Bookmark these great British literary destinations

Spring is the most literary season. The Hay festival begins on May 3, and it's a fantastic opportunity to visit some of the many British spots with literary connections and references. Here are the top ten.


The first UNESCO city for literature has inspired over 500 novels. It plays centre stage both for the works of classical writers of the stature of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns, as well as for contemporary writers like Irvin Welsh and Ian Rankin. The ideal plan is to start off by getting lost amidst the streets of the Royal Mile neighbourhood, replete with charming bookshops and multiple cafés where one can imagine JK Rowling writing the first chapters of Harry Potter.


The visit goes on through vibrant institutions such as the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the Writers’ Museum and the contemporary Scottish Poetry Library. Guided tours are both varied and authentic, from reproducing Edinburgh from the cult novel Trainspotting, to another in pursuit of Inspector Rebus, the popular character in the novels by Ian Rankin. Furthermore, there is a route around the taverns that threw their gates open to William Wordsworth, Robert Burns and Walter Scott. Pints and books galore - what more can one ask for?


With the literary references that London is interspersed with, one could fill a whole collection of books. At the literary starting point is the British Library where treasures such as Shakespeare’s first folio, and manuscripts of Alice in Wonderland are kept. One should not lose sight of the delightful walks offered of the neighbourhoods that exude the love of books. One such place is Bloomsbury, the meeting point for the intellectual Bohemians at the dawn of the 20th century, headed by Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster.

Hampstead is an area with an enchanting rural setting where one can visit the home of the poet John Keats, not to mention the Minister of Stories, the academy of literature for children which Nick Hornby, author of Fever Pitch, the multiculturalism in Hanif Kureishi’s novels, or the literary itineraries that follow the footsteps of Dickens, Sherlock Holmes and Oscar Wilde.


Among the famed writers related to the only island city of Great Britain are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and H G Wells. This year marks the bicentenary of the birth of Dickens in Portsmouth. Here you can visit his home-now-turned-museum, at the centre of the city where the author was born. It could be said that the character of Sherlock Holmes was also born in Portsmouth because his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was living in the city when he published A Study in Scarlet, the first book of the mythical detective.

Today, the city boasts a collection related to the world of Conan Doyle and his unforgettable character. The city runs the literary festivals of the Portsmouth Festivities in June and the Portsmouth BookFest in October.


Stratford-Upon-Avon is Shakespeare’s birthplace, but also one of Britain's cities known for its cultural heritage. There you can visit the five historic houses dedicated to the dramatist, watch one of his plays in the Courtyard Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company home, and go on a pilgrimage to his grave in the Holy Trinity Church.

Lake District

The natural beauty of this area, also known as 'The Eden Valley' has inspired all kinds of works. Dove Cottage, in Grasmere, is the home of Wordsworth, where the poet received other writers of his time like Walter Scott or Thomas de Quincey. The resort includes a research centre, a museum dedicated to the poet, and an art gallery. A few miles from Grasmere you can find Hill Top, the house where the author and illustrator Beatrix Potter lived. Full to the brim of her favourite belongings, in this cottage it is impossible not to find a visual reference to her animal tales.


Welsh people love to talk. So it's not surprising that their literary tradition has its roots in oral narrative. Even though the first traces of Welsh poetry date back to the 6th century, its medieval folklore tales, the Mabinogion, are considered the great Welsh contribution to European literature. Another great pillar of Welsh literature is Dylan Thomas.

In Swansea there is a centre dedicated to this poet that organises activities throughout the year. The literary pedigree of Wales goes together with the Hay-on-Wye Festival, the most prestigious literary event in the world, that every year brings well-known thinkers and authors to this small village full of old and second-hand libraries. It will take place this year from May 31 to June 10.


Agatha Christie was born in this town in the southern part of Devon, and kept her beloved holiday home here. Greenway, in the Dart’s riverside, between Torquay and Dartmouth, was Hercules Poirot and Miss Marple's creator's private residence. Time seems to have stopped in this house.

Visitors will discover a romantic garden and family collections of archaeology, porcelain with botanical motifs and books. The most adventurous can follow The Agatha Christie route and discover the scenes of mysteries and murders that the author placed in the British Riviera.


Neogothic romance fans have to visit Cornwall. Daphne du Maurier, author of Rebecca, moved to Fowey after falling in love with this enchanting place. From May 9 - 20, a literary festival took place dedicated to the author. This year's program not only included lectures and performances, but also afternoon tea sessions, guided tours and boat trips.


The city of Bath has of course changed since the era of Jane Austen, but there are certain things that remain. In days gone by, the beauty of the city attracted English high society, and today it brings tourists and cinematographic productions. The popularity of its spas and its reputation as a favoured destination for those who are looking for elegance are also aspects of Bath that have stayed the same.

Jane Austen lived in Bath for five years of her life, and two of her novels took place here: Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Visit Bath and you too can enjoy the romantic city exactly as Austen knew it.


It’s an area that turns its back on the urban hustle and bustle, and yet it is easy to get here from London. In this town, the tranquility and peace is exactly what an author needs to write. The city's most notable literary claim to fame, especially when travelling with children, is the Roald Dahl museum in a small village in the outskirts called Great Missenden.

There you can see the famous cabin in which Dahl wrote his unforgettable novels such as: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory; Matilda; and James And The Giant Peach. This refuge, which he called his 'tiny nest', was built in 1950 and hasn’t been touched since.

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