Britain's best literary trails
Liz Barrett reveals a novel way to explore the British countryside
There’s many a guided walk for Wales’s bard, Dylan Thomas, but keen Dylanites should start out in Swansea at The Dylan Thomas Centre for a series of guided walks, which trace Thomas’s footsteps and soak up some of the landscapes of south Wales that inspired him. The annual Dylan Thomas Festival, in October and November, is also based here. A drink at one of Dylan’s favourite haunts, The Queen's Head, is a must before heading to Laugharne, 8 miles from Carmarthen. The Dylan Thomas Boathouse is the holy grail for Thomas pilgrims and is where he spent the final and most productive years of his life, from 1949 to 1953. But it’s the garage, which Thomas used as his writing shed, that draws the crowds. It was in this building, with its views across the estuary to Carmarthen Bay, that Thomas indulged in his “craft or sullen art”, penning Under Milk Wood.
Cornwall – Daphne du Maurier
Her first sight of Fowey Estuary in Cornwall is said to have never left Daphne du Maurier, and is where she spent the latter part of her life creating plotlines and characters for her most famous works.
Walk across moors and through the hidden coves that dot the shoreline and see the locations that inspired Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, The House on The Strand, The Birds and The Loving Spirit, to name but a few. Visit the link for a detailed two-day self-guided tour.
Thomas Hardy lived and worked in and around the county of Dorset for most of his life, or as he preferred to call it, Wessex. Inspired by the landscape, which he described as “partly real, partly dream country”, Hardy wrote some of his most treasured works in the county, such as Under the Greenwood Tree and Far From the Madding Crowd.
This two-day tour, including accommodation, stops at many key destinations, including the author’s birthplace, High Stoy, nestled within the woodland of Higher Bockhampton. It overlooks Hardy’s White Hart Vale, home of The Woodlanders, and Eggerdon Hill or Hardy’s Harggardon Hill from The Trumpet Major.
With its rolling fields, towering hills and abundance of wildlife you’d be hard pressed not to find some inspiration in the Lake District. Three of its most famous literary residents include William Wordsworth, whose poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, was inspired by the sight of daffodils on the shores of Ullswater and remains one of the nation’s favourite; Beatrix Potter, who delighted, and still does, generations of children with her beautifully illustrated animal stories, mostly written during her time at Hill Top, a farm in nearby Sawrey; and John Ruskin, who wrote many of his novels and his autobiography during his time at Brantwood, Coniston, where he resided from the age of 52 until his death in 1900, aged 80.
Wrap up warm before you head out on this trail – the bleakness and wilderness that emanates from the works of the Brontë sisters wasn’t simply the result of some very overactive imaginations. Living in the heart of the wild and windy Moors, they were enveloped in very nature.
First stop on the trail is always the parsonage in Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived and where many of their great works were penned. Once you’ve had a look round the property, really get into character by following the Brontë Way – a marked footpath that carves through the moors from Birstall in Kirklees to Padiham in Lancashire. Alternatively, there’s the Pennine Way National Trail, which crags up and round to Top Withens, the ramshackle ruin above Howarth that is rumoured to be the inspiration for Heathcliffe's farmstead in Emily’s Wuthering Heights.
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