The Daily Telegraph

Trapped in Britain? Try going on a literary staycation

From Wordsworth to Winnie-thepooh, this is the year to consult a classic book for travel tips, says Caroline Taggart


Following Boris Johnson’s decision to extend the last stage of lockdown yesterday, many of us are having to accept we’re just not going to get abroad this summer. But where to holiday in Britain? If you’re a book-lover, one solution is to target somewhere associated with your favourite read. From the Lake District, where Beatrix Potter wrote her beloved Peter Rabbit books, to Dartmoor, where The Hound of the Baskervill­es is set, to Poldark’s Cornwall, to the medieval oaks of Macbeth’s Birnam Wood, there are scores of locations that could add a literary flavour to your trip. Here are eight of the best:

Greenway House, Galmpton, near Brixham, Devon

This was Agatha Christie’s dream house, her holiday home for 40 years. She described it as having “woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees”. Not only that, but the gardens are full of woodland walks and boast a two-storey boathouse with a balcony, the setting for the murder in Dead Man’s Folly (1956). You may not find a corpse there today, but it may make you just a little bit nervous…

‘Landmark Poetry’, Manchester

The “landmark poetry” of Lemn Sissay, who was awarded an OBE last week, can be found all over Manchester, from the wall above a café in Dilworth Street to the pavement of Tib Street. The poem ‘‘Let There Be Peace’’ adorns the atrium space of University Place and, perhaps most spectacula­rly, a “morning poem” is part of a mural on a red-brick end-of-terrace in Old Trafford. It’s spectacula­r because the words are embellishe­d by an owl, a peacock and other birds, both exotic and local. If you thought Old Trafford was just about sport, think again.

Holy Trinity Church, Quarry Road, Headington, Oxford

The beautiful Gothic Revival church in which CS Lewis worshipped for the last 30 years of his life is worth a visit even if you aren’t a fan, but lovers of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe should head straight for the Narnia stained-glass window. It’s a tasteful, understate­d piece – predominan­tly white and including many images drawn from the Narnia books, notably a majestic close-up of Aslan in one panel and, in the other, the flying horse Fledge soaring gracefully over the deserted citadel of Cair Paravel. You can feel yourself shivering in Narnia’s perpetual winter as you gaze at it.

The Dickens Museum, Doughty Street, London WC1

Charles Dickens lived in this modest terraced house when he was on the verge of becoming a hugely successful novelist. To visit is to get an impression of how manically productive he was – you can see the study in which he wrote solidly for four hours every morning, producing in remarkably short time Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist and the later instalment­s of The Pickwick Papers. For something more relaxing, don’t miss the café in the peaceful courtyard at the back: it’s among London’s best.

Ashdown Forest, East Sussex

Ashdown may be the official name, but lovers of Winnie-the-pooh know this as the ‘‘Hundred Aker Wood’’, and a map you can download (from ashdownfor­ will lead you to the very bridge where Pooh invented the game of Poohsticks. (Bring your own sticks, though: previous visitors have denuded the area of suitable twigs.) The map will also take you to the Sandy Pit where Roo played, the place where Piglet dug the Cunning Trap to catch a Heffalump, and the site of the North Pole, which Pooh used to save Roo from drowning.

Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria

William Wordsworth’s former home has recently been restored to early 19th-century authentici­ty, leaving rooms where you can read by candleligh­t and duck to avoid bashing your head against the beams. In tribute to the inspiratio­n drawn by the poet from the landscape, there are also galleries where you can just sit and gaze out the window, as he once did. His scribbles on the many manuscript­s of his masterpiec­e The Prelude show how much he agonised over his work, and may make you feel better about that unfinished novel lurking in your bottom drawer.

Dylan Thomas Boathouse, Dylan’s Walk, Laugharne, Carmarthen­shire

You have to peer in the window of Thomas’s “writing shed” to see the air of studied disarray. A jacket hangs over the back of the chair, the desk is strewn with papers, the wastepaper bin is two-thirds full. The poet, dissatisfi­ed with what he is trying to write, has clearly thrown down his pen in frustratio­n and gone to the pub. But the view! Head downhill to the boathouse where he once lived, have tea on the terrace, gaze out to sea and you’ll understand why any artist would have sold his soul to live here.

JM Barrie’s Birthplace, Brechin Road, Kirriemuir, Angus

The author of Peter Pan has left his mark all over Kirriemuir: a statue of Peter, playing his characteri­stic pipe, stands in the High Street, just along from an art gallery called The Wendy House. Inside the museum you can see Barrie’s smudged typescript with the original unhappy ending, suggesting that refusing to grow up may not be such a good idea. But the highlight is in the garden: a life-size (and rather ferocious-looking) sculpture in driftwood of Captain Hook’s nemesis, the crocodile who has swallowed a clock that ticks constantly inside it – reminding visitors that time gets us all in the end.

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 ??  ?? Characterf­ul: Dove Cottage, top; a shrine to Winnie-thepooh in Ashdown Forest, above
The Book Lover’s Bucket List
by Caroline Taggart (British Library, £16.99) is out on Thursday
Characterf­ul: Dove Cottage, top; a shrine to Winnie-thepooh in Ashdown Forest, above The Book Lover’s Bucket List by Caroline Taggart (British Library, £16.99) is out on Thursday

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