Self-drive England tour (8 nights)
Britain’s literary heritage spans hundreds of years and many of Britain’s great works are known and loved the world over.
This itinerary takes you to buildings and landscapes that inspired many of our great writers and poets. From the villages of Hampshire and Dorset to the dramatic mountains and wild moors of the Lake District and Yorkshire, you will visit the homes and favourite places of greats such as Jane Austen, William Wordsworth and the Brontës.
A stop in Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare for much of his life, is a must on any literary tour, while ending your tour in London, the inspiration of so many writers and the home of the magnificent British Library, is a fitting culmination to the trip.
This itinerary can be shortened or extended to meet your requirements. Suggested extensions and alternatives are included at the end of the itinerary or get in touch to discuss other options.
Days 1 and 2: Austen and Hardy's Wessex
If arriving in London, pick up your car at the airport and head west towards the picture-perfect villages of Wiltshire, from where you can explore the towns and landscapes which were the inspiration of two of Britain’s most famous authors: Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy.
On the way, visit Jane Austen’s former home in the Hampshire village of Chawton and her final resting place at 1000 year old Winchester Cathedral.
Continuing the Austen theme, spend the following day in beautiful Bath. Visit the Assembly Rooms and stroll through the many streets and squares featured in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, as well as admiring the famous Roman Baths and Bath Abbey. Visit the Jane Austen Museum or take an Austen-themed guided tour.
Alternatively, head out on the ‘Thomas Hardy Trail’ through rural Dorset. Take in the traditional villages, beautiful landscapes and historic buildings featured in Thomas Hardy’s classic novels, such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd.
Accommodation: Stay in the heart of a beautiful Wiltshire village in a traditional inn with modern rooms or a boutique country house hotel.
Day 3: Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, ‘Anne Hathaway’s Cottage’ (his wife’s childhood home) and the homes of other members of Shakespeare’s family can all be visited on a tour of Stratford.
Visiting the abundance of buildings associated with Shakespeare, with their museums, traditional furnishings and live presentations can easily take a full day, especially during the busy summer period.
A trip to Stratford wouldn’t be complete without catching a performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which are regularly held at Stratford’s three major theatres (but may need booking well in advance).
Accommodation: Stay in a 400 year old boutique hotel in the heart of Shakespeare’s Stratford or a luxury hotel in a classic timbered Tudor townhouse.
Days 4 and 5: Wordsworth and Potter's Lake District
The dramatic beauty of the Lake District has inspired many artists, writers and poets over the centuries, not least the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth and favourite children’s author Beatrix Potter.
Wordsworth lived most of his adult life in the village of Grasmere and two of his former homes are now fascinating museums about the life of this interesting character. Probably Wordsworth’s most famous poem, Daffodils, was inspired as he ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’ on the fells near stunning Lake Ullswater in the northern Lakes. Visit in Spring to see Wordsworth’s daffodils in all their glory.
Beatrix Potter fell in love with the Lake District early in her career and moved from London to the pretty farm at Hill Top near Lake Windermere, where she wrote about Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. Today the house can be visited by the public and appears almost exactly as it would have in Potter’s time.
Accommodation: Choose a Victorian villa with beautiful, modern rooms in the heart of Wordsworth’s Grasmere or an ‘Arts and Crafts’ House with stunning views down a Lakeland valley.
Day 6: Brontës’ Yorkshire
Your next stop is in the cobbled village of Haworth, surrounded by the wild moors that are vividly brought to life in the novels of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë.
The parsonage in which the sisters grew up is set at the top of the village, overlooking the church. Now a museum, it contains many of the Brontës’ personal belongings and is an accurate replica of how the house would have looked in their day.
Brontë-themed walks can be taken in the surrounding moorland, the dramatic setting of many of the Brontës’ famous novels.
On day seven, drop your car in Leeds and catch the train back to London.
Accommodation: Stay in a luxury country house hotel over-looking the surrounding countryside or a boutique B&B set on the cobbled main street.
Days 7 and 8: Literary London
London is a fitting end to your literary tour of England. Home to many authors and playwrights and the setting of many novels, London’s literary associations are endless.
Take a tour or catch a play at Shakespeare’s Globe; wander the streets featured in Dickens’ many novels and stop in one of his favourite pubs; stop for a drink in one of the smart hotels where Oscar Wilde socialised with other literary greats; or stroll up to 221b Baker Street and call into the Sherlock Holmes museum.
If you have a favourite London-based author, take a themed walking tour, visiting all of the places associated with them.
Once you’ve followed in the footsteps of your literary heroes, visit the British Library. It’s collection of over 150 million items cannot fail to impress lovers of literature and includes the manuscripts of many important works, from the Magna Carta, to the works of Jane Austen and the Brontës, and songs written by the Beatles!
Accommodation: Stay in a luxury Georgian townhouse in the heart of the West End or a ‘posh pub’, moments from Oxford Street, combining a great bar, quality food and beautiful rooms.
Extra time: With a few extra days, spend longer exploring the landscapes of Wessex, the Lake District and Yorkshire, or consider these options:
- From the capital, head into Kent, where Charles Dickens spent most of his life and in which he set novels such as Great Expectations.
- Head to the South West to admire the houses and landscapes that inspired Agatha Christie in Devon and Daphne du Maurier in Cornwall.
- Continue north from the Lake District to the Scottish Borders and the Robert Burns Heritage Trail, to learn about the life and works of one of Scotland’s most famous sons.
- Follow a ‘Dylan Thomas Trail’ in south Wales to visit places and landscapes that influenced Wales’ most celebrated poet.
If you have been inspired by this example itinerary, why not request your own tailor-made holiday itinerary.