Britain has one of the oldest and most famed literary traditions in the world. From Shakespeare to JK Rowling, our writers are among the most celebrated throughout all of history. This blog will serve as a beginner's guide to the essential literary pilgrimage through England, Scotland and Wales, showcasing the prowess of our best poets, playwrights and novelists.
Where better to start our journey than London? The capital was considered the home of several literary greats including Virginia Woolfe, George Orwell and T.S Eliot. Many more authors visited or plied their trade in London, and it is therefore saturated with monuments to British literary legacy. We list just some of these spots below.
The Dickens House
Not much needs to be said about Charles Dickens. A true master of his craft, Dickens lived in London for two years of his life between 1837-39. In this time he wrote The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, two texts which have since captured the British imagination in an enormous way. His house during this time is open to the public as a museum to his many works.
A monument to the single most influential playwright and arguably the most important literary figure to have ever lived, Shakespeare's globe is a living, breathing shrine to the bard and his many timeless plays. Shakespeare can be both heartbreaking and hilarious, his words have moved countless generations. The Royal Shakespeare Company perform all year round, transporting the audience back to the early 17th century with world-class productions that will never lose their drama and flavour.
Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey
A beautiful notion, although somewhat morbid, Poet's Corner is the final resting place for a plethora of great writers. When Geoffry Chaucer died in the year 1400, he was buried at Westminster and then transferred to a tomb which has now become the conventional place of burial and memorial for the great poets, playwrights and authors throughout history. Poet's corner has memorials to Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Rudyard Kipling, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Shakespeare, to name just a few. There is no better way to pay homage to as many legendary writers in one place.
The city of Oxford revolves around its prestigious University, the oldest in the country and consistently one of the highest-ranking in the world. With its rich educational history, Oxford's literary history follows suit. Oxford has hosted some of the greatest historical and modern writers in the world. To pick out John Donne, Oscar Wilde and JRR Tolkien as representative of the quality Oxford has to offer, demonstrates the length and diversity of its literary tradition.
Christ Church College
Harry Potter is the biggest and most successful children's book franchise of all time. The magic of JK Rowling's literature has been reimagined in film and Christ Church is central to the history of all things Potter. The college was often utilised as a location for many of the films, so to tour the college grounds is to step inside of the majestic Hogwarts as imagined on the big screen. An essential stopping point for any Potterhead.
Identifiable by a large blue plaque, JRR Tolkien's Oxford home is fairly understated. To think of the fantastical processes that must have occurred between those walls to produce the immense universe of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit is mind-boggling. While Tolkien grew up in Birmingham, he spent a large part of his life and career as an academic in Oxford, and the vast majority of his work was written there.
Lewis Carol's Alice in Wonderland was inspired by a young girl of the same name in Oxford. Walking tours are available which map the monuments to Alice scattered around the city, including the gardens of Christ Church college, the River Thames in Oxford and Alice's cafe. These locations, among many others in the city, all have had their part to play in inspiring the mythos surrounding the wonderful tale. Of all of the literary history of Oxford, Alice and her trip down the rabbit hole seems to have captured the city's imagination more than anything else.
On seeing the sprawling mountains of the Lake District, it is not surprising that the vistas inspired some of the great romantic writers and many others to write their best works. John Ruskin, Samuel Coleridge and William Wordsworth are the stand-out names of Cumbrian literature, not to mention Beatrix Potter, as one of the most successful children's writers in history with the iconic Peter Rabbit.
The first stop on the literary pilgrimage of the Lake District is William Wordsworth's house. Cosy and secluded on the edge of Grasmere, the cottage has been well-preserved to be a realistic representation of how it would have been in the early 19th century. Wordsworth fell in love with the house the moment he saw it and rented for £5 a year from 1799. The views from the second floor, over the meadows and to the lake, are representative of the type of idyll Wordsworth commonly describes in his poetry. Dove cottage is now adjacent to the Wordsworth Museum, showcasing his life and works.
The World of Beatrix Potter
For the Peter Rabbit lovers, this permanent exhibition is an adventure through magical gardens with characters from Potter's stories to greet you along the way. A great day out for the whole family and a truly classy spectacle, the exhibition showcases how immortal these characters have become while providing a fun and interactive experience for the children.
To understand where the inspiration for the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge came from, one need go no further than exploring the Lake District itself. The mountains and lakes are the embodiment of sublime nature that would stir the mind of anyone, especially a great poet. They are a truly fantastic sight and are well worth experiencing, literary-lover or not.
These three iconic locations barely scratch the surface of the entire British literary tradition. Essential to our culture, words, stories and language are everywhere. Discover these great landmarks for yourself, among many more, using SpeedyBooker to make finding accommodation easy on your personal literary pilgrimage.