Live a life of elegance and wit
2013 will mark 200 years since the publication of Jane Austen’s classic novel,‘Pride and Prejudice’. See fabulous costumes, grand country houses and discover why this book inspired film adaptations, drama series and won an army of devoted fans.
The Jane Austen festival takes place each year in Bath, an elegant Georgian city with strong Austen connections. It’s a grand, costumed affair, and you’ll see so many fancy gowns, top hats and bonnets that you’ll almost believe you’re back in Regency England.
Attend lunches, fairs, promenades, theatrical performances, lectures and workshops all related to Austen’s era, and be inundated with Austen-esque facts and experiences. Many of these are ticketed, so be sure to book in advance.
Beyond the Austen festival, Bath is a picture of Georgian elegance at any time of year. Jane Austen actually lived here from 1801 to 1806, and much of her writing on city life and experiences was based on her time here. Be sure to visit the Jane Austen Centre and learn a little about her life: you can even dress up in Georgian costume while you’re there.
The city itself has scarcely changed since Austen’s day and it’s a top spot for all kinds of elegant experiences. Take tea in the Regency Tea Room, admire the Royal Crescent on a walking tour, or indulge in a spot of shopping at the historic Guildhall Market – where Austen herself may well have browsed back in the 19th century.
Austen’s books feature a number of grand country houses, many of which are based on real British stately homes. One of these is Chatsworth, which Elizabeth Bennet actually visits in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It was also the inspiration for Mr Darcy’s home estate of Pemberley.
Surrounded by the dramatic countryside of the Peak District, and home to a vast collection of historical artworks, it’s just the place to get a sense of life in Austen’s era. Don’t miss the garden, with its water features, sculpture and views over the park.
Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life in Chawton, a Hampshire village between Winchester and London. This is where she did much of her mature writing, including ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Emma’, and revised several of her earlier works.
It’s practically hallowed-ground for her fans, and even if you’re not familiar with her writing, it’s a fascinating 17th-century home in an idyllic village which will tell you the story of her life. After her death, Jane Austen was buried in nearby Winchester Cathedral, a towering gothic building that’s also well worth a visit.
Jane Austen and her characters spent plenty of time riding about in carriages. If you want to live like Jane Austen, this is a must. In Windsor, you can couple the experience with a bit of sightseeing too, and hire a carriage that will take you around the Great Park. With the right outfit, people might even mistake you for a Royal. For the male characters of course, it’s all about riding. You’ll find horse-riding available all over Britain, but since Mr Darcy’s house was based on Chatsworth, it’ll feel most authentic in the Peak District.