If you have a soft spot for British literature, one of your bucket list items might be to take a vacation to England. Some of the greatest classic works ever written come from across the pond. Taking a road trip across England is much different than just renting a utility trailer in Ontario and heading across Canada or taking a cross-country trip from San Francisco to Orlando. North America boasts some beautiful scenic byways and National forests, but when it comes to literary snobbery, England is the place to go.
Located in the heart of England, Stratford-Upon-Avon is the birthplace of the most famous playwright that ever lived. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which is dedicated entirely to William Shakespeare’s life and works, is appropriately located here. About a mile west, in the village of Shottery, is where Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, was born and raised. The re-built Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed, is located several hours away in London.
Cost of Royal Shakespeare Theatre tickets: from £12 (About $20)
Suggestion: If you want to see a show at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, look for discounts online. The theatre offers plenty of discounts for all ages if you know where to look.
221B Baker Street
Home of the most famous detective that never lived, 221B Baker Street didn’t actually exist when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned the now-famous address. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson solved many a crime in the upstairs study, which has now been given an actual location on Baker Street, London, and turned into a gift shop and museum. (If you’re interested in the location of Baker Street in the BBC’s hit drama "Sherlock," you’ll have to go about two miles east to Gower Street, where the exterior shots of “221B” are filmed.)
Cost for museum admittance: £8 (About $13)
Suggestion: Taking a picture next to the iconic address is just as well as going into the small museum…unless you’re a Conan Doyle buff. Then it might be worth it to you to spend the $13 and go inside.
The Eagle and Child
If you’re a fantasy fan, you’ll want to stop by The Eagle and Child in Oxford. The pub claims to be the meeting place of “The Inklings,” a literary club to which both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis belonged. They often met here with other writers of the day to discuss literature and writing, and the pub has retained a traditional atmosphere and quality. Go inside and sample some of the old-fashioned British hospitality and food, or save a few pounds and just take pictures outside and enjoy the literary significance.
Cost: Free, unless you buy food and beverages.
Suggestion: Free attractions are few and far between — take advantage of this one!
Jane Austen fans will know that Bath is the site of many scenes in her most beloved novels. Located just southeast of Bristol, Austen lived there for several years and wrote about the city extensively in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion particularly. She was, however, rather unhappy in Bath, and hardly wrote at all in the six years she spent there. Her inspiration returned when her family finally moved to the village of Chawton. Take a guided tour, or again, save the money, find a map, and explore the city on your own.
Cost of walking tour: £9 (About $15)
Suggestion: For the financially conscious, Bath is a very compact city; buy a brochure or pamphlet instead and explore the city on your own.
Charles Dickens has quite a few connections with Kent, which is located in the Southeast corner of the country. There are several museums there dedicated to his life and novels, and even a theme park called Dickens’ World that takes you on a 90-minute grand tour of what Dickens’ world would have looked like back in the Victorian Era. The tour is a little pricey, however, so an alternate option for budget-savvy tourists is to head over to St. James’ Church in Cooling, Kent, to see the graveyard that was the inspiration for the opening scene of "Great Expectations."
Cost of tour: £7.5 (about $12)
Suggestion: This is actually a very good price for such an experience. But if it’s a little out of your budget, keep an eye out for discounts and coupons online, or just head over to the free sites and get your Dickens fix elsewhere.
One of the most talented and noteworthy literary families in history, the Bronte family lived in the village of Haworth, in what is now fondly known as “Bronte Country.” There are many options for sightseeing here too – such as the Bronte Parsonage Museum (the sisters’ childhood home) and guided walks of the countryside that inspired the famous "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre." If you want a cheaper route, consider taking your own personal tour of the countryside — there are many walks available for both hikers and cyclists that will let you explore the country on your own time.
Cost for Parsonage Museum: £7.5 (About $12)
Suggestion: Unless you’re a huge Bronte fan, skip the museum and spend your money on renting a few bicycles to explore the moor, which is where the magic of the sisters’ novels lies anyway.
British legends Robin Hood and King Arthur are just as famous as classic novelists are, and have plenty of literature written about them dating back to the Medieval Period.
Perhaps the most famous landmarks associated with these men (who may or may not have been real historical figures) are Sherwood Forest and Tintagel Castle, respectively. Sherwood Forest, home to Robin’s band of Merry Men, is located about an hour north of the city of Nottingham; it attracts 500,000 visitors annually. Across the country in the very Southwest corner is Tintagel Castle, which stands on the Cornwall coast. Here, the legendary Arthur Pendragon was allegedly born. Enjoy walking through the ruined castle and along the coast as you learn more about the legend of Britain’s most famous king.
Cost of Tintagel Castle: Free for members! Or £5.9 for adults.
Suggestion: For one-time visitors, pay the $10 to see the castle or just admire it from a distance…if you plan on returning frequently, it might be worth it to get a membership.
Whether you’re ready to take a no-expense-spared tourist trip to Europe or want to travel a little more conservatively, you don’t have to miss out on exploring England’s most famous literary historical sites. If you have the funds to see a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, you won’t regret it…but if not, it will be more than enough for a literature lover to see where the Bard was born and walk the streets of his birthplace. Buy souvenirs at 221B Baker Street and Dickens’ many museums…or just take plenty of pictures and make a scrapbook full of memories.
Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker whose pride and joy is her family. In addition to spending time with her husband and daughters, she loves traveling and blogging. She recently purchased a trailer from J&J Trailers that has been invaluable in her family’s frequent road trips.