- Tour Date: 22 – 30 July
- This tour begins in London; you will be picked up from your London hotel at approximately 09:00. The tour finishes in Manchester.
Kent, Jane Austen's Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Stratford-Upon-Avon and the Lake District You read the book - now have it come alive!
This is a feast for the bookworm, the literary-minded or those who just enjoy seeing and really learning about a country, not just 'photographing the sites' from a bus window. Here's the plot: our knowledgeable and entertaining guide takes you and a maximum of just 10 or so others, through some of the UK's prettiest landscapes, visiting author's homes, literary museums, towns and villages where stories are set, and places that obviously inspired the artist's muse.
Jane Austen fans: this tour will take you to some of the places that inspired Jane Austen, where she lived and wrote her most important works. Discover the 'hidden' treasure of Goodnestone Park, the one time home of her brother’s family as well as her Chawton home and her final resting place in Winchester.
As well as Jane Austen, this tour features areas of inspiration for Shakespeare, Dickens, Thomas Hardy, William Wordsworth, Tolkien and The Inklings, The Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskill’s Cranford, Flora Thompson and her Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy...
We hope that by the end of the tour, you'll not only have had your favourite stories leap off the page, understanding their authors and backgrounds better, but also have been introduced to a few new writers who might have escaped your attention. This highlight tour is a novel way to sample some of the best regions of England!
DAY ONE Friday, 22 July
Welcome to London! Today is free so you have the chance to relax, recover from your international journey and go sightseeing in the Capitol as you wish.
Perhaps you will choose to go around on the “Big Bus”, the best introduction to the iconic sites of the Capitol. Hop off when you want then hop back on - a fun way to start your holiday!
Alternatively, the city of London has quite a rich literary heritage to explore. There’s the British Museum, home to many original manuscripts including Jane Austen’s and properties connected with Keats, Dickens, Carlyle and Dr Johnson. Possibly you’d prefer to just take a stroll through the areas rich in literary history, the Bloomsbury of Virginia Woolf, TS Elliot and Lytton Stratchey among others.
Then there’s the option to catch a play in the West End, at the Globe Theatre, where you can see how theatre in the 1500s was viewed or at one of London’s ‘off West End’ gems like The National, the Royal Court or the Donmar Warehouse. Spoilt for choice in the Capitol!
Accommodation: London (accommodation is included in your package)
DAY TWO Saturday, 23 July Our route from London follows the river via the old coaching road, tracing the path of Chaucer’s Pilgrims and others. This was an area of London well known to Shakespeare and Dickens. It's a rare opportunity of seeing ‘Olde' London and a real high street. One can easily imagine we're aboard a stagecoach from Charles Dickens' time, heading with Mr. Pickwick to Rochester…
It is Dickens' Rochester that provides our first stop. This gem of a city, with its cathedral and Norman castle, overflows with Dickens sites. There are places mentioned in his books, ‘Mrs Haversham's house’ is still here, and Dickens himself lived here for a time.
This afternoon, we'll visit Goodnestone Park, the family home of Edward Austen Knight’s in-laws, by special arrangement. We will enjoy this charming Regency garden and fragrant, famed Walled Garden where Jane Austen was a frequent visitor. It is said that a ball here inspired the start of Pride and Prejudice.
Later, we should have time for a short stop in historic Canterbury, paying our respects much like Chaucer’s Pilgrims, on our way to our night stop location. Subject to availability, our accommodation this evening is located nearby Vita Sackville-West’s family home, the setting for her good friend Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando.
DAY THREE Sunday, 24 July, We'll start our day exploring more of Kent and East Sussex's rich literary heritage. Certainly, we’re spoilt for choice. Ashdown Forest is sure to be on our agenda, the home of Winnie the Pooh and creator AA Milne. There may just be time for a game of 'pooh sticks' on the original bridge!
Later, leaving East Sussex, we’ll take a scenic cross country route to ‘Jane Austen Country,’ with her home at Chawton being our main destination. It was in this quaint village that she completed most of her novels and once inside the cottage, now a museum dedicated to her life and works, we are in her world.
DAY FOUR Monday, 25 July, Today is our day to be totally immersed in that world, ’far from the madding crowd,’ of Thomas Hardy. We'll visit places where some of the most memorable scenes from his novels were set, towns and villages that are easily recognizable as the source of inspiration, particularly seeking out those smaller places with a timeless Dorsetshire air to them. We’ll certainly see Dorchester featuring Stinford Church and Hardy’s grave during our explorations.
We’ll spend some time in Winchester, Hardy’s ‘Wintoncester’ and the resting place of Jane Austen. We'll see her final home and pay our respects inside the cathedral.
Accommodation: Hampshire, as above
DAY FIVE Tuesday, 26 July, We'll depart our Hampshire base and head north through the Thames Valley to Oxford. We’ll be passing through an area that inspired authors such as John Milton, Mary Shelley and TS Eliot. Jane Austen attended school nearby at the Reading Ladies Boarding School so this area surely would have contributed to her development as a writer. Our discussion as we drive through this literary landscape should bring many legendary characters to life.
Our morning brings us to our main destination for today, the 'city of the dreaming spires' Oxford. This is the jewel in the literary crown. The Dean of Mathematics at Christchurch College was one Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll and one finds 'Alice' everywhere here. See the ancient pub in the town centre where the Inklings (CS Lewis, Tolkien…) met to talk and drink. And, of course, contemporary literature is represented by Colin Dexter’s detective 'Morse' and there is Harry’s ‘Hogwarts’ to discover too. A walking tour of the city will introduce you to these highlights and to many others.
This afternoon, attention fans of Flora Thompson as we discover the real hamlet of “Lark Rise” & nearby village of “Candleford” where the author grew up and set her charming stories about rural life in the late 19th Century. Readers of these books will have images leaping from the page! The layout of Juniper Hill is mostly unchanged since the author described it and many local features can be identified. Please note there will be a fair bit of walking as parking in these rural locales is restricted.
Later, we’ll meander our way through the Cotwolds to our overnight location. Each village is unique and pretty in its own right and with our small vehicle, we'll get where larger coaches can't, avoiding the commercialized 'honey-pots.'
Accommodation: Stratford Upon Avon
DAY SIX (ND) Wednesday, 27 July, Our day will be spent in Stratford-Upon-Avon itself, so you have ample time to discover the charming town and Shakespeare connections. You’re spoilt for choice here - visit the local church, burial place for the Bard, his mother Mary Arden’s home with its bird of prey centre as well as the well known iconic sites such as his Birthplace. You will have free time to wander the cobbled streets, shopping and relaxing as you wish. Your guide will be on hand for a possible walking tour, advice and assistance but the day is yours to spend as you decide. Dinner is not included tonight so you have the option to attend an RSC performance.
Accommodation: Stratford Upon Avon, as above
DAY SEVEN Thursday, 28 July, We will continue our way north today, with a rare bit of motorway driving this afternoon to speed our way. Firstly though, we will uncover some sources of inspiration for several popular works of fiction. Birmingham is the place where we can explore Tolkien’s inspiration for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. An interesting stop, often neglected on the tourist trail as this area is the heart of industrial England. Our route will take through a landscape known for the textile industry. We recommend reading Martin Cruz Rose as an entertaining way of learning about the harsh realities of Victorian life in the cotton towns. There’s also George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier to read as a vivid description of the past in this area.
Getting inside another novel setting, we’ll have a walk around the Cheshire town of Knutsford, perhaps better known as Elizabeth Gaskell’s 'dear adopted, native town' of “Cranford.” We’ll explore some of the real places that provided the source for many of the fictional town’s landmarks.
Later, we will arrive in the Lake District, the place where many authors chose as their home including William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and Ruskin.
Accommodation: Lake District
DAY EIGHT Friday, 29 July, Today we have a full day discovering and sharing the vistas that so inspired the literary tradition in the Lake District. We simply have to use the cliché 'breathtaking' to describe the spectacular scenery you'll be seeing as it is so very appropriate.
We’ll visit one of Wordsworth's homes, Dove Cottage or Rydal Mount, his last home with the grounds he lovingly landscaped. There’s the town of Grasmere, where, in addition to literary connections, we can sample the famous gingerbread and Coniston Water. We can wander a garden or two in search of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and maybe take a lovely boat ride. In keeping with our literary theme, did you know that the graphite for pencils uniquely comes from the Lakeland?
Accommodation: Lake District, as above
DAY NINE Saturday, 30 July, We'll take a beautifully scenic route through the Lancashire Dales, calling in at a town or two en-route to Haworth; there’s a few nice choices. Perhaps Ingleton, Settle or Mytholmroyd, if we’ve Ted Hughes fans aboard. The dramatic moorland we see today inspired the Bronte Sisters to pen their novels that are some of the classics of English literature.
Haworth is our main port of call today. In our explorations of this charming place, you'll be able to imagine the everyday lives of the Bronte sisters, walking around Haworth Church, village and the Bronte Parsonage Museum.
We will arrive into Manchester by 18:00. For flexibility’s sake, accommodation is not included in your package tonight. You can be dropped at either the rail station or airport for onward travel or you are welcomed to extend your stay in Manchester. This charming city has much to discover. Accommodation is available tonight for a supplemental fee. If you are joining the Literary North tour, accommodation is included as part of that package this evening in your choice of either Haworth or Manchester.
Alternatively, there are some short literary tour extensions available from Manchester for private parties of 2 guests and up: 3-day Herriot Country: Yorkshire and the 3-day Peak District: Stately Homes and Regency Film Sites, a great choice for Jane Austen fans!
Please note: All attraction opening times are correct at time of printing this website. While we will do our utmost to include all of the properties mentioned as central visits, we reserve the right to change an attraction should it become impossible to deliver a planned visit due to changes in opening days or times that we could not have been aware of at the time of loading this tour to our website.
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