Corona-Virus and lockdown has given a lot of us some valuable extra time to get stuck into all the things we thought we were too busy for. We have all used our time differently, some of us have tried our hands at a spot of knitting or prepping some sourdough starters, I have decided to invest my spare hours into getting caught up on some much loved reading. It seems as though many of us have also been diving into some of the British classics such as Lord of the Rings and Oliver Twist and are left wanting more. With foreign travel being so uncertain, British tourism is up and open for business, so why not take your favourite novel on a road trip and head to the homes, pubs and places some of our great British authors are associated with.
Here are some of our top five spots in the UK, where British writers lived, worked and gained inspiration you can visit today.
Inklings Writers’ Group
The Eagle and Child, Oxford
Nicknamed The Bird and Baby, this 17th century quintessentially British pub lies on St Giles’ Street in Oxford. It has an association with the Inklings Writers’ group, which includes the author of Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, writer of The Chronicles of Narnia. The pair, among other writers, met frequently in the ‘Rabbit Room’ at the back of the pub to discuss current manuscripts and ideas. Today, it is decorated with various memorabilia to commemorate their successes.
It is still a popular watering-hole for many and is worth a visit for its eclectic range of real ales and traditional pub food. So make a stop if you need some inspiration for your next novel, or just fancy a hearty plate of pie and mash.
Greenway House, Torquay
Greenway house and garden is the beloved holiday home of the famous murder mystery author, Agatha Christie. Now, being a National Trust site, you can visit where Agatha grew up and played in the grounds which have been accredited as a ‘Garden of Excellence’. The house and its grounds are full of history and there is much to walk around and explore, making it the perfect day out.
Much of her inspiration came from Torquay and her home, including the Boathouse at the end of the grounds which became the dramatic scene of a crime in the novel ‘Dead Man’s Folly’. If you are a National Trust member it is free to visit, or just £8.00 for an adult, but due to COVID restrictions please don’t forget to book a spot.
Charles Dickens Museum, London
Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby were all written from the Dickens’ family home of 48 Doughty Street. You can visit the house where his wife and three eldest children grew up, and get an insight into the personal and private life of Charles Dickens. Explore the family bedchambers, servants quarters, and his study which includes handwritten drafts and the desk where all the magic happened.
The house also holds host to a number of special exhibitions, workshops and performances to help you gain further insight into the man and his legacy. This includes the ‘Twists and Turns’ walking tour of the house and streets near-by aiming to show you just what inspired Dickens to write his most famous novel, Oliver Twist.
Winnie the Pooh
Ashdown Forest, East Sussex
Take a trip to the inspirational Ashdown Forest which became the basis of A. A. Milne’s Winne the Pooh novels. Watching his son Christopher Robin play with is toys in the woods made the tales from ‘Hundred Acre Wood’ come to life on the page. You can explore the woodland where it all began, visit the bridge where Poohsticks took place and get lost in the forest our beloved Winnie and friends adventured.
No Sign Wine Bar and Kardomah Café, Swansea
Famed as Swansea’s oldest pub, the No Sign Wine Bar was the favourite watering hole of Dylan Thomas. As well as serving his favourite tipples, No Sign is said to have been the inspiration for the Wine Vaults in his short ghost story ‘The Followers’. It was also close to Dylan’s place of work at the South Wales Daily Post and accessed by a narrow road named Salubrious Passage, also referenced in ‘The Followers’ as ‘Paradise Alley’. Nowadays, No Sign’s back bar looks a lot more modern and ‘The Vault’ is now a popular live music space, however the main bar has still retained its olde world character, perfect for a quiet leisurely drink just as Thomas did.
A short five minute walk takes you to Kardomah Café, another regular spot for Thomas. This is where he used to meet the ‘Kardomah Gang’ – a collection of artists, musicians, poets and writers. A fun fact about this place is that before it’s cafe status, it was previously a chapel which Dylan’s parents got married in. Not only great to visit for Dylan Thomas׳ history, the cafe was also listed in The Daily Telegraph’s list of the top 50 coffee houses around the globe – so why not stop for a delicious cappuccino too?
So grab a pint in the spot your literary heroes loved to drink, or wander around the cities these famous writers gained their inspiration. Britain has produced many great writers and poets over the centuries and now is the perfect time to explore their homes and history.