Our landscape inspired the greats of British literature, so if you take our literary tour you can enjoy their lasting legacy of stories, museums and houses. We’ve selected 10 of our favourite authors and picked the must-not-miss days out along the way.
1 Beatrix Potter
Hill Top is Beatrix Potter’s 17th-century farmhouse at Sawrey in the Lake District and is open to visitors daily. The nearby Tower Bank Arms pub features in the Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck. It’s dog-friendly too. For less obvious Pottering, nearby Derwentwater and Hawkshead were used as settings for her tales too.
Away from the Lakes, The Tailor of Gloucester is remembered by a museum near Gloucester Cathedral, while pretty Sidmouth, Teignmouth and Lyme Regis on the Dorset/Devon borders inspired fictional ‘Stymouth’ in The Tale of Little Pig Robinson.
2 JRR Tolkien
Tolkien’s Middle Earth was informed by him growing up in the rural West Midlands. It was pretty green, south of Birmingham, then, and his homes at Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog, the Shire Country Park informed his fantasy writing. In fact, Perrott’s Folly and Edgbaston Waterworks Tower, are said to be the inspiration for the Two Towers of Gondor. The well-marked Tolkien Trail path takes in the must-see places.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay, Somers Wood Caravan Park adults-only campsite in Meriden, Warwickshire consistently appears in our Top 100 Sites guide.
3 Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl lived and worked in the Buckinghamshire village of Great Missenden for more than 30 years, so head for the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in the village to learn more about him and his work.
Time your visit well and you might find the garden of the family home, Gipsy House, is open. The shed he worked in, the greenhouse that popped up in James and the Giant Peach and the gipsy caravan from Danny, Champion of the World are all there.
Handily, if you want to stay near the Dahl family home, we have a Practical Motorhome Nightstop locally, at the Black Horse Pub in Great Missenden.
4 AA Milne
AA Milne’s wonderful Winnie the Pooh children’s stories were based on his son Christopher Robin and his toys having adventures in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex. The charming illustrations by Ernest Shepard are instantly recognisable the world over and you can enjoy them in The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh.
Visit the forest and play on Poohsticks Bridge, explore Gill’s Lap and Roo’s Sandpit then walk through the trees of Hundred Acre Wood. These are The Enchanted Places mentioned in Christopher Robin Milne’s autobiography of that name, as well as the beloved stories.
There’s an official Pooh walk from Gill’s Lap, with picnic spots, heathland views and a memorial plaque to Milne and Shepard. After that, it would be rude not to visit Piglet’s Tea Room at Pooh Corner, in Hartfield.
5 Robert Burns
Follow Scotland’s national bard in Ayrshire, by visiting the vast Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway. You’ll see the cottage in which he was born, his monument and Brig O’Doon (from his poem Tam O’Shanter). Armed with The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, it’s easy to imagine Burns captivating his audience during debates in the Bachelor’s Club in Tarbolton (National Trust for Scotland). While you’re touring Burns country, treat yourself to an ice-cream at Mancinis of Ayr.
You can also visit Burns House Museum in Mauchline. Burns lived in Dumfries and Galloway, too, where you can visit Ellisland Farm (museum), Robert Burns House, and perhaps sing his anthem Auld Lang Syne in his local pub.
6 Thomas Hardy
Hardy’s best-known novels – Far From the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Return of the Native – are all set in ‘Hardy’s Wessex’, which covers most of southern England, including Berkshire, Dorset and Devon.
Egdon Heath is where a lot of the action takes place – a fictional version of the countryside around his childhood home. You can visit Hardy’s Cottage, an idyllic cob and thatch home in Higher Bockhampton, near Dorchester in Dorset. If you fancy eating like a native, pop down the road to the Piddle Valley for a meal in The Thimble Inn.
7 William Shakespeare
Visit Stratford-upon-Avon and you can see Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, his daughter’s house and his mother Mary Arden’s Farm in nearby Wilmcote.
Enjoy the quintessential English afternoon tea in Hathaway Tea Rooms and make your tour extra special by booking tickets in advance to see one of his famous plays performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
8 Dylan Thomas
Celebrated Welsh writer and poet Dylan Thomas was inspired by his childhood summers on the beaches of the Gower, and the Llansteffan Peninsula. His writing shed overlooks four estuaries – and now it’s the Dylan Thomas Boathouse exhibition and tea room, in Laugharne.
Go and see Dylan Thomas’ birthplace, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in The Uplands, Swansea. The family home now hosts guided tours, suppers, readings and music events, and you can even stay the night. Time your visit for the autumn and go to the annual Dylan Thomas festival.
Dylan Thomas loved to go drinking in the Mumbles. His favourite pub, The Antelope, is being redeveloped, so why not raise a glass of (brewed-on-the-premises) craft beer to him in The Pilot at 726 Mumbles Road?
9 Laurie Lee
Slad in Gloucestershire – the village in which Laurie Lee grew up – feels a world away from busy Stroud. The valley that he so vividly describes in his autobiographical coming-of-age tale Cider with Rosie, is still quiet and rural.
Pop in to The Woolpack Inn, where Laurie Lee was a regular drinker. Having read his book As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, in which he leaves home and ends up taking part in the Spanish Civil War, it’s fun to imagine him propping up the bar on his return and telling friends about his adventures over a pint.
10 Jane Austen
Visit Bath and you can relive scenes from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, while taking tea in the Pump Rooms. To see the rolling South Downs that inspired our celebrated novelist, you must go to Chawton Cottage, near Alton in Hampshire – now renamed the Jane Austen House Museum.
Admire the stately home where Jane attended dances. The Vyne, near Basingstoke, is now run by the National Trust and open to the public.
You can also take boat trips on the Beaulieu River, just like Jane Austen and her family, and visit Steventon Rectory, where she lived for her first 25 years. Finally, download the free Winchester Austen trail leaflet, and visit her grave in the magnificent Winchester Cathedral.
One of Wales’ most celebrated writers was inspired by the beaches of the Gower