To read a Jane Austen novel is to fall in love with Regency era Britain, – making the annual Jane Austen festival a bucket-list worthy experience for many. Taking place in Bath over ten days each September, the festival celebrates the world-famous author with a packed programme of talks, tours, costumed promenades and ball-dancing workshops. There is also an annual Summer Ball, set to take place in June 2022.
If you’re an Austen fan inspired to plan a trip to Bath, there’s also host of grand stately homes, etiquette-filled tea drinking and romantic county dances to look forward to – ideal for creating a trip to Britain worthy of the novelist herself.
The historic city of Bath remains a picture of Georgian elegance and was the height of fashionable society in the early 1800s. Jane Austen lived in the city from 1801 to 1806, and much of her writing on city life and experiences was based on her time here. The World Heritage City is home to Palladian architecture carved from golden Bath stone, and remains virtually unchanged since Austen’s day, Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent are two shining examples of the city’s grandeur, with the latter now home to a luxury hotel and spa.
Promenading around these elegant streets wouldn’t be complete without some stylish attire. At Bath’s Fashion Museum you can discover real examples of Regency fashion first hand. Home to the permanent 100 Objects exhibition, it displays styles from the 1600s to the present day, from opulent silk dresses to men’s tailored coats.
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 also revised several of her earlier works. Now housing the Jane Austen's House museum, this fascinating 17th-century cottage is full of the writer's possessions, displayed throughout her private rooms, the library and the garden. After her death, Jane Austen was buried in the nearby Winchester Cathedral – another common pilgrimage for literature fans.
If you’re longing to bring Jane Austen’s novels to life, check out our guide to the filming locations of Emma, which reveals the Cotswolds villages, historic churches and grand country estates featured in the 2020 film.
Jane Austen’s characters enjoyed nothing more than an elegant ball, so why not try some quaint Regency era country dancing yourself? Mrs Bennet’s Ballroom offers classes every other week in Greater London. The school’s dancing mistresses will twirl you into the past as you learn the steps to Austen-era dances including the Boulanger, which was mentioned in Pride and Prejudice, and discover the ballroom etiquette of the time.
When she wasn’t writing about balls or soaking up the spa town of Bath, Jane Austen is known to have enjoyed visits to Lyme Regis, a quaint coastal town on the South Coast of England. Her love of this British destination is evident in letters to her sister Cassandra, as she wrote fondly of walks along the seafront. A few of Jane’s notable experiences there are mentioned in Persuasion – which is debatably the most autobiographical of all her novels.
Undoubtedly, the talented writer would have promenaded along the Cobb, and seen the steps that she mentions in Persuasion, as this said to be the spot where protagonist Louisa Musgrove fell on the famous harbour wall.
Want to follow in Austen’s footsteps and get inspired on your own coastal walk? Check out our round up of the top walks in south east England.
Much of the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightly, was filmed in Chatsworth in Derbyshire. It is believed that Jane Austen based Mr Darcy’s breathtaking stately home of Pemberley on this grand country house as she is known to have visited the nearby village of Bakewell whilst writing the novel. The tale also mentions Chatsworth by name, as one of the estates visited by the love-struck Elizabeth Bennet.
If, like Jane Austen, you love the idea of taking in the landscapes, stately homes and country inns of Derbyshire, why not fuel your daydreams with our Introducing Derbyshire article – filled with the area’s top sites, tastes and views.
Want to find out how to enjoy an afternoon tea like a Regency Era Lord or Lady? Traditionally, it should include finger sandwiches, a warm scone served with clotted cream, jam and a pot of tea – but when it comes to Austen-inspired afternoon teas, the Regency Tea Room in Bath’s Jane Austen centre is hard to beat. Offering a Tea with Mr Darcy, Lady Catherine’s Proper Cream Team and Mrs Bennet’s Cake of the Day, as well as a special Jane Austen blend tea, it’s a truly top-class experience.
Another favourite sweet treat from the Regency era was a Bath Bun from Sally Lunn’s, who have been filling bellies with their succulent treats since 1780. In her letters, Austen commented that she was ‘disordering her stomach with 'Bath bunns’, meaning that she had indulged in far too many that day!
If you’re craving a breakfast to remember on your next trip, make like Jane and head to Sally Lunns. This local favourite remains in its original location in one of the oldest houses in the city, and continues to serve up Bath buns to this day.
Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. You are encouraged to always check individual attraction websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.