairies to dragons and demons. Puzzlewood has also been used as a location in the movies Jack the Giant Slayer (based on Jack and the Giant Beanstalk), The Huntsman: Winter War (based on Snow White), and the Force Awakens (from the Star Wars epic originated by George Lucas).
The Rorest of Dean is also near to the Wye Valley, home to Hay-on-Wye, the town with surely more bookshops than anywhere else (and nearby Hereford with the oldest chain library) and home to the fantastic literary festival. The Forest of Dean is also used as a location in the Harry Potter stories. It was one of the places Harry and Hermione camped while hunting the Horcruxes. And talking of Harry Potter…
Take a UK Tour and Find The Potter Collection
One of the magical things about the Harry Potter books is that thanks to the movies they really do come to life. The films were shot all around the UK and it would be easy to travel the length and breadth of the country on a Potter Pilgrimage. It is also, however, a good idea to theme a trip to pay homage to the world’s favourite wizard.
Although many head straight to the Harry Potter Studio in London and stop there, this so many more places perfect for Potter fans in the UK. One idea for a themed trip are the various spots used as Hogwarts filming locations. Some of the UK’s most beautiful castles, churches, and cathedrals doubled as the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry including Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, Christ Church in Oxford, and Gloucester Cathedral.
There’s also Laycock Abbey in Wiltshire (Snape’s classroom) and while you’re in Oxford, you can also visit the Hogwarts infirmary – aka the Bodleian Library Divinity School.
Whether it is classic or modern literature you love, the UK and Ireland is blessed with inspiration and influence and many, many more ideas for literary holidays than mentioned here.
If you’d like to explore more bookish cities in the UK then you’ll love our Five Literary Cities guide or why not take a trip to Gladstone’s, the UK’s only residential library or discover 19 other unique and unusual places to stay in the UK.