It is a truth universally acknowledged that a literature lover must be in want of a trip to their favourite writer’s house.
I find exploring the homes and lives of my favourite authors to be just as exciting as reading their books. It’s like the excitement that a fan of the royals must feel on first venturing inside Buckingham Palace, or that of being up and close to a favourite celebrity.
From Shakespeare to J.K Rowling, the UK has always been able to boast some of the most famous and talented writers. Their presence not only remains embedded on our beloved shelves, but also within some beautifully preserved homes and museums. So if you’re a book lover yourself, we’ve got some food for thought on your next trip destination!
Jane Austen’s House, Chawton.
This beautifully kept cottage in Hampshire is where Austen spent the majority of her life and produced nearly all of her most beloved novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Mansfield Park. Each room comes packed with interesting information and most of her original furniture – including her writing table! You’ll find the volunteers who work there to be friendly and full of fascinating stories, plenty of interactions, and a shop stocked with all her works and adaptations, along with quirky Austen and book-related merchandise.
You could also try The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, where she spent a few (slightly unhappier) years of her life, to which you’ll also find to be full of information and stories, especially of her time in Bath.
Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth.
This gorgeous little house was where hugely popular works such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were born. Just like with Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, the Parsonage has managed to preserve many furnishings and artifacts, including their own writing table and manuscripts.
Not only will you get to see the house, but you can also become involved with the amazing community that members of this museum have made. You’ll find academics often visiting the site for insightful talks, newly emerging writers holding creative workshops where they share their own work inspired by the Brontës, and special evenings where the museum will exhibit their most precious original artifacts, which are not usually available to the public. Next year, the museum will be celebrating Anne’s bicentenary, so check their website out for even more exciting events in 2020!
The village of Haworth itself is perfect for all Brontë and Victorian fans. You’ll find cosy cafés, old-fashioned sweet shops, and even buses that are marketed after the famous siblings! A visit here cannot go without a walk over the stunning Yorkshire Moors either, where you’ll be able to find the Brontë chair and waterfall, along with Top Withens – an old ruin that partially inspired Wuthering Heights.
Hardy’s Cottage, Dorset.
This quaint and humble cottage was where a young Hardy grew up and produced his earlier works, such as Under The Greenwood Tree and Far From The Madding Crowd. Here you’ll learn of Hardy’s early beginnings and what life was like for a financially-tight, close-knit Victorian family. It’s surrounded by beautiful woodlands (be sure to pick up a free walking guide from the reception) which inspired his famous and poetic fictional landscapes.
Nearby is Max Gate, the house Hardy later inhabited when he produced his later works, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. This house is far bigger and communicates the slightly more glamorous life of a 19th-century writer who had managed to rise into more generous earnings.
Elephant House, Edinburgh.
We all know the famous yet admirable story of J. K. Rowling’s journey from humble beginnings to literary celebrity, so why not make a visit to where all the magic was first penned? The Elephant House café was where Rowling spent hours and hours working on her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and has since received thousands of fans from all over the world! If you’re an aspiring writer yourself, take your pen and notebook (or laptop) and see whether the café inspires a similar literary genius within you!
Charles Dickens Museum, London.
Being the place of residence for Dickens during the years, 1837-9, this is where Dickens first rose to prominent success with Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. Most of its original furniture is still in place over the house’s four floors. Have a look into taking the Handmaid’s tour, which takes you back in time to 1839 and you’ll get a unique and fascinating experience into the life of an upper-class Victorian family.
Fans of Dickens can also make a trip to various other sites associated with Dickens in Kent, where he spent most of his time. You’ll be able to visit the author’s birthplace in Portsmouth and a family holiday home in Broadstairs.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Manchester.
If you’re a fan of North and South, Cranford, Mary Barton or just all of Gaskell’s works and portrayal of 19th-century industrial England, then be sure to visit the place where she resided and produced these very works (1850-65). Here you can take a trip back in time to what Manchester would have been like to the Gaskell family during the industrial period, alongside getting an insight into the literary and familial life Gaskell would have lived.
You will be welcomed into the house by friendly and well-informed volunteers, be able to stroll around stunning recreated gardens, take some tea and cake in their converted café, and view the two exhibitions available at the museum.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Why not take a trip back to where one of the world’s most famous playwrights first began? Hear tales of Shakespeare’s family life, come up and close to treasured artifacts, and explore the house and furnishings that would have accommodated residents of the 16th-century.
Stratford-upon-Avon comes packed with other Shakespearean related sites to satisfy all of your literary cravings: Hall Croft (his daughter’s home), his mother’s house, and his wife, Anne Hathaway’s cottage. You can also make a visit to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which will inevitably be showcasing some brilliant performances of the playwrights most beloved works.
Greenway Estate, Torquay.
This gorgeous holiday home and gardens would make an amazing day out for all of the fans of Agatha Christie’s crime and mystery fiction. Boasting a relaxed, 1950’s style, this place is home to countless books, botanical china, silver, archaeology and Tunbridgewear for you to spend hours gauging at.
A trip to Greenway doesn’t just include the house, but the stunning garden that surrounds it (it has been accredited by the International Camellia Society as a ‘Garden of Excellence’ – making it one out of the 7 gardens in the UK that has been given this title). You will also be able to take a walk down to their boathouse, which is attributed to the crime scene in Dead Man’s Folly.
Hill Top, Lake District.
There’s plenty to see and do at Hill Top, a humble little 17th-century farmhouse once inhabited by beloved children’s writer, Beatrix Potter. All of its rooms and furnishings have pretty much been preserved to the state it was in when Potter herself left it. Fans of hers will be able to trace reference after reference to her work in each corner of her home, ensuring each visitor is truly escorted back to their own childhood.
Hill Top and the Gallery (located very close by) combined contain over 1433 objects and 2200 works on paper, left to the Trust by Beatrix Potter herself. Some belongings, including antique furniture and original paintings, are over 400 years old – making the perfect escape for art and antique lovers alike.
Why not also use this trip as an excuse to explore the gorgeous views and walking areas available throughout the Lake District. It would make the ideal getaway from your usual busy, chaotic city-based reality!