From Shakespeare to Rowling, spellbinding writers can inspire magical days out
Burying your nose in a book is a favourite way to pass the time for many, but how about getting lost in the landscapes that inspired those tomes or meeting your favourite author? We’ve put together a selection of some of the UK’s best experiences for bibliophiles.
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Hay Festival takes place towards the end of May in the small Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye and has previously seen appearances from the likes of Arthur Miller, Ian McEwan, Tim Minchin and Boris Johnson. Over 11 days, attendees enjoy talks, book signings, debates, live readings and plenty of time to peruse innumerable books. If you’d like to venture further afield, the festival has expanded to Spain, Mexico, Ireland, Peru and Colombia, plus the Winter Weekend event in its native Wales.
Later in the year, Edinburgh not only becomes home to the renowned theatre and comedy festival but also the Edinburgh International Book Festival – the largest literary festival in the world. Each August, for two weeks, more than 800 authors descend on the Scottish capital, along with actors, comedians and other artists, meaning festivalgoers can combine their love of the written word with many other cultural events around the city.
There is no better place to learn about the master than where it all began and at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, you can see actors perform sonnets, enjoy a 20-minute version of Romeo and Juliet and discover what was inside Shakespeare’s toy box.
Stratford is also home to the idyllic 500-year-old Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, the birthplace of the famed playwright’s wife.
A short drive away is Mary Arden’s Farm, the Jacobean childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother, featuring a medicinal herb garden.
The banks of the Avon are also home to the Royal Shakespeare Company and we highly recommend taking the chance to see one of its striking productions.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London is a must for fans of the child wizard. The Making of Harry Potter exhibition features props including Hagrid’s motorcycle and an 18-foot-wide Aragog. Visitors to the studio where all eight films were made can peer into the shops on cobbled Diagon Alley, sneak into Dumbledore’s office and try a glass of butterbeer.
Elsewhere, you can visit Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross station in London and the House of MinaLima, which displays art from the films and is conveniently located near the Palace Theatre, home of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage show.
Four hundred miles north, The Elephant House in Edinburgh is where JK Rowling first set about writing her incredible series of books, and this friendly café has also been a popular haunt of other writers including Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith.
The British Library
If you ever feel like you’re running out of books to read, head to this 14-floor site in London which is home to copies of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland. The collection currently stands at over 150 million editions including newspapers, music manuscripts, stamps, maps, CDs and DVDs, so whether you’re looking for books, music or something in between, you’re sure to find it here.
Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing some of the fascinating exhibits. Among the most popular items are the Magna Carta, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook and the Beatles’ manuscripts.
Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top farmhouse in the Lake District, a National Trust property, makes for a perfect day out during summer months when the garden blooms brightly.
A two-hour drive south will take you to the Brontë Parsonage Museum, just outside Leeds, where you can view the world’s largest collection of items relating to the family including personal letters and early editions of the sisters’ books.
In London, you can easily visit the home of novelist Charles Dickens near King’s Cross and that of Romantic poet John Keats in Hampstead in one day. We also highly recommend taking a stroll around nearby Hampstead Heath for impressive views across the capital.
If you decide to embark on a literary road trip around the UK, continue south to Hampshire to pay a visit to Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton before heading across to Devon to explore Agatha Christie’s Greenway residence on the banks of the River Dart, a National Trust property.
Pictured: Professor Snape’s Potions classroom at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour