We Brits love a good book and we don’t just like reading them.
More than half of British holidaymakers would visit a literary attraction on holiday in England and nearly a quarter of have done so in the last year, according to a research poll by Visit England.
Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Roald Dahl and JK Rowling are the authors most likely to inspire a literary trip, while London was the most popular destination. The home of the Brontës, Yorkshire, came a close second, and the North West was third thanks to Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons.
To mark World Book Day on 2 March, Visit England has created a map highlighting some of the country’s key literary hot-spots and we’ve listed eight of the best literary days out and short breaks underneath.
Don’t forget to pack a good book!
1. National Trust for young bookworms
For the first time, National Trust properties across the country will be participating in World Book Day with a weekend of children’s book activities that range from the story of the Gingerbread Man at Ightham Mote to the history of books at Belton House in Lincolnshire or stepping back into the 1960s at Sudbury’s Museum of Childhood. The National Trust’s Children’s Book Festivals at Wray Castle on 4-5 March and at Knole on 25-26 March are sure to be a highlight and Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home in Cumbria, a top destination.
2. Sherlock Holmes 125th Anniversary Tour, London and beyond
Marking the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock publication, this new tour retraces Sir Conan Doyle’s steps, visiting favourite haunts in London and the South-East, plus locations which inspired his writing. Highlights include 221B Baker Street – now the Sherlock Holmes museum – showing a recreation of his study and Dr Watson’s bedroom; the Langham Hotel which famously hosted a dinner between Doyle and Oscar Wilde; Doyle’s house in Crowborough, and Groombridge Place, scene of The Valley of the Fear.
3. Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit on a canal boat holiday through Tolkien country
Take a narrow boat with Drifters Waterway Holidays to explore some of the landscapes that inspired Tolkien’s The Hobbit, celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2017. Tolkien spent much of his childhood exploring the village of Sarehole (now Hall Green), Moseley Bog, the Malvern Hills, and nearby Bromsgrove, Alcester and Alvechurch. Short break prices on a boat for four start at £520, weekly hire from £800. To receive a free copy of The Hobbit quote “Tolkien” when booking a journey incorporating Worcester and Birmingham Canal, departing from Alvechurch.
4. Tess’s Journey walking trip, Dorset
Discover Dorset with this inn-to-inn walking trip following in the footsteps of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. New trails include exploring on foot the magnificent views of Shaftesbury, the “Shaston” of Hardy’s novels, one of the oldest and highest towns in England, dominating what Hardy called the “engirdled and secluded” Blackmore Vale. Holidays are tailored to suit guests’ requirements and the season. From £565 per person for 4 nights, including all transfers.
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5. Jane Austen tour, southern England
To mark the 200th anniversary of the writer’s death, Discover England Tours has introduced a four-night Jane Austen Literary Tour visiting Austen’s family homes in Bath and Lyme Regis, which both inspired Austen; her grave in Winchester Cathedral; and film locations from screen adaptations of the author’s novels. For four nights and three full days, tours are priced at £1135 per person, based on a group of two people.
6. Draw New Mischief exhibition, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Running from 25 February to 15 September, this free exhibition celebrates over two centuries of Shakespeare-inspired political cartoons, including new commissions by five cartoonists. Shakespeare’s plays have been a touchstone for cartoonists who have drawn upon them to comment upon political events and personalities of their time. Shakespeare’s incredible capacity to reflect human behaviour continues to provide cartoonists with a ready stock of rich imagery that resonates with the reading public.
7. World Book Day’s Oodles of Doodles, The National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle
On display until 26 March, some of the UK’s leading illustrators – from budding artists to iconic illustrators – have been asked to “Doodle Something Booky”, as part of the festivities celebrating 20 years of World Book Day. More than 40 top children’s book illustrators have contributed to the exhibition including Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, Shirley Hughes, Axel Scheffler and Liz Pichon.
8. Visit the home of Harry Potter, Leavesden
Toast the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter novel with real butter beer at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden. The interactive studio tour also offers a chance to fly on a broomstick against a green screen, see the Hogwarts Express and how some of the special effects for the Harry Potter films were made. On until 31 March, the exhibition Directing Dobby reveals the secrets of everybody’s favourite house-elf. Read our review.