7 of the greatest literary heroes from South West England

England is a constant source of inspiration for writers, with the South West being one of the country’s literary hotspots, sparking the imaginations of Agatha Christie, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and many others.

Here, we recommend some of the best places to explore these great minds as well as step into the pages of world-famous stories.

1. Discover Agatha Christie's Riviera in Devon

An actor posing as Poirot on the English Riviera Poirot on the English Rivera. Copyright VisitBritain images

From the Agatha Christie Mile to the Agatha Christie Festival and visits to her beloved estate at Greenway, the English Riviera is the place to discover the real Christie.  The International Agatha Christie Festival always falls around the 15th September, to celebrate Agatha’s birthday and includes guest talks from leading crime writers, murder mystery dinners and much more. Elsewhere, retrace Agatha’s steps on the Agatha Christie Literary Trail based on the 20 special places that inspired her life and works and explore the Agatha Christie Mile in Torquay, which takes you to various locations that were special to the writer in her early years. 

Find out more about Agatha Christie

2. Explore Bath, the beautiful city that inspired Jane Austen

Jane Austen's Bath Jane Austen's Bath. Copyright VisitBritain images

Fall in love with a resplendent Roman and Georgian city that inspired two of Jane Austen’s most famous novels: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Visit the Jane Austen Centre and see a new lifelike waxwork of the famous writer. Explore what life was like in Regency times; and take a break in the Regency Tea Rooms. Fans of the famous author will also love the city’s annual Jane Austen Festival, packed with a calendar of events including masquerade balls and the spectacular Grand Regency Costumed Promenade.  If you’d like to explore the locations that Austen used in her novels, download 'In the Footsteps of Jane Austen', a free audio walking tour from VisitBath. 

Find out more about Jane Austen

3. Follow Daphne du Maurier around Fowey in Cornwall

Respryn Bridge, Fowey. Respryn Bridge, Fowey. Copyright VisitEngland/ Visit Cornwall

The novelist Daphne du Maurier was inspired by her love of Cornwall and wrote several books including Jamaica Inn, Rebecca and Frenchman's Creek. Follow a literary tour of Cornwall, discovering Fowey’s links with the famous author.

Find out more about Daphne du Maurier

4. Discover the setting for a Rosamunde Pilcher TV show in North Devon

Hartland Abbey Hartland Abbey

An architectural gem, Hartland Abbey was donated by Henry VIII to the Keeper of his wine cellar, whose descendants still live there today. Wander through magnificent interiors spanning Medieval, Queen Anne, Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods. Explore the walled and woodland gardens, and surrounding parklands, grazed by donkeys, sheep and peacocks. Take in a cream tea before strolling down to the wild Atlantic cove and cottage where German ZDF’s production of Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers (Die Muschelsucher) was filmed. 

Find out more about Rosamunde Pilcher

5. Experience Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie in Slad, Gloucestershire

Slad, Gloucestershire Slad, Gloucestershire. Copyright VisitBritain images

Cider with Rosie is an evocative coming-of-age story, bringing to life Laurie Lee’s childhood in the idyllic Cotswold village of Slad, during and after WW1. The new TV adaptation chronicles young Laurie’s escapades, in a world untouched by cars or electricity, and the lessons he learns about love and loss on the way. Explore Slad and visit Laurie Lee’s grave in the churchyard, before embarking on the Laurie Lee Wildlife Way.  This six-mile circular walk follows 10 poetry posts around the Slad valley, which gave Laurie Lee so much inspiration. No trip to Slad would be complete without a visit to the Woolpack Inn – Laurie’s local; with a great reputation for its seasonal fare and local ales.

Find out more about Laurie Lee

6. Hideaway in the depths of Hardy Country in Dorset

Thomas Hardy's Cottage, Dorset. Thomas Hardy's Cottage, Dorset. Copyright VisitEngland

Visit the landscape that Thomas Hardy used as a backdrop for his tales of love and tragedy. This is ancient Wessex; home of The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess and Jude the Obscure. Whilst exploring the beautiful landscape, stop for a pint of ale or a romantic supper in Tess of the D’urbervilles’ ‘Sow and Acorn’, otherwise known as the Acorn Inn at Evershot.  In Dorchester, Hardy’s Casterbridge, visit his statue and the Dorset County Museum where you can view his recreated study and personal possessions.  Max Gate, Hardy’s home of his own design, is located on the edge of town and his cottage birthplace is hidden in woodland nearby at Higher Bockhampton. Finally, visit the medieval church in the hamlet of Stinsford. Hardy’s heart is buried here, alongside his wives, in the place he loved.

Find out more about Thomas Hardy

7. Stop by pirate drinking holes in Bristol

Bristol Harbourside Bristol Harbourside. Copyright VisitBritain images

Bristol’s oldest pub and one of the last timber-built buildings in the city, the Llandoger Trow, is swathed in myth and legend. This was Blackbeard’s (Edward Teach) drinking hole. During his life, the infamous pirate terrorised the West Indies and eastern coast of the U.S. before meeting his match, and demise, in America. Daniel Defoe is said to have met Alexander Selkirk here, which inspired him to pen Robinson Crusoe. A few doors down, The Hole in the Wall Tavern, is said to be the inspiration for the Spyglass Tavern in Treasure Island where Long John Silver meets Jim in the chapter, Let’s go to Bristol. Situated along the quayside, the pub has its own spy-hole, originally used as a lookout in the 18th Century to warn sailors of any Press Gangs.

Find out more about Blackbeard


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