Visit the Sherlock Holmes Public House & Restaurant to grab a drink and pretend you’re in Sherlock’s study. // © 2014 Creative Commons user xavierito
Feature image (above): Poet William Wordsworth wrote some of his greatest work while living at the Dove Cottage from 1799 to 1808. // © 2014 Creative Commons user vultan2000
Some of the world’s most beloved storytellers have called the United Kingdom or Ireland home, and its rich literary history has attracted book lovers, drama nerds and poetry buffs for ages. From birthplaces of authors to birthplaces of novels, here are some must-see attractions for a bookworm travelling the U.K. or Ireland.
Tour the bright summer home of the woman who wrote bestsellers about cool calculated murders and about Miss Marple, the sharp spinster who solved them. Agatha Christie’s Greenway Estate in Devon is filled with first editions of her novels as well as her family’s collections of books, archaeology and silverware. Walk through the gardens, drop by the outdoor theatre or the cinema and slink past the Boathouse (you may want to reread “Dead Man’s Folly” for full impact).
Anne, Charlotte and Emily Bronte
Visit the moors in Haworth, West Yorkshire that inspired Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” the room where Anne Bronte slept and the desk where Charlotte Bronte purportedly wrote “Jane Eyre.” At the Bronte Parsonage Museum, you can explore the house and grounds where these sisters (and their less famous siblings) lived and wrote. Check out the museum’s website to see which exhibitions are open or to join a birthday celebration for one of the sisters.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)
Put on your deerstalker and head over to the Sherlock Holmes Museum for your fill of London’s most famous consulting detective. Located on 221b Baker Street (though the building is actually between 237 and 241), this museum recreates the first-floor sitting room where Holmes took his cases, the lab where he worked, Dr. Watson’s bedroom and even Mrs. Hudson’s living quarters.
Keep the theme rolling and head to the Sherlock Holmes Public House & Restaurant less than 3 miles away for fish and chips and a drink. You can take in their version of Sherlock’s study from the establishment’s rooftop garden.
Devotees of “Great Expectations” and veterans of “Bleak House” rejoice! There are plenty of Dickens related activities in England. To check out the author’s birthplace, head to the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth to hear readings, view displays and go on guided walks.
Then, take the train to London for the Charles Dickens Museum, established in the author’s last standing London home. It houses manuscripts, personal items, rare editions and paintings, and the museum also holds pre-booked costume tours the third Saturday of each month. Stop by the cafe afterward for a cup of tea and a slice of cake – it’s much tastier than Miss Havisham’s cake, we promise.
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
Perhaps you’d rather be in Narnia or Middle Earth, but if you find yourself in Oxford, make sure to grab a cottage pie and some cask ale (cask-conditioned beer) at The Eagle and Child. It’s rumored that C.S. Lewis passed around proofs of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” there in 1950. The Inklings, an Oxford writers group that included the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, met regularly in the pub’s back lounge (The Rabbit Room) during the first half of the 20th century.
Fans of James Joyce who have survived his stream-of-consciousness masterpiece “Ulysses” often celebrate by reenacting the events of the novel on Bloomsday, a Joyce celebration observed every June 16th in Dublin. But you don’t have to wait until then to retrace protagonist Leopold Bloom’s now-famous footsteps in the “Lestrygonians” chapter of “Ulysses.”
The James Joyce Centre hosts exhibitions, lectures, reading groups and tours for visitors throughout the year. On a tour, you can spot the setting of “The Boarding House” from “Dubliners,” or stop by Joyce’s alma mater, Belvedere College. Book ahead of time as tours fill up quickly.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged” by most literary enthusiasts that if you find yourself in Chawton, you must visit Jane Austen’s House Museum. Take a tour to admire Austen’s pianoforte, furniture and family jewelry. Before you go, check the museum’s website for a schedule of events that includes everything from lacemaking to performances on Austen’s piano.
And if that’s not enough Austen for you, walk over to former residence of the author’s brother, the Chawton House, which is now known as The Centre for the Study of Early English Women’s Writing, 1600-1830.
Before J.K. Rowling became an international superstar, she worked on “Harry Potter” manuscripts in various cafes around Edinburgh. Although the Nicholson’s café — famous for being a prominent location in which Rowling spent time writing — has since closed (it was “transfigured” into a Chinese restaurant), another of her favorite cafes, The Elephant Room, remains an accessible pilgrimage site for Rowling fans everywhere. Enjoy the cozy atmosphere and settle in for a cup of “Fleur’s Fantasy” (hot chocolate with Baileys Irish Cream).
Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin and died in Paris, but he spent a significant amount of his adult life in London. Relive Wilde’s London — the way it was in the 1890s — via a walking tour from London Walks, with a helping of history to boot.
If you find yourself in Dublin, stop by the house where Wilde grew up. Viewings are only set up for large groups, so if you don’t have the time, admire the house from the outside and then head across the street to Merrion Park where you’ll find Wilde’s carved likeness reclining on a rock.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda” author Roald Dahl spent the last 36 years of his life in Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, England. Visit its tiny museum, the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, to see biographical galleries, archives and even the writer’s “Ideas Book.”
The available children’s writing workshops aim to spark creativity in youngsters, but Dahl’s adult fans will find plenty to be inspired by as well. Don’t forget to stop by the Cafe Twit for a “Club SandWitch” or a “Fizzy Lifting Drink.”
If you’re a fan of the bard, then England is definitely the place to be. Visit William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon and find his wife Anne Hathaway’s idyllic cottage, or go shopping in the Town Centre. And don’t forget to see the Royal Shakespeare Company. Get a tour during the day and then watch a performance come nightfall.
If you’re in the London Borough of Southwark, stop by Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of the famed Elizabethan playhouse. Walk through an exhibition, sit in on a lecture or head over to the box office to get a ticket. We’d recommend booking online if you don’t want to end up as a groundling (an audience member with a less than desirable view of the stage).
Consider yourself a fan of the William Wordsworth? Then wander over (“lonely as a cloud”) to the Dove Cottage, at the periphery of Grasmere in the Lake District of England, to pay ode to his former residence. The place is largely unchanged from the days when it served as the humble abode to the Romantic poet and his family.
To glimpse Wordsworth’s handwritten journals and even his suitcase, head next door to the Wordsworth Museum. If you walk a bit farther, you’ll find the Jerwood Centre, full of manuscripts and letters by Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson and other literary greats. Round off the trip with a visit to the nearby Grasmere Gingerbread, famous for its 150-year-old secret gingerbread recipe.