15 magical UK author tours
Growing up, I spent most of my summers browsing the shelves in the cool, air-conditioned aisles of my hometown’s public library to escape the stifling Texas heat. Authors from the U.K. wrote many of my favorite books — both beloved classics and modern bestsellers. While we are living in Europe, I’m looking forward to sharing these famous literary figures and their stories with my children. In my traveling research, I’ve discovered countless tours that offer travelers the unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of their favorite writers. While this isn’t a comprehensive list,here is a lineup of 15 U.K. author tours you won’t want to miss.
The top five …
1. Jane Austen — Bath, England
Read before you go: “Northanger Abbey” or “Persuasion”
Spend the night at Number 4 Sydney Place, the 18th century house where Austen once lived with her family. The next morning, soak up Regency fashion, food and elegance at the Jane Austen Centre, a museum dedicated to Bath’s most famous resident. In the afternoon, stroll through the streets and gardens frequented by the distinguished author, and have afternoon tea at a local shop, just as she would have done. If you have enough time, go on a day trip to explore the surrounding area, where you can visit Austen’s birthplace, historical homes and burial site. If you’re interested in finding your own Mr. Darcy, plan your visit to coincide with the annual Summer Ball, which is held every June, or wait until September to enjoy the unforgettable period costumes, concerts, etiquette lessons and dancing classes that accompany the Jane Austen Festival.
2. Dan Brown — Edinburgh, Scotland and London, England
Read before you go: “The Da Vinci Code”
Edinburgh: Visit the place Dan Brown called “the most mysterious and magical chapel on earth.” Built in 1446, Rosslyn Chapel is shrouded in ancient secrets that inspired the fictional finale of his book, “The Da Vinci Code.” Stand in the spot where Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu unraveled the cryptic clues Da Vinci left hidden in his paintings.
London: Walk the streets Langdon and Neveu rushed down to elude the villainous Rémy, admire one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous masterpieces in the National Gallery, and learn more about the enigmatic Knights Templar with The Da Vinci Code Tour of London.
3. Roald Dahl — Buckinghamshire, England
Read before you go: “James and the Giant Peach,” “The BFG,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox” or “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
Spend the day taking in the interactive displays at the award-winning Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center, where you can learn about the author’s quirky boyhood days, browse mementos in his whimsical Writing Hut and sniff giant chocolate doors like the ones at Wonka’s factory. Enjoy a scrumpdiddlyumptious, Dahl-inspired lunch at Café Twit. Afterward, crawl through Fantastic Mr. Fox’s tunnel, make lots of noise with the BFG, and get to know the critters that made their home in the Giant Peach at the Bucks County Museum’s Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery. If you’re up for an outdoor adventure, explore the natural beauty of the Great Missenden countryside, where the author lived for 36 years.
4. C.S. Lewis — Oxford, England
Read before you go: “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “The Screwtape Letters” or “Mere Christianity”
Tour Lewis’ quaint former home, the Kilns, then head to the Eagle and Child to enjoy a pint in the pub frequented by the author and his famous literary pals, the Inklings, which included J.R.R. Tolkien. End your day with a stop at the beautiful Holy Trinity Church, where you can set your eyes on the pew C.S. Lewis sat in with his wife every Sunday. Before you go, be sure to search for Aslan in the beautifully engraved Narnia windows that were installed in Lewis’ honor in 1991, and pay your respects to the author at his final resting place. You can visit the sites on your own, although be sure to make reservations at appropriate locations. For details, visit www.cslewis.org/resource/walkguide and www.faithtravelfocus.com/c-s-lewis-england.
5. J.K. Rowling — Edinburgh, Scotland and London, England
Read before you go: The “Harry Potter” series
Edinburgh: Follow a robed guide to magical locations along the Potter Trail, a free walking tour of Edinburgh designed specifically for fans of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. Locate Lord Voldemort’s gravesite, find out which Hogwarts professor was named after the world’s lousiest poet, and learn about medieval Edinburgh’s real-life witches and wizards. Afterward, warm up with a steamy cuppa at the Elephant House, the gourmet tea and coffee shop where Rowling used to sit and write her early novels.
London: After checking out the popular Harry Potter experience at Warner Brothers Studio Tour, step off the beaten path to visit the Leaky Cauldron, stop by the phone booth where visitors enter the Ministry of Magic, and walk down the narrow streets that inspired Rowling’s Diagon and Knockturn alleys with the award-winning Tour for Muggles.
10 more …
6. J.M. Barrie — London, England
7. Charlotte and Emily Brontë — Worth Valley, England
8. Lewis Carroll — Daresbury, England
9. Agatha Christie — The English Riviera and London, England
10. Charles Dickens — London, England
11. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — London, England
12. Beatrix Potter — Lake District, England
13. William Shakespeare — London, England
14. J.R.R. Tolkien — Oxford, England
15. Oscar Wilde — London, England
Are there any U.K. authors you would add to this list? Let us know at contentteam[at]stripes[dot]com.