Throughout history, Britain's beauty has inspired many poets, writers, and artists to create beautiful work, and this literary culture is something to be celebrated. Whether you're taking a trip to mark World Poetry Day or simply exploring the poetic history of Britain, we've picked out some of Britain's most inspiring locations.
Read on to discover the most poetic locations in the UK and their literary highlights.
As the world's first UNESCO City of Literature, you must travel by the book when you visit Edinburgh. The atmospheric city, which has inspired over 500 novels, has a centuries-long literary heritage and is home to some of the world's most exciting contemporary writers. From the verse of 18th-century poet Robert Burns to works of modern-day writers like Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh, the city breathes literature.
Edinburgh's poetic highlights:
- Join the award-winning Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, where professional actors will lead you on a brilliant and witty romp through Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns.
- Visit the sites and haunts of Edinburgh’s literary legends on a literary walking tour to see for yourselves what inspired them.
- Head to the Writers’ Museum devoted to a powerhouse literary trio: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
- The National Library of Scotland runs free year-round exhibitions, and you can always find a tale and a warm welcome at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.
How to get to Edinburgh by train:
Edinburgh Waverley is on the CrossCountry network, meaning you can travel to Edinburgh directly from towns and cities across the UK.
The city of Winchester and its surrounding area have inspired many literary classics, from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility to John Keats' ode To Autumn. Winding lanes, pretty houses, and the South Downs in the distance make for a perfectly poetic location - you may even find yourself inspired to write. Listen to the chimes from the Gothic cathedral as you explore the small city on foot.
Winchester's literary highlights:
- Follow in Keats’ footsteps and take a self-guided walk, passing through the landscape, which inspired his famous ode To Autumn.
- The Winchester Bible is the largest and finest of all surviving 12th-century English bibles, and you can view it at Winchester Cathedral.
- Take the Jane Austen Tour at Winchester Cathedral. Get an intimate insight into her life and connections with the cathedral to understand the genius truly.
- Visit the Winchester Bookshop for three floors of rare, vintage books.
Getting to Winchester by train:
Oxford has been home to many poets and has educated far more. From Lewis Carroll’s romantic poem Solitude to Matthew Arnold’s Cromwell: A Prize Poem, Oxford is home to some extraordinary poetic events. Some of William Wordsworth’s major works were published here, and Jane Austen and Jonathan Swift, among many others, were educated in the city. With a plethora of literary events and bookish locations, Oxford is a great city to visit for World Poetry Day.
Oxford's literary highlights:
- Explore the grounds of Magdalen College, where C.S. Lewis tutored English for many years and wrote several of his famous works, including his beloved fiction series The Chronicles of Narnia.
- Stroll through one of the best botanical gardens in the UK, the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens. Here you will find the bench where Will and Lyra from Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights series agree to meet each year.
- Buy a ticket to enter Christ Church College. Lewis Carroll dreamed up Alice in Wonderland whilst he studied and taught there, and Harry Potter fans will love the college’s hall, which inspired the Great Hall in J.K. Rowling’s much-loved series.
- Go for a pint at The Eagle and Child pub, the meeting place of “The Inklings”, a literary discussion group that included the likes of C.S Lewis and JRR Tolkien.
Getting to Oxford by train:
Situated in the south midlands, Oxford is accessible on a range of CrossCountry services operating directly to Oxford station.
Inspired by the hallowed halls of their colleges and surrounding countryside and recalling long days spent on the river or strolling through the city - the character, sights, smells, and sounds of Cambridge are celebrated in poetry. From Lord Byron to James Payn, Wordsworth to Tennyson; famous Cambridge poets are plentiful. Explore the exquisite architecture, winding river and leafy green spaces to discover why so many writers, past and present, flocked to Cambridge for inspiration.
Cambridge's literary highlights:
- Tour the city’s colleges to discover their literary connections. Some examples include William Wordsworth at St John’s, Isaac Newton and Bertrand Russell at Trinity, and Salman Rushdie at King’s.
- Take yourself on a walking tour of locations described in Wordsworth's Residence at Cambridge. The famous poem details spots throughout the city, making it the perfect way to enjoy this poetic location.
- Go on a poetry pilgrimage to the Old Vicarage in Grantchester to see the location that inspired Rupert Brooke's poem of the same name. Located a short distance from the city, you'll find a nostalgic setting, perfect for a sunny afternoon.
- Enjoy a cuppa and a slice of cake at the Orchard Tea Garden, once the preferred tearoom of literary guests such as Rupert Brooke, E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf.
- Inside the Wren Library at Trinity College, you'll find a homage to one of Britain's best poets, Lord Byron. Thorvaldsen's statue celebrating Byron dominates the interior of this beautiful library, where you can also find original works by Sir Isaac Newton and A.A. Milne. The best news is it's free to enter.
How to get to Cambridge by train:
Starting from locations around the UK, both local and further afield, you can take a CrossCountry train direct to Cambridge station.
Nottingham is the second city on this list which is recorded as a UNESCO City of Literature. Of course, Nottingham is well known for being home to Robin Hood and his Merry Men, who have appeared on countless occasions throughout literary history. From the medieval Gest of Robyn Hode through to Robin Hood and his Merry Outlaws from 1904, this honourable thief is one of British literature's favourite heroes. So where better to explore his world than Nottinghamshire, home of Sherwood Forest?
This city is renowned in poetic history not just because of the character's within it, but for poets and authors too. From Lord Byron's early work to DH Lawrence's writing, Nottingham is one of the UK's most poetic locations.
Nottingham's literary highlights:
- Take a stroll around the beautiful parkland of Nottingham’s Arboretum, which is said to be the inspiration behind J.M. Barrie’s classic children’s tale Peter Pan.
- Visit Newstead Abbey, once home to romantic poet Lord Byron, and discover its 300 acres of parkland, gardens, lake, and beautiful estate. Byron wrote his first poem aged 10, describing Nottingham and his connection to the city, so where could it be better to read his poems?
- Visit the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum, a recreated miner’s cottage where you can learn about the birthplace of the famous Nottinghamshire author. Explore the surrounding countryside, which inspired his work.
- Every Summer, Nottingham plays host to the Robin Hood Festival. Filled with spectacular entertainment, like outdoor cinemas and re-enactments, you're sure to feel transported back to the days of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
- Browse the books of Bromley House, a library preserved in time with books stacked from floor to ceiling and secret rooms you didn’t know you’d find.
How to get to Nottingham by train:
Getting to Nottingham is super easy with CrossCountry trains, as you can get a wide range of direct services to Nottingham station.
If you’re travelling to the most poetic locations in the UK, 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