Britain’s 10 best literary city locations you have to visit

Britain has been a great powerhouse of literature throughout history, with its cities, culture and architecture inspiring some of the greatest and most iconic works. To celebrate World Book Day, we’ve put a list together of Britain’s 10 best literary city locations suitable for all literature lovers.

1. London- Sherlock Holmes

Step back in time at 221B Baker Street and discover for yourself the real story behind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. The infamous detective novel was penned in 1887 and its iconic characters have since inspired many film and television adaptations. In the Georgian townhouse museum, you’ll have the opportunity to further investigate the life and times of the literary hero with guides dressed in period costume to fill you in on the incredible treasure trove of items dotted around its four floors. To top it off, the gift shop boasts the largest collection of Sherlock Holmes gifts and memorabilia in the world, making it the perfect place to bring die-hard detective fans. Want to delve deeper? Grab your tweed overcoat and head out on a Sherlock Holmes Tour of London. The tour will take you around some of the key locations that inspired Conan Doyle himself.

Address of Museum: 221B Baker Street, NW1 6XE,
Address of Walking Tour: Piccadilly Circus, W1J 9HP
Nearby hotelTravelodge London Marylebone

2. Bath- Jane Austen, Charles Dickens

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Bath has been a popular stomping ground for literary legends since it’s heyday back in the 18th and 19th centuries. As well as paying a very fashionable visit to the city, authors like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen paid homage to Bath in their popular works. Jane Austen, who visited often and even lived in Bath between 1801 and 1806, included the city in all of her novels. Her literary legacy still lives on in the city today with an annual Jane Austen festival, and the Jane Austen Centre, a museum where you can step into her world and see Bath from her perspective. Meanwhile, the main protagonist in Dickens’ novel, The Pickwick Papers is said to be based on a local pub landlord. Dickens is also thought to have stayed in York House hotel on George Street which is now one of our Bath hotels! 

Address: 40 Gay Street, BA1 2NT
Nearby hotelsTravelodge Bath Central or Bath City Centre (Bath Spa)

3. Edinburgh- J.K. Rowling and UNESCO Literary Site

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Edinburgh is another great city to visit if you’re a literature fan. The city itself was the first to be given the UNESCO City of Literature accreditation. The city is incredibly proud of this accreditation with marks of literary legacies dotted all throughout the city, however there is one cafe in the centre of Old Town that has high claims to literary fame. The Elephant House was where J.K. Rowling sat to pen the turbulent adventures of the Boy Who Lived back in the 1990’s with the view of Edinburgh Castle. The cafe is now famous with the locals for being the birthplace of Harry Potter. 

From one innocent looking cafe, to the annual tented village of the Edinburgh International Book Festival where words and characters both old and new come to life in a huge community celebration. To walk in the footsteps of literary legends, take a tour around the city with knowledgeable guides who bring the city’s stories to life, or why not visit The Writers Museum just off the Royal Mile to immerse yourself in the written words from centuries ago.

Address for The Elephant House: 21 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EN
Address for The Writers Museum: Lawnmarket, Lady Stair’s Close, EH1 2PA
Nearby hotelTravelodge Edinburgh Central

4. Oxford- Phillip Pullman, Lewis Carroll, J.R.R Tolkien

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Well known as the ‘city of dreaming spires’, Oxford has inspired many writers with its sandstone cityscape and fascinating museums playing their parts as fictional backdrops. Its universities have taught and produced some of the world’s leading intellectuals and creatives. From the impressive Bodleian Library, to the wild blooms of the Botanic Garden, the rich literary history of Oxford can be found and enjoyed. Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy is heavily based in Oxford with the fictional Jordan College based on Exeter College, while the Botanic Garden is the place where Lyra and Will meet every Midsummer’s day. Lewis Carroll also loved the Botanic Garden with his frequent visits proving a great inspiration for the much loved children’s classic, Alice in Wonderland. J.R.R Tolkien also drew on the many parts of the city for his iconic novel-turned blockbuster film series, Lord of the Rings including a large Austrian Black Pine from the Botanic Garden, an old stone table in the gardens of Merton College, and a cabinet of Posie rings at the Ashmolean.

Address for the Bodleian Library: Broad Street, OX1 3BG
Address for the Ashmolean: Beaumont Street, OX1 2PH
Address for the Botanical Garden: Rose Lane, OX1 4AZ
Nearby hotelTravelodge Oxford Abingdon Road or Travelodge Oxford Peatree

5. Birmingham- J.R.R Tolkien

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While Tolkien took much inspiration from his time studying and teaching in Oxford, he in fact grew up in Birmingham and referred to himself as a ‘Birmingham man’. The chief inspiration behind Middle Earth was actually an area of Birmingham called Sarehole. He is said to have had the best years of his life in Sarehole, so it’s no surprise that his inspiration produced what would later become an Oscar winning film trilogy that would capture the hearts and minds of the world. He would often take walks in Moseley Bog and Sarehole Mill whose wooded landscapes would become the Shire and Hobbiton. You too can walk in Tolkien’s footsteps and explore the ‘real’ Middle Earth on a Tolkien Trail tour which journeys from Sarehole Mill, to his family home on Wake Green Road, through Moseley Bog and beyond- a true literary pilgrimage.

Address fro Sarehole Mill: Cole Bank Road, B13 0BD
Nearby hotel: Travelodge Birmingham Maypole

6. Canterbury- Geoffrey Chaucer

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From one literary pilgrimage to another. The Canterbury Tales is one of the world’s oldest novels, penned way back in the 14th Century by Geoffrey Chaucer. The story starts in London when a group of pilgrims gather to prepare for a pilgrimage to Canterbury to St. Thomas Becket’s Shrine. Unfortunately, despite some great tales being told along the way, the novel was left unfinished and so we never know whether the pilgrims made it. However, with a trip to Canterbury, you can complete the journey for yourself. Wander through the city centre dotted with Tudor style buildings and heritage hiding around every corner, take a punt on the river and visit the elaborately decorated Cathedral and make your own Canterbury Tale.

Address for Canterbury Cathedral: Cathedral House, CT1 2EH
Nearby hotel: Canterbury Chaucer Central

7. Cambridge- Virginia Woolf, Ted Huges, A.A Milne and many more

Cambridge is a world renowned university city which also has plenty of literary significance with its pubs, libraries and bookshops holding the key to a rich literary treasure trove. One of the preferred places to hang out was Orchard Tea Rooms. The pretty tea room in Grantchester has hosted future Kings and Queens, revolutionary scientists, artists and of course, some literary legends too with the likes of Virginia Woolf, Lord Geoffrey Archer, Ted Hughes and A.A Milne all enjoying afternoon tea here and catching up on the latest comings and goings. Today, visitors can sit in the garden, enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea and imagine all of the great minds and famous faces that have gossiped, laughed and exchanged stories and ideas among the relaxing orchard scenery. See the full list of famous patrons for yourself as well as fascinating photographs, in the Robert Brooke room.

Address for Orchard Tea Garden: 47 Mill Way, Grantchester, CB3 9ND
Nearby hotel: Travelodge Cambridge Central

8. Portsmouth- Charles Dickens

The Waterfront City- Portsmouth is full of naval heritage with some of the most significant British naval vessels on proud display in its Historic Dockyard. While the city is known for its naval significance, it’s also the birthplace of one of the most well known novelists in the world- Charles Dickens. His stories and characters depicting Victorian England have left a literary legacy that has transcended the written word being transformed into plays, films and television series that are loved across the world. As well as a statue in Guildhall square, the Dickens Birthplace Museum tells the life story of Dickens himself, with regular events to celebrate the literary’s life and work, as well as various artefacts and displays that bring the Victorian era Dickens lived in, to life.

Address for the Dickens Birthplace Museum: 393 Old Commercial Road, PO1 4QL
Nearby hotel: Travelodge Portsmouth City Centre

9. Nottingham- J.M Barrie, Lord Byron

While many will know the Nottinghamshire area for Sherwood Forest where Robin Hood and his Merry Men called home, Nottingham was also the inspiration for Peter Pan’s Neverland.. Nottingham Arboretum is the oldest park in the city and despite its very central location is home to a beautiful and relaxing landscape full of pretty flowers and dozens of walking trails. It’s rumoured that the author, J.M Barrie was inspired by the beauty of the Arboretum to create the fictional world of Neverland. With the park’s varied natural spaces, heritage sculptures, water features, interlocking walking trails and wildlife, it’s easy to lose yourself in Barrie’s fairytale world and to imagine Peter Pan hiding somewhere in the treetops with Tinkerbell causing mischief nearby. Another literary great that found great inspiration from Nottingham was Lord Byron. His first ever poem which he wrote at the age of ten tells of his love for this home city. You can follow in his footsteps on the Byron Trail which starts at Newstead Abbey and goes all through the city and Southwell bringing his story to life.

Address for Nottingham Arboretum: Waverley Street, NG7 4HF
Address for Byron Trail: NG15 8NA
Nearby hotel: Travelodge Nottingham Central

10. Bristol- Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island

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Bristol is a city with a heart full of culture, art and maritime history. It’s this maritime history in fact that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure island novel from the 1880’s that would later become one of the most famous children’s adventure stories of the 19th Century. Bristol’s harbourside was featured in the novel based on the adventures of Jim Hawkins and his race to find the buried treasure before Captain Flint and his pirate crew. To bring the popular pirate adventure to life, Bristol Harbourside has its own Treasure Island Walking Trail. The mile long trail has eight black spots along the way, each with fascinating insights into the city’s maritime history and its connection to the Stevenson classic. The trail is a great choice for all ages and abilities and is in fact the only European Cultural Route in the South West.

Address for Treasure island Trail: King Street, BS1 4DT
Nearby hotel: Travelodge Bristol Central Mitchell Lane