England’s literary history is as rich as the novels themselves, with authors finding inspiration in every corner of the country. From romantic poets such as William Wordsworth to world-renowned novelists like Virginia Woolf, England’s cities, villages and countryside are full of spots that have served as muses for masterpieces. So let’s jump into the literary map of England and discover more about the writers we love.
A place instantly recognisable for any J. K. Rowling fan is Alnwick Castle, in Northumberland. Founded in the 11th century, this historic building has seen many big events through the centuries, including Harry, Ron and Hermione's first Quidditch lesson, as seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Want to dip your toes into the world of Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome’s series of children’s books? Get into the adventurous mindset as you learn about where he spent most of his life, the picturesque Cumbrian countryside. Ransome found these early surroundings endlessly inspiring and based his novels around Coniston Water, one of the area’s largest lakes.
Daffodils - Wordsworth
Romantic poet William Wordsworth also found his muse in the tranquil Cumbrian haven of the Lake District. From his home, Dove Cottage, Wordsworth would explore and capture the beauty of nature through his poems. Some of the most famous words penned here were “I wandered lonely as a cloud…” in his poem, Daffodils, written in 1807.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit - Beatrix Potter
Creator of the magical Tale of Peter Rabbit as well as a host of other delightful stories, Beatrix Potter was yet another literary hero who reflected her romantic views of the Cumbrian countryside in her work. Her charming 17th-century farmhouse, Hill Top, can still be found in Ambleside, in the heart of the Lake District National Park.
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Forever connected to Bram Stoker’s chilling novel Dracula, the novelist sucked inspiration from the northern seaside town of Whitby during a visit in 1890. Used as the main setting for the spine-chilling tale, it put the Yorkshire town on the gothic map, and included spots such as Whitby Abbey and the famous 199 steps.
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
The Yorkshire village of Haworth and surrounding moors are known for being both the home and a source of inspiration for novelist Emily Brontë, having written her 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights there. Now a museum, the family home displays amazing personal possessions such as Emily’s writing table, while nearby is the Brontë Waterfall, known for being the family’s favourite spot.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare – William Shakespeare
The spot where history’s most famous playwright was born and buried, Stratford-upon-Avon is known as Shakespeare Country. Many of the places the writer himself would have been familiar with, including his schoolroom, his wife’s cottage and the church where he was baptised and buried, are still standing today!
Lady Chatterley’s Lover - D. H. Lawrence
Did you know that D. H. Lawrence’s rich literary life begun in a humble house, in a mining town near Nottingham? The house is now a museum, and the area surrounding the writer’s working class birthplace is known for being a great inspiration to his work, with examples seen in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Women in Love, and most notably The White Peacock, which is set in his hometown of Eastwood.
Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
Ever wondered where inspired the enchanting Shire and Hobbiton in The Lord of the Rings? It was in fact where J. R. R. Tolkien and his brothers would play as children, Sarehole Mill in Birmingham. The mill and the surrounding areas became a favourite playground for the young Tolkiens, alongside Moseley Bog, which is said to have inspired Middle Earth’s ‘Old Forest’.
The Roald Dahl Collection - Roald Dahl
His home for almost forty years, the village of Missenden in Buckinghamshire is the Roald Dahl epicentre of the world. Now a family-friendly museum, it features a carefully reconstructed version of his writing hut, a tiny sanctuary where all of his wonderful tales were authored, such as The BFG and Matilda.
Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson centre around 221b Baker Street, London. The site where the fictional duo begin each of their daring investigations is now the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
Orlando - Virginia Woolf
A beloved retreat owned by the 20th-century writer Virginia Woolf, Monk’s House in Lewes, East Sussex, became an important outhouse for many of the influential Bloomsbury Group. It was also where Woolf wrote many of her greatest works, including Orlando, Jacob’s Room and To the Lighthouse. Now a museum maintained under the National Trust, many of Woolf’s prized possessions, including her hand-bound works of Shakespeare, are still in the house.
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Once home to herself, her sister and mother, Jane Austen's House in Hampshire is a highlight on England’s literary map. Now a museum, it was where Austen wrote classics including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion. It’s also home to a range of fascinating objects once belonging to Jane, many of which you can discover in their online collection.
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