Visit England recently announced that 2017 is to be the Year of Literary Heroes and with it being the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, the 20th anniversary of J K Rowling’s first novel, the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes publication, and with the five-year Brontë 200 celebration well underway, it set me thinking about how you could convert these and other literary connections into a profitable UK travel experience.
Masterpiece Theatre has screened many of Jane Austen’s novels, and the framework for a very good tour that doubles up as a pre- or post-cruise extension includes her former home at Chawton near Winchester at her final resting place in the great Norman cathedral, some on-location visits in Salisbury, and a few days in the Georgian city of Bath. The Jane Austen Festival runs between Friday, 8th September to Sunday, 17th September, 2017.
Again, you may have seen some of their novels on Masterpiece Theatre, and to get the best out of a literary tour of the north of England, you need to bring together the Brontës in Haworth; William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter in the Lake District; James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small) in the Yorkshire Dales; and Victoria (currently on Masterpiece Theatre) entirely filmed in Yorkshire.
June 2017 will mark 20 years since the release of J K Rowlings’ first novel, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, which put many of England’s historic landmarks on the map as Potter Pilgrimage sites. Major must-visit attractions include the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour just north of London, along with the Platform 9 ¾ Store at London’s Kings Cross Station. Paddington Station may be another top agenda item for a photo op with the statue of the much-loved bear.
Much loved children’s literature gives enterprising travel agents the opportunity to develop an out-of-London tour liberally decorated with castles and other living history experiences by including the Harry (Potter) meets Alice (in Wonderland) walking tour of Oxford. If you’re travelling in early July, time your visit to coincide with the annual celebration of the first reading of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll. You can then add to it a close encounter with the creative genius of Roald Dahl by visiting his former home, now an award winning and ‘fantabulous’ Story Centre at Great Missenden.
Other additions that will fire a young audience’s imagination include a train ride to Cardiff for a Dr Who Experience, a game of Pooh Sticks in 100 Acre Wood in the Ashdown Forrest in East Sussex, and The Wind in the Willows Exhibition at the National Rowing Museum at Henley upon Thames (just up the road from Windsor Castle). You can even take a tour based on some of the most popular English nursery rhymes.
For Murder Mystery Fans
Given its popularity, Sherlock Holmes makes a good foundation for an imaginatively themed tour that starts in London with a special walking tour that includes the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street and the Sherlock Holmes Pub. Then head out into the English countryside to see the permanent ‘Study in Sherlock’ Exhibition at the Portsmouth Museum, the tiny All Saints Church Minstead, the last resting place for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a tour of the locations in the great maritime city of Bristol used for the filming of ‘Sherlock’ with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
Bristol is also the host city for the annual Crime Fest, a convention for people who like an occasional crime novel as well as die hard fanatics. It is also a very good hub for a train ride to the English Riviera aka Torquay, the former home to Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime Writers (annual festival every September). Returning to London, you could see the Cotswolds through the eyes of Agatha Raisin (the amateur sleuth), aka M C Beaton, before reaching Oxford, where a walking tour of the famous Colleges take on a very different aspect when you follow in the footsteps of Inspector Morse, Sargent Lewis, and the young Endeavour.
If you’re an avid reader of Dick Francis novels, you can take a special tour that reveals the sources of inspiration for his stories in Newmarket, the capital of British horseracing. If Ellis Peters’ medieval who-dunnits are more your thing, a couple of days in and around Shrewsbury will help to locate some of the towns, villages, abbeys, and monasteries immortalised by Brother Cadfael.
Paull Tickner, creator of Special Interest Britain, is an expert in developing customized niche travel programs for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Check out his website at www.customgb.co.uk and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org