8 places to experience literary Britain

From William Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, explore the history of literature throughout Great Britain.

1. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - London, England

Exterior view of The Sherlock Holmes Pub, London, England.

There's still no greater guide to London than Sherlock Holmes. The detective's city is as alive today as it was in 1887 when Conan Doyle created him. Holmes' famous Baker Street address is now a museum, but many of his favourite haunts remain true to their original form. The Langham Hotel, where Doyle and Oscar Wilde met before penning The Sign of Four and The Picture of Dorian Gray, respectively, and which appears in several of Holmes's adventures, is as elegant as ever. The Sherlock Holmes Pub, featured in The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor and just off Trafalgar Square, is a great place to grab a pint; and Holmes's favourite restaurant, Simpsons-in-the-Strand, still carves roast beef tableside. 

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The Sherlock Holmes Museum

2. Agatha Christie - Devon, England

Couple hiking on clifftop path, Hartford, Bideford, Devon, England

Of all the famous authors who have frequented Torquay on the English Riviera, such as Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Charles Darwin, it’s still best known as the home town of Britain's Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. Each year in September this charming Devon town celebrates the birthday of the creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple with the week-long International Agatha Christie Festival. Mystery fills the air as the town is transformed with tours, readings, talks and theater recreations. For a scenic detour, ride the Dartmouth steam train along the stunning Torbay Coast to the Churston station that features so mysteriously in her novel The ABC Murders.

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Torquay

3. Jane Austen - Bath, England

The Jane Austen Centre, a museum chronicling the life and times of the famous writer, Jane Austen, Bath, Somerset, England.

Renowned for her incredible literary works, Jane Austen explored a woman’s social standing, marriage and economic security through the power of words. Visit the country cottage where she penned her works, including the timeless classic Pride and Prejudice, at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, or discover the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, a permanent exhibition that explores her time in the city and the influence that it had on her writing.

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Jane Austen Centre

4. Dylan Thomas - Swansea, Wales

Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea, Pembrokeshire, Wales

At the Brown's Hotel in the pretty Welsh fishing village of Laugharne – the town that inspired 'Under Milk Wood' - you can sip a Dylan Thomas-inspired single malt at the bar where he was a regular and visit the Writing Shed where the poet lived and worked. From here, the whole of Carmarthenshire, known as the Garden of Wales, is within easy reach. Nearby Swansea is home to the Dylan Thomas Centre, Dylan Thomas Square and the infamous No Sign Bar − Swansea's oldest pub, a famed Thomas hangout and the inspiration for The Vaults in his short story, 'The Followers'. Trace Thomas' footsteps on guided tours of these and others of the great man’s haunts.

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Dylan Thomas Centre

5. William Shakespeare - Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire, England

The Royal Shakespeare Company, based in Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, is probably the most famous theatre company in the world. See the world’s finest actors on stage, go behind the scenes on a tour and catch plays touring across the UK. If you are looking to get your fix of the Bard while in London, no stage is more closely affiliated with Shakespeare than the Globe in the Southwark district. Visit the lovingly recreated outdoor circular theatre to catch a play in its authentic Elizabethan glory.

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Royal Shakespeare Theatre

6. The Bronte Sisters - Yorkshire, England

Cleveland Way at sunset, paved walking path through heather along the cliffs of the coastline on the North York Moors, North Yorkshire, England.

The Bronte Parsonage Museum, in the town of Haworth where the Bronte sisters lived and wrote, is a good starting place to plan walking trips through the sisters’ lives and works. From there, paths lead through the town and across the moody and wild Yorkshire Moors that inspired their greatest works. One highlight is Top Withens, an old farmhouse which may have been the setting for Emily’s Wuthering Heights and is without doubt an inspiration for the windswept, stormy landscape described so poignantly in the book. 

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Bronte Parsonage Museum

7. Beatrix Potter - The Lake District, England

Lake District

The picturesque Crag Brow, in Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, is dotted with lush gardens and bright with bird song and seems little changed in the nearly 150 years since Beatrix Potter visited here as a young girl. Potter's beloved characters were inspired by the picturesque beauty of this town and the spectacular Lake District landscape. So evocative are Potter's descriptions that fans of the book will feel like they're returning to a familiar place even on their first visit. Visitors can also experience The World of Beatrix Potter, a vibrant family attraction where all 23 of Beatrix Potter's famous tales are brought to life, recreating the beautiful Lake District countryside complete with sights, sounds and smells. There’s chance to meet your favourite characters including Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-winkle and Jemima Puddle-Duck, and step into Peter Rabbit’s Garden.

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The World of Beatrix Potter

8. J.K. Rowling - Edinburgh, Scotland

Interior view of Armchair Bookshop, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Visitors to Edinburgh can experience Potter magic through some of J.K. Rowling’s favourite haunts. Take a trip to the Elephant House, once a writing refuge for the author. You can sit in the seat she vacated, or book the suite at The Balmoral where she wrote the final chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Don’t miss the Potter Trail, a free walking tour around Edinburgh’s old town, which spills the beans on how He Who Must Not Be Named got his name.

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The Elephant House
19 Jun 2019(last updated)