7 Cool Places for Literary Tourism in the UK

Admit it. You’ve watched a movie, followed a TV series or read a book that has inspired you to travel. Whether it was the enticing visual or the rich description, you knew that you had to visit this place. You agree? Exactly. The tourism industry catches on quickly, building tours and activities around literary, film and TV successes. I adore the world where fiction and travel meet, so today I’m going to share with you some of my favourite literary, film and TV travel destinations in the U.K. The U.K. is the perfect hub for this type of travel. They have a thriving film industry and have created many literary classics.

Channel Your Inner Austen in Bath

The original queen of romantic comedies, Jane Austen, both lived in Bath and set some of her stories there. With Roman baths, regency tea rooms and stunning architecture, you can totally get behind Austen’s inspiration. The 2007 production of Persuasion with Sally Hawkins has many of its scenes filmed in Bath including the epic coming together of Wentworth and Anne. Remember the scene where she’s running down the Royal Crescent? Yeah… don’t tell me you don’t want that picture. To get a fuller background of Jane Austen’s life, you can visit The Jane Austen Centre, see her waxwork (created based on forensic data) and even dress up regency style if you want! I didn’t go quite that far, but it was a thrill to visit Austen’s mecca.

Visit Hogwarts in Watford

Whether you’ve read the books, seen the movie or neither (if the latter, I worry for your imagination), the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios have something for everyone. I was practically jumping up and down in my seat on the way to the studios. We were riding in the freaking Knight Bus, come on! David, on the other hand, didn’t read the books or see the movie, so it was his reaction that impressed me the most. It’s a testament to the variety and quality of the exhibits at the studios that they can capture the imagination of a non-Potter fan.

literary tourism uk

If you do like the books and movies, prepare the geek out. I drank butterbeer, saw costumes from throughout the years, marvelled at the details in the graphics pieces (think Marauder’s Map) and got to essentially stand in some of the sets like that of the Ministry of Magic. I could go on about this for ages, so if you want to geek out more you can read my full review of the Studios.

Hello Mr. Darcy!

Let’s face it, I’m an Austen fan. The 1995 TV mini series of Pride and Prejudice stormed the world, what with it’s fantastic cast (ahem, Colin Firth anyone?), empire waistlines and jaw-dropping filming locations. I think it was the year 2000 that I visited Lyme Park, the filming location for Darcy’s residence, Pemberley.

There’s something exhilarating as a teenager (let’s face it, I’d still have goosebumps now) to stand at the exact spot where Darcy walks in with his wet white shirt, droplets of water falling from his luscious locks…

I digress.

Stalking Chasing Jamie Fraser

literary tourism uk

For the Outlander fans out there, you MUST get your butt over to Scotland. I recently had the opportunity to do Viator’s Outlander TV Locations tour, and this is the perfect time to do it. Outlander, the STARZ series, has not yet aired in the U.K. Britain really doesn’t know how big this is going to be for tourism, but it will be epic. I was lucky in that I was already traveling when I found out about this tour, but even so, the dates were filling up. Locations on the private tour include Geillis Duncan’s home, the village near Leoch, Castle Leoch and its garden (separate locations), a few yet-to-be aired locations and it wouldn’t be complete without seeing Lallybroch. I’ve been told women have cried when they’ve arrived at this final stop and I can see why. Hey, I cried at the Spice Girls reunion concert – no judgement.

An Educational Trip to Oxford

literary tourism uk

I, for one, was a huge fan of the film An Education with Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard. You’re totally along for the ride as Mulligan’s character falls for this charismatic older man, travels to Paris, meets his cosmopolitan friends and makes a sneaky trip to Oxford. Films aside, Oxford was where Alice in Wonderland was written, and you can even pop into Alice’s Shop for some souvenirs across from the Christ Church Meadows. Renting a boat and punting down the river, you can see where the inspiration came from – aided by the hallucinogenics!

Trainspotting Without the Trains?

Danny Boyle’s classic film, based on the book by Irvine Welsh about a group of friendly heroin users was shot all over Scotland. The majority of the urban scenes were split between Glasgow and Edinburgh, In the opening scene, Renton is taking off at high speed (ahem, legging it in UK terms) down Princes’ Street, the popular shopping area of Edinburgh. Further up north in Rannoch Moor is where the guys decide to go for the hike that ends up as a pretty brutal description of Scottish self-confidence. You have to remember the scene where the get off the train at Corrour, the epic shot.

Get Down to Downton

Highclere Castle was famous in its own right before it became better known as Downton. It was home to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, part of the archaeological team that discovered Tutankahmun’s resting place. Walk the gardens where Matthew and Mary discussed their relationship. Hang out in the library, the drawing room or the smoking room, all usual suspects as sets for the TV series. The “downstairs” portion of Downton is mostly filmed on a set, but is recreated based on Highclere’s staff quarters.

Highclere step up their game for the holidays. At Christmas time they bring the festivities with period decorations and this Easter a massive egg hunt is going to be held on the grounds. If it were me, I’d be making a trip in December. I love me a good tree!

The U.K. is the gift to literary, film and TV lovers that keeps on giving. This is the shortest list imaginable of locations that you can visit. The only one of these locations I haven’t visited is Highclere, but I’m sharing this description vicariously thanks to my Mom’s visit in 2014.

What about you? Have you gone to visit somewhere because you were inspired by a book, a movie or a tv show? Tell me I’m not alone in the comments below.

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5 Responses to 7 Cool Places for Literary Tourism in the UK

  1. dianacranstoun February 24, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Great post. You’re right about Trainspotting being filmed in different parts of the country. I remember watching the scene outside the school and doing a double take; the girl was wearing ‘my’ school uniform, the scene having been filmed in Glasgow rather than Edinburgh where the story was set.

  2. Irma February 25, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    Victoria, this blog spoke to my heart!! I would really like to visit the Pemberly and Downton houses (their real names don’t really matter, do they? HAHA). But I am a huge fan and have seen all the wonderful Austen references in Bath. Oh how I love Bath! Would love to go back soon to see the museums and walk the paths again. It’s not quite as romantic when I take a turn in the Assembly Rooms, or drink the water at the Roman Baths (actually, that is really gross!), but I do love it all! Thanks for reminding me that I need to go back and that I need to add a few more destinations to my travel plans! 🙂

  3. lpiotto February 26, 2015 at 1:01 am #

    I went to Savannah, Georgia because of the movie Midnight in the Gardem of Good and Evil. Well worth the trip regardless of whether you’ve seen the movie. And at the site of the Battle of Culoden in Scotland, I thought about the scenes in The Outlander books. So no, you’re not alone.

    • Victoria Smith February 28, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

      I’ve never been, but Savannah would be great for touring the movie locations. Forrest Gump and the Legend of Bagger Vance (among many, many other) movies were filmed there. It does have that picture-perfect romantic quality to it.

      Irma – let me know next time you’re going to the UK. Happy to help!

  4. Natasha Haley April 20, 2018 at 3:14 am #

    Great recommendations, always wanted to go to Downton!
    Natasha Haley recently posted…The Ultimate Guide to Travelling Scotland with KidsMy Profile

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