Top 10 novels set in the British countryside

As many of us embark on summer holidays, Sarah Leyland flicks through the pages of some of our best-loved books set in the British countryside


A Kestrel for a Knave, Barry Hines – Barnsley, South Yorkshire
This book is probably known better as the film adaptation Kes. The novel makes inspiring reading with vivid descriptions of 1960s Britain in the full bloom of spring. This coming of age story, which is full of hope and humor, still strikes a cord with readers today.


Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons – Sussex
Flora Poste’s stay at the aptly-named Cold Comfort Farm, in the fictional village of Howling in Sussex, is an unashamed parody of melodramatic rural life. This comic account of the doomed Starkadders family, and Flora’s attempts to help them, is best reflected in the names of the cows – Feckless, Graceless, Aimless and Pointless.

Thrush Green, Miss Read (Dora Saint) – The Cotswolds
Set in a fictional Cotswold village, this series of novels quietly chronicles small-town life in the countryside. Thrush Green is the first instalment and is set during one pivotal day: May Day. It is feel-good reading from a different world.

Duncton Wood, William Horwood – Avebury, Rollright Stones and Duncton Wood in Oxfordshire
This book centers around two moles, Rebecca and Bracken. The jovial descriptions of the English countryside are offset by the brutal rules of survival of the fittest, a reality of the animal kingdom. Similar to Watership Down, the animal characters are remarkably easy to empathise with.

All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot – Thirsk, North Yorkshire
The memoirs of a country vet, this book is filled will all sorts of different stories, from tear- jerking moments to hilarious anecdotes.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte – Yorkshire Moors
This gothic novel contains some of the most famous descriptions of the Yorkshire Moors in literature, and is as hauntingly tragic today as it was in 1847. A classic tale of love, death and revenge, the plot sweeps through the lives of three generations, while the wild landscape of the moors provides a backdrop to their triumphs and dramas.


Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy, Flora Thompson – Oxfordshire
This semi-autobiographicaal trilogy follows the everyday drama of Victorian village life in rural Oxfordshire on the brink of industrialisation. It’s a wonderful portrayal of a young girl growing up in a hamlet, village then small market town, from children’s games and May Day celebrations to her first job as an assistant to the local post mistress. Read more about the setting of Lark Rise to Candleford in issue 42 of Countryfile Magazine.

On the Black Hill, Bruce Chatwin – Herefordshire and Welsh Borders
This book is set in a farmhouse called The Vision on the border of England and Wales in Herefordshire. It is based around a family with identical twin boys who work together, sleep together develop a special bond. Mainly narrated through flash backs, it makes for a nostalgic read and offers a fascinating insight into this beautiful area of Britain.

How Green Was My Valley, Richard Llewellyn – Rhondda Valley
Set in the valleys of South Wales, this novel deals with the daily life, struggles and tragedies of a small mining community, narrated by the youngest son of a poor family.


To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf – Isle of Skye/St Ives
This landmark modernist novel is centered around the Ramsay family and their time at holiday home set on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, although it is generally thought to be based on Woolf’s childhood memories in St. Ives.