A Literary Holiday in the UK!
I recently embarked on my first big overseas adventure to the UK and France! It wouldn’t be a my kind of holiday without planning some of it around my love of literature and the great works of my most beloved authors: J.K Rowling, Jane Austen and Wordsworth! Along the way I also got to experience a few more legendary writers by the likes of Sir Walter Scott, George R.R Martin and Beatrix Potter.
When we weren’t visiting sites of authors, we were getting history tours and learning about the myths and legends of these places. My two most favourite non-literary places were Stonehenge and the Isle of Skye in Scotland, both of which are seeped in myths and legends, historical battles and tales, and breathtaking landscapes! This in itself was well worth the trip, and has inspired me to pen some creative writing.
Week 1: London, York & The Lake District
While sightseeing in London we took a cruise up the River Thames and saw Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and some pubs he frequented! Much to my sister’s delight who unknowingly had a pint at these joints the day before.
Following that, we had lunch at the Dickens Inn. This inn is beautifully decorated inside and out! The walls and beams inside the inn are covered with lines from the famous author’s novels - mostly referring to alcohol consumption. It is a must see for any Dickens fan.
Later that evening we took my sister to King Cross station as she was going home to Leeds. I was hoping to get a picture at the Platform 9 ¾ wall they have installed there, but alas, even at 8.30pm at night the line was ridiculously long!
The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour
By “sheer dumb luck”, I snagged the last ticket for the Harry Potter tour this day! I left mum behind in London and travelled to this magical studio to indulge my (unhealthy) Harry Potter obsession.
The studio itself is a movie buff's dream. The sets and props of for all 8 movies are housed here, along with costumes, creature making workshops and of course, butterbeer! All in all, I think I spent the most time in the shop at the end. I embraced my house pride - Ravenclaw - and gave myself a few (too many) presents.
Bath & Stonehenge
This day was definitely one of my favourite experiences of the entire trip! The tour was a 10 hour long day with three stops - Bath, a small tudor town called Lacock, and finally an after hours inner circle viewing of the magnificent stones!
We got the spend 3 hours in the beautiful city of Bath and still, it was not enough time!
Unfortunately we ran out of time to see the Jane Austen museum but I did get to take this image of my favourite Austen novel in a quaint tea room in Bath.
After Bath we ventured down to the small tudor village called Lacock for a short stroll. It is said that in this town J.K Rowling came up with the name of Harry Potter.
After this we made our way to Stonehenge. I must say, this was the thing I was looking forward to most on this trip, and it was the first thing we booked. We were allowed access to the stones after it had closed to the general public - our own special private viewing! Not only that, but we were given access to step over the rope and explore the stones FROM THE INSIDE. We had one rule to follow - Don’t touch them - but were free to roam around and take as many pictures as we liked! It was the most magical experience.
York had two major literary influences - George R.R Martin and J.K Rowling.
We took a historical walking tour where the guide told us about the War of the Roses. The biggest battle in English history and York was a big part of it. This war inspired and is drawn upon by George R.R Martin in his Game of Thrones series.
During the tour we came across the famous street in York called ‘The Shambles.’ It is said to be J.K Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. The buildings along this street are wonky and wacky - just like in Diagon Alley - due to land taxes. Building up and out was a way to shirk the system!
The Lake District
We took a tour to the Lake District from York the next day. We decided on this tour last minute but I had already packed my Wordsworth book, just in case!
Unfortunately for us, it rained the entire day, not uncommon for England. This meant all of the Lakes were covered in thick fog and the bus steamed up - making it hard to see anything at all.
Week 2: Scotland
From here on out, our holiday was more about seeing the landscapes and immersing ourselves into the cultures of Scotland and Paris. However, literature is never far away and since Scotland is a land steeped in myths and legends (their national animal is a unicorn after all), there were abundant tales be lost in.
Plus, it houses the largest monument dedicated to a writer in the world! The writer, of course, Sir Walter Scott, who single-handedly saved Highland culture from obscurity. Unfortunately I didn’t get a decent picture of this beautiful monument but it is worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Edinburgh.
The Isle of Skye
These three days were spent journeying the countryside and hearing tales of giants, witches, battles and historical clans. The picturesque landscape captivated us all and we were more than happy to disembark the bus on drizzly days to capture these moments.
Our guides name was James Stuart - he may or may not be related to the historical Stuart line of Scotland’s greatest Kings and Queens - but that made us Jacobite’s! (Jacobite’s were King James II loyal followers who wanted the exiled King and his descendents back on the throne.)
He told us brutal tales of Scotland’s history and the many battles that were waged with England, particularly about the Jacobite uprising and the fateful Battle of Culloden. We visited this battlefield and museum. In the gift shop they were selling Diana G’s Outlander series, I was tempted to finally delve into this world but since I bought 4 books with me, I decided against it.
The highlands of Scotland (the area where the Isle of Skye is situated) is full of folklore about how their land came to be.
We heard riveting tales about why the tops of some mountains were flat - it’s called Giant’s Table and it’s said that’s where the giants sat to eat.
About why an odd shaped rock was pointing out of the ground - a romantic love story, OR a questionable part of a trapped giant.
Why two mountains side by side are different colours, one red, one black - an epic witches battle, OR, science *the geologist at the back of the bus isn’t convinced on either story*
And the 3 sisters mountain range - 3 sisters who were transformed into mountains by a witch so their beauty could last forever, after their father sought help to keep them beautiful until their true loves came along.
These stories were told as we drove past them so we didn’t get many photo opportunities. But these myths are as much a part of Scotland as the landscapes themselves.
Week 3: Paris.
We spent four full days in Paris and it was great! These days were focused on seeing the City of Light in all its glory so we only managed to squeeze in one literary moment - the Shakespeare and Company bookshop!
This bookshop was founded by George Whitlam and is currently run by his daughter. It is a beautiful shop with adorable nooks and crannies, an upstairs which has an editor’s office, a functioning typewriter and a daybed for your comfort.
And thus, my whirlwind trip ends! I hope you enjoyed my recount as much as I enjoyed being there! What literary stops would you have made?
P.S Primark (essentially Kmart) has THE BEST Harry Potter Collection. I was almost upset to have already bought a tonne of Harry Potter stuff at Warner Bros. Studio because I felt I had to limit myself… to a degree (it didn’t really work, I only put back two items).
All images are taken by Jordan Meek unless specified otherwise
All gifs are sourced via creative commons
Jordan is an avid bookworm who loves nothing more than to curl up with a good book and a cuppa. When this romantic setting eludes her, she can be found writing to-do lists, scheduling, binge-watching tv shows and/or fantasising about what book to read next. She is a freelance editor and proofreader.