With botanical gardens and tourist spots gradually reopening after lockdown, summer staycations are expected to thrive across the UK this year.
Research by Nielsen Books recently found that 41% of people said they were reading more books since the strictest lockdown measures were introduced on 23 March, with the average amount of hours spent reading increasing almost double from 3.5 hours per week to six. It’s even been shown that 55% of young people in the UK have found reading books has helped their mental health during the coronavirus, compared to just 13% who say the news is helpful to them.
Whether you’re a new book reader, or a seasoned classics lover, why not take this time to visit the places in the UK which inspired some of our favourite books? Planning to write your own novel? Many of these beauty spots inspired the authors to create the iconic stories we all know today. And if you’re still self-isolating, not to worry, some of these even have virtual experiences now!
So take a look at our top 6 places that every book lover should visit – and let your literary adventure begin!
In the last few weeks, Google searches for the Lake District have gone through the roof and are almost double what they were this time last year, with many people expected to visit there for their staycation.
But for people who started reading young, the Lake District might hold even more for you than stunning scenic views. Beatrix Potter, who wrote the famous Tale of Peter Rabbit books, bought Hill Top in the Lake District, Cumbria with the royalties from the first of her books in the series.
One of these books is still sold every 15 seconds, and Hill Top remains furnished and untenanted, just as Beatrix asked for it to be when she left it to the National Trust back in 1943. The Head Gardener at Hill Top, Pete Tasker, is determined to return the garden to the one Beatrix created, as he looks after one of the most famous vegetable patches in the world. You can visit again after it was recently reopened, and see the countryside which inspired many of the famous ‘little white books.’
This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Tenniel, known for his memorable illustrations of iconic characters such as the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.
The Oxford Botanic Garden was the inspiration for Lewis Caroll’s most famous book and the ‘real’ Alice would actually wander the grounds. You can follow in her footsteps, and even see a life-size sculpture of one of the most famous felines in the world – the Cheshire Cat.
The garden is the oldest botanical garden in the country, dating back to 1621, and it’s not just Lewis Caroll that recognised its beauty. Philip Pullman’s cult classic, His Dark Materials, has a famous bench where Will and Lyra, the two main characters, come to meet each year, which is in the garden.
A Pinus nigra tree in this garden, with its twisting branches, also inspired Tolkien’s ents in Lord of the Rings – but unfortunately it was chopped down a few years ago! But there’s still more… if you take a wander down to St Mary’s College in Oxford you can continue your classic book tour, by finding the ornate timber door to Narnia! C.S. Lewis stayed in St. Mary’s Passage when he wrote the Chronicles of narnia, and passed by this door every day.
The Botanical Garden is currently open, and you can book your time slot here. Or, check out a virtual tour here: http://www.chem.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtour/botanicgardens/default.html
No visit to the North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby is complete without a walk up the 199 steps to the Abbey which inspired Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula.
You can follow the route taken by the Count himself as he fled the wreckage of his ship into the graveyard and ruins. And if you’re feeling a bit spooky, take a ghost walk trip with Whitby Walks. The ‘In Search of Dracula’ tour will take you to the places featured in the novel, and allow you to explore the gothic ruins and take in the sea views. You can also visit the visitor centre and see a rare signed copy of Dracula.
And if you fancy something more cheerful to take the edge off, visit La Rosa Hotel, an old haunt of Lewis Caroll.
Check out a virtual tour of Whitby Abbey here: http://www.vrwhitby.co.uk/whitby-virtual-tour/index.html
Chatsworth House gave Jane Austen the inspiration to create Pemberley, the country estate owned by Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and the iconic location of one of the most read books in the world. With 20 million copies sold, the book has since been turned into many different TV series and movies, and Chatsworth House itself was used for the exterior scenes for the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.
Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice while in Bakewell, an 11 minute drive from Chatsworth House, so why not find a B&B in the peak district town and make a weekend out of it? Stay at the Rutland Arms, where she is believed to have revised the final chapters of the novel.
Chatsworth House, famous for its beauty and garden events, has 105 acres of garden land, evolving over 450 years. Other classical author memorabilia are also around, if you need further inspiration.
At Chatsworth Library, you can also see the manuscripts and letters of Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. Chatsworth House reopens 27 July, so book your ticket now.
And if you want to enhance your experience, why not buy a bird bath to celebrate the long-standing association between the fowl and Pride and Prejudice, after the first editions were decorated with peacock feathers.
Chatsworth house has also launched a FREE virtual, narrated tour so you can explore the house from your home. Why not put the film on in the background for the ultimate effect?
The birthplace of Peter Pan, inspired by the author’s life, Moat Brae is in Dumfries, South West Scotland, and was last year named among Time’s ‘coolest places’ to visit. The garden, which lies to the north and northwest of Moat Brae house, looks out across the river to the water meadows.
It was here, that J.M. Barrie was inspired to create the enchanted world of Peter Pan. In his land surrounding the Georgian Moat Brae house, he would play wild pirate games with friends.
Moat Brae is the perfect place to bring children, and kids can run through the enchanted gardens, enjoy the Lost Boys’ treehouse, and even search for hidden messages around the house. Moat Brae is the perfect place to inspire any of your children to widen their imagination, and write their own stories.
Currently, it is closed to the public, but keep an eye on their social media, which they’re very active on, to find out the latest updates. And there’s plenty of videos to watch of the special place on Facebook!
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