With two billion books translated into over 100 languages, Agatha Christie is the undisputed queen of crime; the world’s best-selling novelist and arguably its most successful female playwright. If you’re one of her legion of fans around the globe, you’ll know this year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles and the introduction of the legendary Hercule Poirot. Kenneth Branagh is set to reprise his starring role as the renowned detective when Death on the Nile hits cinemas later this year too. So, to celebrate this landmark anniversary, why not get inspired for what’s to come and immerse yourself in Christie’s Britain with this four-day itinerary, which roams from London to Devon on the trail of the great crime writer herself.
Christie lived in London for much of her life, and the British capital is a brilliant location from which to start your Christie-themed tour. Like many visitors, Agatha was inspired by the vibrancy of the city, and locations as diverse as Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street and St Paul’s Cathedral feature in many of her greatest works, from Witness for the Prosecution to Third Girl.
See the memorial dedicated to Christie in London’s Leicester Square, then head to Euston to explore the campus of University College Hospital, where she worked as a pharmacy assistant during World War II. Afterwards, why not stroll the cobbled streets and boutique shops of Seven Dials? Nestled behind Covent Garden, the area was immortalised by Christie in The Seven Dials Mystery, while its proximity to the West End and the highlights of Soho make it ideal for shopping and a spot of lunch.
Fancy taking in a show? Having debuted in 1952, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the longest running play in history, with performances set to resume on 23 October. From Covent Garden it’s just a short walk to St Martin’s Theatre. Alternatively, why not enjoy a stroll across the River Thames to take in the acclaimed semi-immersive production of Witness for the Prosecution when it returns. Originally performed in Drury Lane near Covent Garden, the latest production is wonderfully staged in the former debating chamber at County Hall. When tickets are available once more, you could enjoy a matinee or evening performance, then head along to Brown’s Hotel for a nightcap. The five-star accommodation was Christie’s inspiration for Miss Marple mystery At Bertram’s Hotel and is a sumptuous spot at which to conclude the first day of your tour.
“I slipped away as usual after the curtain came down on my ending and out into Long Acre.” An Autobiography
After a leisurely breakfast, make your way to Paddington Station. Originally designed by ground-breaking architect Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it’s one of London’s grandest transport hubs and played a starring role in Christie’s 1957 work, 4.50 from Paddington. From here, jump aboard the train and enjoy the scenic journey to Christie’s birthplace, Torquay.
Known as the English Riviera, the coastal beauty of Torquay and its surroundings influenced many scenes from Christie’s works. On arrival, you could check into the Imperial Hotel Torquay, which featured as both the Majestic Hotel in The Body in the Library and the Imperial Hotel in Sleeping Murder. Alternatively, book a room at the Grand Hotel – a romantic Victorian gem where Agatha honeymooned with her husband Archibald in 1914.
Once you’ve settled in, follow in the author’s footsteps with a stroll along the Agatha Christie Mile. Stretching between the two hotels, the path unveils many of her favourite spots along the seafront, including the Pavilion where she and Archie got engaged. Discover the heady scent of hundreds of flowers on a trip to Torre Abbey. Populated with many of the menacing flora that provide the poisons and cures featured in her books, the Potent Plants Garden is a fragrant ode to her greatest works. Alternatively, soak up the scenery at Princess Gardens. Brimming with blooms, palm trees and perfectly manicured lawns, the gardens made a cameo in The ABC Murders. Continue onwards to discover the Agatha Christie Bust, which commemorates the writer’s 100th birthday, before dipping your toes in the crystal-clear turquoise waters of Beacon Cove, one of the Christie’s favourite swimming spots.
“Entering the Princess Gardens, he slowly made his way to a shelter facing Torquay harbour. He sat down and opened the paper.” The ABC Murders
After breakfast, take a stroll to Torquay Town Hall, where Christie worked as part of the Voluntary Aid Detachment during World War I. Later transferred to the dispensary, it was here that she acquired her knowledge of poisons, and where she treated the many Belgian refugees that inspired the inimitable Hercule Poirot.
Stop off at the Torquay Museum to delve deeper into Christie’s life and the stories she told. Here, you’ll find an Agatha Christie Gallery complete with a reconstructed version of Poirot’s lounge and study, alongside props used by David Suchet.
“Why not make my detective a Belgian? I thought. There were all types of refugees. How about a refugee police officer? A retired police officer.” An Autobiography
If you’re visiting in September, you could immerse yourself in all things Christie-related at the International Agatha Christie Festival, an annual celebration of her life and works that will run virtually this year from the 15th to the 19th of the month. Alternatively, take a visit to Greenway – “The loveliest place in the world”. Now a National Trust property, the idyllic white stone building was bought by Agatha and her second husband Max Mallowan as a holiday home in 1938 and inspired many scenes in her much-loved novels, including Dead Man’s Folly and Five Little Pigs.
Afterwards, travel the short distance to Churston Manor. Situated close to the spot of Sir Carmichael Clarke’s demise in The ABC Murders, the beautiful country house hotel dates back to Norman times and has a glorious lawn garden to relax in for the evening.
This morning, don your hiking boots and head out on an exploration of Dartmoor National Park and Haytor. Home to plunging valleys, lush heather moorlands and an abundance of native wildlife, the landscape informed four of Christie’s major works, including The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which was published 100 years ago this year. Although set in Essex, much of the novel was written at The Moorland Hotel surrounded by Dartmoor’s rugged beauty and the majestic Haytor - a craggy outcrop offering incredible views of the surrounding countryside. Today, the hotel is also a luxurious spot for afternoon tea before venturing onwards.
“I loved the tors and the heather and all the wild part of it away from the roads.” An Autobiography
This afternoon, travel just under an hour to Burgh Island Hotel. Located on the savagely beautiful island of the same name, the accommodation is an art deco gem that was a favourite with Christie during her time here. So much so, in fact, that guests can enjoy a stay at Agatha’s Beach House, a glorious writer’s retreat that was purpose built for Christie in the 1930s. Buoyed by her time on the island, it was here that she wrote what is now the best-selling crime novel of all time - And Then There Were None – as well as the Poirot story Evil Under the Sun. With its rich literary and military history, it’s a fascinating base for your final night.
Different attractions will have varied measures in place. You are encouraged to check all locations, attraction and event websites before travelling, so you can explore Britain with confidence.