There is something rather magical about walking in the same shoes as a beloved character from a much-loved novel. From the bustling train stations of London to the windswept moors of Yorkshire, the ever-changing landscape of the UK has served as inspiration for some of the most well-known stories, literary figures, and fictional worlds loved by readers all over the world.
Read on to learn about some of the real-life locations across the UK that have inspired some of the world’s greatest fiction.
Getting to the UK
Hundreds of direct flights are available from the USA to one of the major London airports like Gatwick or Heathrow. Flights run regularly throughout the year, and if you book out of season and plan in advance, it’s possible to pick up a real bargain.
Once you’ve landed in London, you’ll need to plan your travel carefully, particularly if you intend to visit some of our literary highlights outside of the capital. Be aware that many of the literary greats were often inspired by the UK’s stunning countryside, the windswept moors, or remote coastal villages — all very evocative but not the easiest to get to!
The UK is well-connected by rail, with all major cities having well-connected stations. Do be aware that services aren’t the most reliable, and they can work out extremely expensive. It may work out cheaper to buy a rail card and always book in advance when possible.
On the Road
Car hire is recommended to reach some of the more remote places, but the roads can be congested, particularly when trying to get out of London — it’s going to be tricky to channel your inner Dickens if you’re stuck in traffic on the M25 for several hours! It may be cheaper and more convenient to book your car hire alongside your flights, so keep an eye out for operators that offer package deals.
Many UK cities have their own airports, and plenty of domestic flights are available to take you up and down the country. If you’re planning on booking several flights, look for providers that can offer a multi-stop search tool. With eDreams flights, for example, it’s possible to choose more than one flight route on your itinerary and book everything in one place.
Literary Locations to Visit in the UK
Kings Cross Station: Platform 9 ¾, Harry Potter
Kings Cross, London
This is an easy one to start with as regular trains run from the main London airports to London King’s Cross. The station offers a dedicated area that pays homage to Harry’s secret platform featured in the much-beloved series of books and films. Tourists queue daily to have their photo taken in front of the trolley embedded in the wall alongside the famous 9 ¾ sign. If you want to take some magic home, next door to the platform is a Harry Potter-themed shop selling everything from chocolate frogs to wands!
It goes without saying that there are literally thousands of things to see and do whilst you’re in London. However, if you want to keep your trip Wizard-themed, walking tours are available, which allow visitors to take a trip to places such as Cecil Court, which served as Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley.
Although more associated with the films than the books, Harry Potter Studios are located just 20 miles northwest of London and provide a fantastic immersive experience featuring some iconic costumes, sets, and props from the films.
The Dickens House Museum: Betsy Trotwood’s house, David Copperfield
We often automatically associate Dickens with the city of London, but the seaside villages of Kent play just as big a role in the creation of his stories and their characters. Broadstairs, located on the Kentish Coast, is one such town. Here, you’ll find the Dickens House Museum, which is located in the home of Mary Pearson Strong, a friend of Dickens’ who was said to be the inspiration for the character of Betsy Trotwood in David Copperfield.
The museum commemorates the writer’s association with Broadstairs and contains artifacts and memorabilia that offer insight into his time spent in the town. Visitors can learn about Dickens and gain an insight into the places and people that inspired some of his most memorable characters, including the notable Betsy Trotwood and her cottage.
Whilst there, be sure to take a stroll along the cliff tops to Bleak House. Formerly known as Fort House, this elegant building overlooks Viking Bay and was a favorite holiday home of Dickens and was where he wrote sections of both Bleak House and David Copperfield.
Whitby Abbey, Dracula
Whitby Abbey is a striking and atmospheric gothic ruin located in the seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire. Standing on the headland, overlooking the bay, it’s easy to see how this imposing abbey, which dates all the way back to the 7th Century, became the inspiration for Dram Stoker’s Dracula.
In addition to the abbey itself, the innocent tourists, the harbor, and the graveyard in St Mary’s church all became the inspiration for his book. Visit in April or October, and you’ll see thousands of visitors from around the globe dressed in their finest gothic attire for the annual goth festival.
Whitby was once a bustling port and is steeped in history. Its maritime heritage is evident in the still-working harbor and quaint cobbled streets, which are a delight to wander. If all the vampire talk has made you seek something on the lighter side, the town is also the perfect location for a typical British seaside holiday! Expect donkey rides, fish and chips, and ice creams on the beach.
Ashdown Forest: 100 Acre Wood, Winnie the Pooh
Ashdown, East Sussex
Ashdown Forest in Sussex is a beautiful area renowned for its stunning landscapes and woodlands. This picturesque location is the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood in A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Visitors can explore the actual sites featured in the stories, such as the Enchanted Place and Pooh Sticks Bridge.
The forest offers various walking trails alongside plenty of opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. There are also plenty of picnic tables overlooking some beautiful views in case you want to stop for a honey sandwich or two!
After a game of Pooh Sticks on the bridge, head to Pooh Corner, a delightful little museum, gift shop, and tearoom dedicated to Pooh and his friends!
Top Withens: Wuthering Heights
Top Withens, near Haworth, is a ruined farmhouse in West Yorkshire, which is said to have been the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Whilst the ruins bear little resemblance to the house in the novel, it doesn’t get more evocative than the backdrop of the moors, and it’s not hard to picture the unfolding fated romance of Cathy and Heathcliffe when you’re there!
If you don’t trust your navigational skills, walking tours are available, which will take you across the moors and to Brontë Bridge, Seat, and Waterfall before climbing to Top Withins.
The Haworth Parsonage can be found in the village of Haworth and was home to all three Bronte sisters from 1820 to 1861. The once-family home is now a museum home to the world’s largest collection of Brontë artifacts and belongings and receives visitors from all over the world.
Moat Brae: Neverland, Peter Pan
As a child, J.M. Barrie often visited Moat Brae in Dumfries, Scotland. The house was once an exceptionally grand residential property, and according to Barrie, the gardens were “enchanted lands” that inspired the world of Neverland. The gardens are now an inspiring play space full of interactive exhibits, and the house is full of artifacts and displays dedicated to Neverland and the world of Peter Pan.
Keeping with the literary connection, visitors can take a trip to the Dumfries Museum and learn about the famous Scots poet Robert Burns, who spent the last few years of his life in Dumfries.
Whilst you’re there, be sure to explore the stunning surrounding area of Dumfries and Galloway with its beautiful coastline and sandy beaches as well as acres of forest and rolling hills — your very own Neverland!
A favorite book can become far more than just words on a page, and nothing brings a story to life more than seeing the actual inspiration behind it. Whether it’s seeing the world from the perspective of the author or retracing the steps of a favorite fictional character, having the opportunity to meet the people and places of our most beloved stories will undoubtedly be an unforgettable and magical experience.