From Geoffrey Chaucer to George Eliot, the Magna Carta to 007, the UK is steeped in unique literary history. But, if you’re interested in learning more about it, you don’t need to look inside the pages of a book.

There are plenty of fascinating literary locations where you can learn more about our storied past – from the homes of famous authors to the natural landscapes that inspired their works.

Below, we’ve pulled together some of our favourites.

1. Whitby, Yorkshire

Whitby, Yorkshire

The first stop on our literary tour is the town of Whitby in Yorkshire. Not only is this salt-sprayed hamlet a charming destination for a beachside holiday, but it’s also famous for being the setting of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Visitors can hike up the famous 199 stairs, which Dracula ascends in the form of a black dog in the novel. These lead to St Mary’s Churchyard, where Stoker saw a gravestone that inspired the name of the vampire’s first Whitby victim. Then, why not continue up to the grand and ghostly ruins of Whitby Abbey, which loom over the town on a misty day?

Besides these spooky sites, there are plenty of other great reasons to visit Whitby. Between lounging on the beach or strolling around the harbour, you can peruse one of the town’s speciality museums (such as the Captain Cook and RNLI Lifeboat museums). Or head to the nearby Sneaton Forest and take in the spectacular waterfall.

2. The Writers’ Museum, Edinburgh

The Writers’ Museum, Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a must-visit for bookworms. Not only is it home to the biggest public book festival in the world but there’s plenty of literary history to discover here – in fact, it was named the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004.

Among the many sites, you won’t want to miss the Writers’ Museum. Located in a gorgeous townhouse just off the Lawnmarket, this cabinet of curiosities is dedicated to three of Scotland’s most beloved wordsmiths: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The museum houses a variety of interesting and peculiar items – including portraits, early manuscripts of their works, Burns’ writing desk, and a plaster cast of his skull. It’s an utterly unique look at the men behind books like Ivanhoe and Treasure Island.

3. Hay-on-Wye, Brecknockshire

If, like many literature lovers, you have a book-buying problem, this next location certainly won’t help! Known as a ‘town of books’, Hay-on-Wye on the English/Welsh border boasts over 20 bookshops (that’s one for every 50 residents).

From specialised sellers (like the Cinema Bookshop and Murder and Mayhem) to more generalised stores, you’ll find bookshops stuffed into every nook and cranny of this quaint little town – even at the local castle ruins.

Each year, Hay also plays host to the Hay Festival, an annual arts celebration that former U.S. President Bill Clinton described as “The Woodstock of the Mind”. Previous writers to attend have included Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, Hilary Mantel, and Ian McEwan.

The stunning Black Mountains are also nearby if you’re in the mood for some nature – where J. R. R. Tolkien is said to have taken inspiration for his Lord of the Rings saga.

4. Mountains of Mourne, County Down

Mountains of Mourne, County Down

Speaking of Tolkien, his close friend, C. S. Lewis, spent his early years exploring the rugged Mountains of Mourne – a place which inspired him to write The Chronicles of Narnia. About this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the author wrote…

“I have seen landscapes […] which, under a particular light, make me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge […] I yearn to see County Down in the snow, one almost expects to see a march of dwarfs dashing past. How I long to break into a world where such things were true.”

Visitors can trek over the wild, gorse-covered peaks (including Slieve Donard, the country’s tallest mountain). However, if you’re interested in something more low-key and Lewis-themed, visitors can stop by the Narnia Trail in Kilbroney Park, which you enter through a wardrobe – just like in the books.

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5. The Sherlock Holmes Museum, London

If you’re a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle’s super-sleuth, the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London is a must-visit. Located at Sherlock’s address from the original stories (not really, but it’s fun to pretend!), this interactive and immersive experience brings Homes’ living quarters to life.

Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by a jolly Victorian-era copper before exploring the various rooms inside. Each has been carefully arranged to bring Doyle’s books to life. Keep your eyes peeled for Holmes’ famous deerstalker hat and calabash pipe. There are even waxwork creations of the detective and his sidekick, Doctor Watson, that bring the beloved characters to life.

Once you’ve had your fill, why not head across the road for a stroll around the regal Regent’s Park? Or hop on the Jubilee Line to visit another popular literary site: Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Over 100 legendary wordsmiths are buried and memorialised here – including Geoffrey Chaucer, Robert Browning, and Rudyard Kipling.

6. Abbotsford, Scottish Borders

For those who love nothing more than spending a spring Sunday at a stately home, Abbotsford is the perfect literary location for you. This dazzling estate – which is the ancestral home of the 19th-century writer Sir Walter Scott – would be a must-visit for anyone in the Scottish Borders, even without its literary history.

Built on the proceeds of his popular novels and poetry, Abbotsford is a splendid example of Scottish baronial architecture, with spiralling turrets and imposing brickwork. And while the author’s descendants lived in the house until 2004, some of Scott’s rooms have been preserved exactly as he left them.

As well as a visitor centre, where you can learn more about Scott’s life and works, you can also explore the vast grounds. Follow enchanting trails through the lush woodland and along the tranquil banks of the River Tweed.

7. Ashdown Forest, East Sussex

For a truly immersive escape into one of the UK’s most beloved literary realms, why not head to Ashdown Forest in East Sussex? Here, wandering among the pine and silver birch trees with his son Christopher (and his stuffed bear), author A. A. Milne came up with the idea for the Hundred Acre Wood, where Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends live.

There are plenty of Pooh-related secrets to uncover at Ashdown Forest. One of the most popular is the bridge where the author and his son first played Poohsticks, the now-famous twig racing game. You can give it a go, too – just remember to bring your own sticks so you don’t damage the surrounding forest.

Other spots you might recognise from the books include the Heffalump Trap, Roo’s Sandy Pit, and the Enchanted Place. To organise your own self-guided tour, check out this information on the High Weald website.

8. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

What list of literary locations would be complete without Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare?

While he spent lots of time in London putting on plays, the Bard lived in this West Midlands town pretty much all his life. Visitors can wander around the house where he was born and get a unique insight into his upbringing through all kinds of interesting artefacts.

Later, why not take a walk over to New Place, the site of his adult home, which is now a garden and outdoor gallery? Or stop by Anne Hathaway’s cottage, where a young Shakespeare would stop by to woo his future wife. You can top off your visit by catching a show at one of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s three Stratford theatres.

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9. Castle Leod, Scottish Highlands

For fans of Diana Gabaldon’s epic time-travelling Outlander books (and the subsequent TV series), the Scottish Highlands is a treasure trove of recognisable spots – including Beauly Priory and Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.

However, Outlander lovers will almost certainly want to stop by Castle Leod, which serves as the inspiration for Castle Leoch. In the books, Leoch is the fictional Seat of Clan Mackenzie, where Gabaldon’s dashing hero, Jamie Fraser, once lived.

In reality, Castle Leod is actually the Seat of Clan Mackenzie. Having been in the same family for over 500 years, it has a rich and storied past – most notably, its involvement in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Just be sure to check out the website before visiting, as it’s only open on certain days throughout the year.

10. Brontë Parsonage Museum, West Yorkshire

Delve into the lives of one of the most influential literary families of all time at the Brontë Parsonage Museum. At their home in Haworth, sisters Emily, Charlotte, and Anne penned some of the most treasured novels in the British language – such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Now a museum, it houses a wealth of exhibits and artefacts that help visitors piece together the sisters’ lives – including artwork, manuscripts, and items like the table where Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre. In the play area, kids can even dress like the Brontë siblings! It’s perfect for anyone looking for a personal peek into the lives of our greatest authors.

11. The British Library, London

The British Library, London

From Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to the Charles Dickens Museum, there are plenty of exciting literary locations in London. However, the British Library is probably the top destination on most bibliophiles’ bucket lists.

Housing over 170 million items – from books and maps to patents and music scores – this enormous building (the biggest built in the UK in the 20th century) hosts the largest library collection in the world. While much of it is locked away, members of the public can stop by to browse books, use the reading rooms, and make the most of events and exhibitions.

The Treasures Gallery, which is completely free, is a popular attraction. Here, a rolling variety of artefacts are put on display – from lyrics handwritten by The Beatles to original manuscripts of some of your favourite novels. If you’re a fan of the wizarding world, why not stop by Platform 9 3⁄4 at King’s Cross Station afterwards, which is just a few minutes walk away?

12. Cave Hill, Belfast

Cave Hill, Belfast

Cave Hill (or ‘Napoleon’s Nose’, as it’s known locally) is a bulging rocky peak to the north of Belfast. Because of its resemblance to a sleeping giant, legend claims it inspired Johnathan Swift to pen his novel, Gulliver’s Travels, which follows a man who ends up in strange lands populated by tiny people and giants.

Aside from its literary connections, Cave Hill is a popular hiking spot among both locals and visitors. The most famous trail starts at Belfast Castle – a grand Victorian-era palace with manicured gardens that are home to the region’s rarest plant: the town hall clock.

From there, the path snakes up the hill and past the mysterious caves that give it its name – historians believe they’re ancient iron mines, but can’t be sure. It’s a steep walk, but trekkers will be rewarded with unrivalled views over the capital.

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13. Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

Located on the estuary where the River Taf empties into Carmarthen Bay, Laugharne was once described by its most famous resident, poet Dylan Thomas, as “a timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town”. Thomas, who’s often touted as the greatest Welsh poet ever to live, called Laugharne home from 1949 until his unfortunate death in 1953 at 39.

As well as being a charming town for a weekend escape – with a stunning castle and plenty of windswept walking paths along the water – there are some interesting attractions if you’re looking to learn more about the poet.

These include the Dylan Thomas Boathouse – once his home, now a museum and tearoom – and his waterfront writing shed, which you can arrange private viewings of. You’ll also find his grave at St Martin’s Church, which is marked with a plain white cross.

14. Dove Cottage and Hilltop House, Lake District

For the final stop on our tour, we’ve paired up two literary locations simply because they’re so close together. Any bookworm visiting the Lake District will be delighted to find out that Romantic poet William Wordsworth and Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter’s houses are just a half-an-hour drive away from one another.

At Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage and Potter’s Hilltop House, you can wander through the rooms where they lived and created, learning the story of their lives through personal items and recreations. However, both are just as stunning outside, where the authors’ beloved gardens have been brought back to life.

Once you’ve explored the houses, why take a stroll around nearby Ullswater, where Wordsworth was inspired to write his famous poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’? Or take a trip to the imposing Wray Castle, where Potter used to holiday.

Final thoughts…

With such a rich literary history here in the UK, we couldn’t feature all the best literary locations on our list. There are plenty more to visit – including Jane Austin and Thomas Hardy’s cottages, and Sherwood Forest, which was Robin Hood’s old stomping grounds. However, hopefully, we’ve given book fans some interesting ideas for their next day out.

For more inspiration for cultural days out in the UK, head over to our art and culture section. Here, you’ll find a range of articles, including 15 of the best castles to visit and 11 weird and wonderful museums.

Have you visited any of the sites on this list? Or do you have one you’d like to recommend? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.