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Best Literary Locations Around the UK

Wednesday 19 April 2023

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Modern life is so busy and fast-paced, so it is a great feeling every now and then to curl up with an old favourite book. So when you're looking for places to visit and things to do, what could be better than a trip to locations that inspired them and represent them? Britain has been the birthplace of much of the world's greatest literature - from Harry Potter's magical world to Agatha Christie's murder mysteries - so there is lots to see.

At CrossCountry, we have chosen some of our favourite book-inspired locations for you to explore. Simply hop on board, open up your current read, and we'll take you beyond the pages.

Edinburgh

The Scottish Capital is said to be the location for over 500 novels, but in recent years it has featured as the home of Ian Rankin's Detective Inspector John Rebus. The 20+ novels depict Rebus crime-fighting in the Edinburgh underworld and feature locations such as; The Oxford Bar, Edinburgh Castle and The Writer's Museum. For more details, head to Ian Rankin's website to view Rankin's Edinburgh.

If you prefer something a little lighter, there are plenty of Harry Potter connections across the city where J.K. Rowling spent time writing. A must-visit Harry Potter location in Edinburgh is Greyfriars Kirkyard - a cemetery filled with familiar names like Robert Potter, William McGonagall, and even Thomas Riddell. 

What to read in Edinburgh: Start from the very beginning with Knots & Crosses, the first in the John Rebus Series, or Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

How to get to Edinburgh by train: Take a CrossCountry train to Edinburgh Waverley from a range of stations around England and Scotland.

Torquay

Torquay sits at the heart of the English Riviera and is known for its mild climate - not typical of Britain! But did you know it has inspired many locations in the books of Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime?

Born in Torquay, Christie first took to crime writing after working in the Torquay chemist dispensary, giving her a working knowledge of chemicals - be they medicines or poisons. Following that, she went on to write over 80 stories so popular they have only ever been outsold by the Bible and The Works of William Shakespeare!

Whilst in the town, why not visit the Agatha Christie Mile, which covers many of the locations from Agatha Christie's life or work? From the Princess Gardens featured in The ABC Murders to the Imperial Hotel, which took a role in Peril at End HouseThe Body in the Library, and Sleeping Murder - there are plenty of sights to see! If you fancy travelling that little bit further, why not visit her holiday home Greenway which is further down the coast? For more details, read our blog post on The Best National Trust properties.

What to read in Torquay: Any Agatha Christie mystery will do! For a Torquay-inspired one, why not try Peril at End House?

How to get to Torquay by train: Get straight to the heart of Torquay by travelling to Torquay Station from your local CrossCountry station.

Birmingham

When you visit Birmingham, you don't necessarily think of the grassy hills and mountainous terrain of Middle Earth, but Brum is the childhood home of J.R.R. Tolkien! Start at Sarehole Mill Museum, which stands about 300 yards from Tolkien's first Birmingham home. To Lord of the Rings fans, this is also known as the Mill at Hobbiton. The museum features the Signposts to Middle Earth exhibition, which tells the story of Tolkien's connections with Sarehole and the surrounding area.

Spot the Two Towers of Gondor, which in Birmingham are known as the Perrott's Folly and Edgbaston Waterworks Tower or visit the Library of Birmingham, which holds material related to Tolkien in the Archives and Collections. Next door to the library, there's a blue plaque commemorating Dr J. Sampson Gamgee, a local surgeon and founder of the Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund, who shares his name with a certain hobbit. 

What to read in Birmingham: The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy

How to get to Birmingham by train: Make your way to Birmingham New Street. From there, make your way by train and bus to Sarehole Mill on the outskirts of the city

Oxford

This list wouldn't be complete if we didn't mention the literary greats inspired by, and who wrote in, the city of Oxford. From C.S. Lewis to Colin Dexter, you can find many places that feature in the books. See the door to Narnia opposite the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and further down the street, there's an ornate lamppost which looks strikingly similar to the one where Lucy and Mr Tumnus first met.

Oxford is, of course, the city of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, and you can visit plenty of locations from the books and TV series around the city. The University College Chapel, Hertford College's Bridge of Sighs, and the Randolph Hotel are must-sees for Morse fans.

Wander through the Botanic Gardens, which Alice looks for in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or sit on the bench Will & Lyra from Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights agree to meet at each year. For more details on the Botanic Gardens, why not read our blog post on The Best Botanical Gardens in the UK

What to read in Oxford: Why not head through the door to Narnia and read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

How to get to Oxford by train: Catch a CrossCountry train to Oxford Station. From there, we recommend walking to take in as many locations as possible.

Cardiff

Cardiff was Roald Dahl's childhood city, and many of his childhood adventures are documented in his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood. From the sweet shop by the Cathedral School in Llandaff where Roald and friends hid a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers to spotting Cardiff Backs on the ferry home from boarding school in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset after accurately faking appendicitis so he could go back to Wales. Visitors today can now go to Roald Dahl Pass, which is in the middle of the bay and, in the summertime, is home to a funfair. Or you can wander around the corner to the Norwegian Church, where a young Roald was christened here in 1916. Find out more about the Norwegian Church in our Free Things to Do in Cardiff blog.

What to read in Cardiff: Boy: Tales of Childhood

How to get to Cardiff by train: CrossCountry trains run from all around the UK, stopping at Cardiff Central Station.

York

Have you been waiting a long time for your Hogwarts letter? York is the perfect place to feel like you're wandering the streets of Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley.

The Shambles in York is believed to be the inspiration for Harry Potter's Diagon Alley, and the timber-framed buildings make it easy to see the resemblance. Although never confirmed, this has become a hotspot for Harry Potter fans and is home to several Harry Potter-themed Shops!

If that's not enough magic, York Railway Station was used for filming several railway scenes, such as when Hagrid gives Harry his ticket to board the Hogwarts Express for the first time in The Philosopher's Stone. See if you can spot where the filming took place.

What to read in York: Any of the Harry Potter series.

How to get to York by train: Hop on board a CrossCountry service to York from all over the UK. Start your tour at York Station and walk to Diagon Alley from there!

 

If you’re planning a trip to one of Britain's best literary locations, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our Train Tickets app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

The UK is bursting with fun activities. Whether you’re visiting one of the best castles in the UK, the best theme parks in the UK, or the best waterparks in the UK, you can always travel by train. CrossCountry has services running up and down the country to ensure you can get to the places you need to be.

Written by Julia

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