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Because you can't spend all day every day journeying around IgoUgo, editors round up the highlights: members' notable trips, newest reviews, favorite destinations, contests, and more. Have a question or idea? Let us know!

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Bookmark This: UK Literary Destinations

Bookmark This: UK Literary Destinations Photo

Photo by slowmover

Posted on July 16, 2008 in Trip Ideas

If you’ve already closed the book on America’s literary itineraries, check out IgoUgo members’ recommendations for putting that university Brit lit class to good use.

The first question to consider when planning your literary days in the UK is: Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan? If you answered yes, there is a second question: Do you want to get your Holmes fix courtesy of a hotel, museum, or pub? If you want to sleep with fiction’s favorite detective (sort of), check into London’s Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes, which Millie describes as “a lovely boutique hotel ideally situated in the center of town, near Oxford St.” If you’re a museum hound, vampirefan says, head to the Sherlock Holmes Museum “at 221b Baker St. (where else?).” She says the displays, including wax figures, are “part campy and part fun” and that “it doesn’t take long or much money, so it is well worth your time.”

If you enjoy both Holmes’ alter ego Arthur Conan Doyle and an occasional drink, stop by The Conan Doyle further north in Edinburgh. Red Mezz says that “if you want a moment of Scottish atmosphere, to sit in a pub having a flavorful beer near the birthplace of the man the pub was named after, it can be a very pleasant experience to take home.” Don’t stop there, though; join up with the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, a must-do, Tavia says, “if you are in Edinburgh and have ever read a book or drank a pint of beer.” English major and self-proclaimed lightweight barbara seconds that and recommends the tour for “an introduction to literature in Edinburgh and how the sometimes bawdy soul of the city influenced Scottish writers.”

Another can’t-miss (literally) Edinburgh stop is the conspicuous “Gothic Rocket” memorial to Sir Walter Scott on Princes St. In the spirit of full disclosure, Jerril admits that he couldn’t remember for whom the memorial was erected, saying “my English teacher is going to kill me.” He enjoyed the climb up the tower nonetheless and explained that though “it is the ugliest memorial” he’s seen, “it has that historical, deeper-meaning beauty.” Actual tower fan and Edinburgh resident wolfscar also encourages every visitor to climb the tower’s steps for “a true bird's-eye view of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”

We fast forward a couple of centuries to arrive at our last stop in Scotland: the Elephant House café where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. The café draws rave reviews from IgoUgo members in its own right, with FionaMel saying she “was very pleased to be served the best hot chocolate” she’s ever had. And we’re not sure if this is supposed to be a direct shot at Ms. Rowling, but dolmio reports that the view from the café is “magical—surely enough to stimulate the imagination of even the most mundane person.”

Look back to England (as Ms. Rowling did when choosing a setting for her literary children) for still more of the UK’s brightest literary highlights. The first two, in London, are Charles Dickens’ house (now a museum) and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which, like Drever, you shouldn’t “miss for the world” (and all the world’s a stage, right?).

For a look at how William Shakespeare (or Billy, as Mutt calls him) lived, head to Stratford-upon-Avon and begin at the playwright’s birthplace, “a delight for any fan of Billy and his work and still well worth a visit even if you are not.” The birthplace isn’t the only Stratford home associated with Shakespeare; another favorite—described by Nancy as a “serendipitous stop”—is Anne Hathaway’s cottage. In this idyllic setting, it’s easy to imagine William and Anne’s courtship; for a setting relating to the other Anne Hathaway—and the woman she portrayed in the movie Becoming Jane—plan to stop in nearby Bath.

There you’ll discover why the Jane Austen Centre so impressed zabelle, an avid Mr. Darcy (or is it Colin Firth?) fan. Even barbara, who readily admits that she’s never been a fan of Austen’s work, enjoyed the museum: “Now, I would love to say that my 11-year-old son, his friend, and my husband were all clamoring to see this museum. But I would be lying through my teeth, dear reader, if I even implied such a thing. So we asked the girl up front how long it would take me to view the museum so that they could meet up with me afterwards, and she said 45 minutes. It took me an hour and a half, and I still could have taken a little more time.”

Don’t neglect to spend some time in Oxford, where EdwardAggie98 is equally passionate about The Eagle and Child (aka “Bird and Baby”), “a traditional pub with a notable history—the Inklings met here for lunch on Tuesdays. This group, whose most notable members were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, would meet here; have a pint or two; and discuss literature, religion, and their latest writings. This is where The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Hobbit were first read aloud.”

A literary trip to the UK could easily become a veritable pilgrimage, but lest you have to take a lengthy sabbatical to accomplish your trip, we’ll leave you with just one more stop that provides insight into the lives of three writers: the Yorkshire home of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. The house now welcomes visitors as the Brontë Parsonage Museum, where, in davidx’s words, “if you do not know about the Brontës and you have the slightest interest in English literature,” you can “remedy this defect as soon as possible.”

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