1. Follow in Charlotte Brontë’s footsteps
Haworth in Yorkshire was famously home to the Brontë sisters and it’s surrounded by the wild, windswept moors that inspired many of their works. 2016 is a special time to visit as the village unites to celebrate Charlotte Brontë’s 200th anniversary. Stroll along the cobbled Main Street, stopping off at old haunts like the Black Bull pub and Old Apothecary. Step back in time at her family home, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum, displaying the very table where she wrote Jane Eyre. Look out for a new exhibition by world-renowned writer Tracy Chevalier and the first of Haworth’s Victorian Summer Fairs – a free festival of performances, revelry and fun.
Find out more about the Brontë sisters
2. Hop along to Beatrix Potter’s birthday
Much-loved children’s author and creator of Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter loved the Lake District, spending childhood summers here before buying Hill Top farmhouse in 1905. Mountain Goat offer superb half-day minibus tours for Potter fans, taking in the picturesque rural locations that inspired many of her best-loved stories and illustrations. 2016 also sees Beatrix Potter’s 150th anniversary celebrated in the Lake District, with special events including a children’s literary festival at Wray Castle, storytelling sessions and, of course, a special birthday party on 28 July.
Find out more about Beatrix Potter
3. Get lost in Capability Brown’s gardens
England’s greatest landscape gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, got his peculiar nickname telling clients their gardens had ‘great capabilities’. In his hands they certainly did and he became famous for transforming the landscapes of England’s celebrated stately homes. His 300th anniversary in 2016 is a great excuse to see his works, starting in his home county of Northumberland. Play hide and seek in Belsay Hall’s dramatic rock garden and hunt for Wallington Hall’s secret walled garden. Then feel your jaw drop as you approach the infinitely romantic Alnwick Castle, which bursts into sight from behind manmade hills at its most impressive point.
Find out more about Capability Brown’s gardens
4. Pack a paintbrush for the Durham Dales
Master painter JMW Turner returned to the Durham Dales time and again to paint many of its beauty spots. It’s easy to see why – the scenery is striking and the area’s light and atmosphere inspiring. Follow in his footsteps to High Force waterfall, perhaps England’s most impressive waterfall, plunging down from a height of 21m (70ft) into a swirling pool. Southwest of Durham City, Raby Castle is one of England’s finest medieval castles and another of Turner’s favourite places to paint. Check out the splendid nearby Bowes Museum nearby, with four of his works to admire up close.
Find out more about Durham Dales
5. Find inspiration in Wordsworth’s cottage
England’s most famous Lake District poet William Wordsworth wrote some of his best-loved poetry at Dove Cottage, where he lived from 1799 to 1808. Travel to this timeless property in the cute village of Grasmere and you’ll find it virtually unchanged since then. Take a guided tour of the house and hear entertaining stories about the family’s daily life and famous visitors. Be inspired by the beautiful gardens planted by the poet and get your creative juices flowing at the Wordsworth Museum and Jerwood Centre next door with its impressive collection of manuscripts, books and paintings.
Find out more about William Wordsworth
6. Set up your easel in the Yorkshire Wolds
Yorkshire-born pop artist David Hockney, who is lauded as ‘Britain’s most important living artist’, has long been fascinated by the nature and landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds. Using a striking palate of bright, vivid colours, Hockney captures the area’s wide, open skies and dramatic changes of colour and light in moving detail. Take a page out of the iconic artist’s book and explore mile upon mile of walking trails through remote fields, secluded villages and high chalk valleys. Pop into the Yorkshire Wolds Heritage Centre in the village of Warter for an introduction to the Wolds and see the spot where Hockney’s famous Bigger Trees Near Warter was painted.
Find out more about David Hockney and the Yorkshire Wolds
7. Find out why the Cheshire Cat grins
English writer Lewis Carroll is one of Cheshire’s most famous sons. Inside Daresbury Church, where his father was vicar, you’ll find magnificent stained glass windows with scenes from his famous novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Spot the Cheshire Cat, always grinning because, according to Carroll, Cheshire’s dairies brimmed so full with milk and cream that to be a cat in Cheshire was something to smile about. Enjoy a sumptuous afternoon tea to make even the most ardent cream lover purr at the award-winning Davenports Tea Room, with chess sets, playing cards and bone china all part of the Alice theme.
Find out more about Lewis Carroll