Literary Britain: Top spots for book lovers

Charles Dickens Jane Austen Shakespeare Beatrix Potter: Great places in Britain to visit for book loversBath, VisitBritain/Simon Winnall

2012 marks Charles Dickens' 200th birthday and to celebrate there are a range of events and exhibitions taking place across England.

As it's always a good time to explore Britain's literary history we've rounded up the top places for you to discover the worlds of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Beatrix Potter and more literary greats. Browse through the gallery below to see Britain's best places for book lovers.

Britain's best literary locations
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Literary Britain: Top spots for book lovers

Dracula author Bram Stoker found inspiration for his famous horror novel in the North East fishing town of Whitby. With its imposing Abbey overlooking cliff tops, old cobbled streets and misty sky, it's not hard to see why. If you're visiting Whitby on a literary break, be sure to join the Bram Stoker Dracula Experience guided tour with Stoker trivia, spooky stories and the chance to see the 56-kilo cape that Christopher Lee wore in the second Dracula film. Around Whitby there's St Mary's Churchyard to visit if you're brave enough and every October the Bram Stoker International Film Festival takes place. Apart from its spooky connections, Whitby is a pretty town with narrow winding streets to explore and the Gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey.

Author of Sherlock Holmes and The Lost World Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh and even though he left the city for England and later Vienna, it's said that many of his works were influenced by Scotland's capital. The Salisbury Crags were apparently a backdrop for The Lost World and his most famous book Sherlock Holmes was based on a character he met at the Royal College of Surgeons. Don't miss the bronze statue of the author that stands in Picardy Place connecting the top of Leith Walk to the east end of the street.

2012 celebrates author Charles Dickens's 200th birthday, so what better way to mark the anniversary than to visit Kent, where he spent most of his childhood and the last 13 years of his life? Rochester is the Dickens capital Kent, where Great Expectations was set. Gad's Hill Place in Higham is the house that Dickens fell in love with and bought when he became a successful writer, which is now a school and Restoration House was the model for the mansion Satis House in Great Expectations. Find out about the events and attractions for Dickens' 200th birthday at

Author of the Peter Rabbit books Beatrix Potter spent her childhood holidays in the Lake District, which became a huge influence for her stories. After her success, Beatrix bought Hill Top in Ambleside and based many of her books on the house, its garden and the farm. She often visited Brockhole in Windermere, the home of her cousin Edith, which is today the Lake District Visitor Centre. Other must-visits if you're a Beatrix Potter fan include the Tower Bank Arms pub, which can be seen in one of the sketches for The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, the beautiful Yew Tree Farm, which was once owned by Potter and stunning Keswick and Derwentwater, which were settings for her books and characters like Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.

Visit the home of poet John Keats in Hampstead, London where he lived with his friend Charles Brown from 1818 to 1820. This was the setting that inspired most of Keats' memorable poetry, like Ode to a Nightingale, which he wrote while sitting under a plum tree in the garden. He also met his fiancée Fanny Brawne here and it was at this home that he coughed blood into his handkerchief and said: 'That drop of blood is my death warrant. I must die.' He then left for Rome and died a year later.

The wild moors and rugged countryside of West Yorkshire and the East Lancashire Pennines were home to Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte who lived in the village of Haworth from 1820 to 1861. The region inspired some of their most famous novels, including Emily's Wuthering Heights and Charlotte's Jane Eyre. You can see the dramatic landscape they described for yourself with the 43-mile walk Bronte Way that takes in the Pennines, Haworth and Oakwell Hall. Be sure to visit the sisters' former home, which is now the Bronte Parsonage Museum full of their personal possessions and an exhibition about their fascinating lives. Other must-sees in the region are the Bronte Falls (pictured), where you can enjoy a picnic and see the nearby rock chair, where Charlotte is said to have come to meditate. There's also Oakwell Hall, which inspired Charlotte's description of Fieldhead in Shirley and Red House, where Charlotte's lifelong friend Mary Taylor lived.

Visit playwright and poet William Shakespeare's birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon where he lives on throughout the market town attracting millions of visitors every year to the renowned Royal Shakespeare Theatre, his last home New Place and the museum Nash's House. The many Tudor buildings of the town take you back to Shakespeare's time and a visit here is a must as there's so much to see, from his wife Anne Hathaway's Cottage to the Holy Trinity Church where he was baptised and buried. In 2012, the World Shakespeare Festival takes place from 23 April to 9 September, celebrating how the world performs, engages and teaches his works.

Take the whole family to Ashdown Forest in East Sussex to discover A.A Milne's world of Winnie-the-Pooh. The forest became the setting of the children's author's stories, which were inspired by his son and his toy animals. Around Ashdown Forest you'll find Roo's sandpit and the North Pole, as well as Owl's tree in Hundred Acre Wood, which in real life is 500 Acre Wood. Be sure to visit Poohsticks Bridge in Posingford Wood, where you can play Pooh Sticks like Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear.

Follow in Jane Austen's footsteps and discover the Georgian city of Bath, where the author lived between 1801 and 1806. The architecture of the city remains unchanged from the streets depicted in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. At the Jane Austen Centre set in a Georgian town house, just doors from where she lived, you can see an exhibition of costumes, films clips and manuscripts. Once you've learned about Austen's life in Bath, head upstairs to the Regency Tea Rooms where you can drink tea before stopping at a souvenir shop to pick up an 'I Love Darcy' t-shirt!

Visit Queen of Crime Agatha Christie's hometown of the elegant English Riviera, which she chose as a setting for many of her novels. Christie's former holiday home Greenway, near Brixham is a must to explore her family’s collections and the romantic woodland garden. Her writings were often inspired by the towns of Devon, the countryside of her home and the coast of the English Riviera. Torquay's Imperial Hotel featured in Peril at End House, The Body in the Library and Sleeping Murder. Walk the Agatha Christie Mile, which takes in many landmarks of Christie's past, like The Grand Hotel where she had her honeymoon, Torquay Museum with the Agatha Christie Exhibition and Princess Pier, where she enjoyed roller-skating.


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