In the following article, we will share with you our first five finds and pickings from our magical literary journey through the United Kingdom.
Literary #travelgoals from the Old World: As any avid reader can readily attest to, many of the greatest reads undeniably come from the quills of authors hailing from The United Kingdom. It cannot be much of an incident that, being the place they grew up in and drew their inspiration from, the country of Great Britain holds much to admire – especially for booklovers.
Have you ever thought about discovering the special places you read about for yourself, to follow your favourite authors to the places they were writing about, to relive the scenarios and adventures of your literary heros and heroines on location?Well, if you have not you sure will after reading our newest article, as we at novum publishing made it our summertime business to discover the literary Eldorado that is Great Britain.
1.) The North: Scotland and Northumberland
featuring: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Britain’s northern countryside is truly magnificient – with the famous Scottish Highlands and Lochs, you can easily imagine that mythical creatures like Nessie do exist, after all! So it really is no wonder that one of the most magically captivating book sagas of all time was largely created just there, in the enchanting surroundings of the North. If you are a fan of J.K. Rowling’s saga of sorcery, you will be spellbound as soon as you take your first step on northern British soil. We kid you not, as the country is truly awash with places that evoke witchcraft, and of course, as the young wizard visited quite a few places during his literary 7-volume journey, there are many places directly linked to the magical world of Harry Potter.
Starting all the way up in Edinburgh, Scotland, no true fan can miss out on a visit at Scotland’s very own equivalent to the “Leaky Cauldron”, the now world-famous “Elephant House”, which we already featured in our article Writing Whereabouts. This is where J.K. Rowling herself sat for countless hours, typing away on her keyboard and bringing the magical world of Harry Potter to life! So to start your journey, be sure to step by the Elephant House and get yourself some sustenance before embarking on your journey further down into the most magical places that the United Kingdom has to offer, because no great adventure starts on an empty stomach!
Moving on in real Harry Potter fashion, you simply cannot omit the famous Glennfinnan Viaduct trail that was shown in most Harry Potter movies when the students boarded the Hogwarts Express to another school year at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The impressive Glennfinnan Viaduct is 30 meters high and is sporting 21 arcs, lending a spectacular view over Loch Shiel. For the ultimate Hogwarts Express experience, you should definitely board The Jacobite, or Jacobite Steam Train, the journey of which is described as being the greatest railway journey in the world. The historical Jacobite was used to portray the Hogwarts express in the Harry Potter movies and let us tell you, this journey will put you under a spell! When you hike through the epic Scottish Highlands with their natural air of drama surrounding them, you will have no difficulty whatsoever imagining that they were deemed by filmmakers as being the ideal background to capture the exciting events of many important events from the Harry Potter novels. Glen Nevis served as backdrop for the Quidditch games in the first two movies, and the wild and breaththaking beauty of the Steal Falls lent the perfect scenery for parts of the riveting Trimagic Tournament from book four.
Crossing the border to England, the impressive Durham Cathedral is well worth a visit. An eye catcher in and of itself, when touring its halls, you will feel catapulted straight to Hogwarts – a feature that the producers of the motion pictures could not overlook, for sure. Obviously, Durham Cathedral was used for several scenes in the movies: the cathedral’s “Chapter House” lending the perfect scholarly air to Professor McGonagall’s lesson in turning animals into goblets and its cloistered patio being where Harry would let Hedwig fly in the snowy scenes of the very first film and Ron Weasley would fall prey to the slug-spittig-spell, courtesy of antagonist Draco Malfoy in the second film.
Our last magical stop in the North was Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. The medieval castle’s outer castle yard served as a perfect Hogwarts-background-cameo for Madame Hooch’s broomstick-flying lessons. You can try it yourself – grab a broom and start training, because a visitor’s ticket to Alnwick castle includes broomstick lessons! A magic show and costumed tours with lots of movie trivia are offered as well.
2.) Cumbria and the Lake District
Home to the imaginative works of Beatrix Potter
We at novum publishing have a soft spot for Beatrix Potter, what with the author and illustrator not only being a pioneer of her time, but also one of the very first self-published authors. Author of the famous “Peter Rabbit” stories and many other endearing books written and illustrated entirely by herself, Beatrix Potter was born in London as the daughter to an aristocratic family, but her true home she found in the rural Cumbrian countryside, in the wildly romantic Lake District. The strong willed and progressive Potter managed to amass a respectable income apart from her noble birth with her works and with thus had the means buy her own Home, Hill Top Farm, near the village of Sawrey.
The generous Ms. Potter put a lot of energy and love into the renovation of the farm and spent many years writing some of her most beloved works there – “Jemima Puddleduck” being one of them. Country life and the work involved became her, and she got increasingly interested in everything that came with it – over the years, her ongoing success as an author steadily increasing her funds, she bought more land and added to her holdings, her main interest all the while being the protection of the Lake District. This was why, in her will, she gave her home upon her death to the National Trust, which honored her legacy by turning Hill Top Farm into a publicly accessible museum and gardens. The farm that dates back to the 17th century is literally a time capsule and on a visit there you can easily imagine how it inspired Potter to write and draw her enchanting animal stories.
Home of Robin Hood
Moving on and further south in our journey through the English country, through Nottinghamshire, we feel like whistling and singing “Oh de lally” – small wonder that this jolly Disney tune comes to mind, as we have entered the haunts of none other than Robin Hood! Why, of course, Nottingham and the Sherwood Forest are the famous setting for the ballad of Robin Hood, and they lose nothing of their imagined lush green glory upon seeing them in real life. Even though today’s Sherwood Forest is considerably smaller than it used to be in the stories, it is now part of a protected area surrounding the town of Edwinstowe. The forest is awash with oak trees, the largest of which, the Major Oak, was said to having served as Robin Hood and his merry men’s headquarters.
The city of Nottingham itself is understandably proud of its historical link to the ballad of Robin Hood, the eldest version of which dates as far back as to the middle of the 13th century, with “Robin Hood” being a common nickname synonymous for a rogue and outlaw. Nottingham is well worth a visit, with many spots reminding us of the story of the heroic Robin Hood and his villainous antagonist, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Even if the legend is mainly made up, we can still well imagine him being alive, especially when we look at the statue of Robin Hood in front of Nottingham’s castle.
Where C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien would share opinions over a pint
A bookworm’s trip to England would and could never be complete without a trip to Oxford, home to one of the world’s leading universities, the famous and prestigious Oxford University. With its rich history and academic prestige, it is no wonder that Oxford was and is linked to more than a fair share of successful authors and stories. The impressive building that is the University of Oxford has also lent the nickname “city of dreaming spires” to the city, which was given to it by poet Matthew Arnold in reference to its harmonious architecture that is more than pleasing to the eye.
Three of the most famous authors to be linked to Oxford are Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R.Tolkien, all of which were given a chair and professorship at Europe’s oldest university. Wandering through the streets of Oxford and visiting its various colleges, like Pembroke, Somerville and Trinity College, one can very well imagine that authors of such repute would feel at home there.
To end a tour of the town in true style, one should stop by at “The Eagle And Child”, as this Oxfordian pub was a favorite of both Lewis’s and Tolkien’s. Cheers to that!
Where Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty would run free
Taking a break from the cities and enjoying some fresh country air again, Norfolk in East Anglia is just the place to get lost at for a while. But England being England, this is, and not by incident, just the place where author Anna Sewell lived and wrote her one and only book, the bestselling “Black Beauty”.
The story about the beautiful and strong-willed stallion Black Beauty was only published shortly before her death, with Sewell herself never bearing witness to its smashing success.
Yet, as it is one of the most famous and beloved children’s books (even though never intended as such), many places in Norfolk pay tribute to Sewell’s work, which was largely driven by her wish to criticize both the mistreatment and exploitation of the carriage horses as well as the poor living conditions under which they and the people who owned them had to live at the time. The house in which she was born is a museum today, and at the entrance of Sewell Park in Norwich stands a fountain in the shape of a horsetrough in her honor. Sewell Barn, which is today home to the Sewell Barn Theatre Company, is said to having housed the very horse that inspired her story, her brother’s horse Bess.
In the spirit of Anna Sewell, one should absolutely visit the Norfolk Broads, a man-made National Park in Norwich that stuns with its overwhelming beauty. The broads span over 125 miles of navigable and lock-free waterways, surrounded by the most picturesque countryside and villages through which not only Black Beauty would have loved to dash in full gallop.
As you see, the United Kingdom does not disappoint in venues to visit for booklovers such as us! We hope you could draw some inspiration from our first five tips, or maybe you have already visited one place or other? Do you agree with our picks or, heaven forbid, have we missed out on something? We would love to read your feedback!
Let your keyboard run free!