The UK’s top literature hot spots

Destinations

Posted by Sarah on 9th August 2022

The UK's top literature hot spots

The literary landscape of the United Kingdom is truly something to behold. After all, there’s a reason we boast some of the world’s most famous authors – from William Shakespeare and Jane Austen to Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter. 

With that in mind, holidaycottages.co.uk has collated the ten most popular literary locations to visit in the UK outside of London, ranking the bookish havens based on four factors: the number of books set in the location, the number of bookstores within 10 miles, the number of literary festivals within 10 miles, and the number of notable authors born there. 

So, if you’re a British bookworm looking for your next literary escape, keep reading to discover the UK’s top literature hot spots outside of London. 

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Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile

Edinburgh, Scotland

Topping the list of the UK’s literature hot spots is Edinburgh. The Scottish capital has a remarkable literary heritage: it’s home to the International Book Festival, where Scotland’s first book was published, and where some of the biggest names in Scottish writing resided. Think J.M. Barrie, Irvine Welsh, Robert Burns and even Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. In fact, Edinburgh’s reputation as a literary hub was officially endorsed in 2004, when it was crowned the world’s very first UNESCO City of Literature.  

Edinburgh truly is a bookish haven quite unlike any other, so if you want to take a trip there, make sure you visit the Writer’s Museum, Greyfriars Kirk, and the Scottish Poetry Library. 

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View of Belfast from the water

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Next up on our list of UK literary hot spots is Belfast, long renowned as a cultural and literary capital of the UK. As the homeplace to many famous Irish literary greats, the city has helped to inspire some brilliant minds: C.S. Lewis, Marie Jones, John Hewitt, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. 

And it’s not just the incredible writers that Belfast has inspired, but also the literary landmarks that it’s home to. For something to really write home about, make sure you visit the city’s oldest library, Linen Hall, C.S. Lewis Square, Belfast Central Library and Cave Hill – the inspiration behind Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels


Castlefield in Manchester showing the historic railway arches and the Hilton building

Manchester, Greater Manchester

Some might be surprised to see Manchester in third position. Perhaps better known for great music and talented football teams, Manchester might not be the first city that comes to mind when considering your next bookish adventure. But from Anthony Burgess and Elizabeth Gaskell to John Cooper Clarke and Jeanette Winterson, Manchester has a radical literary history that’s well worth exploring.

In fact, this Northern metropolis has now been named a UNESCO City of Literature, with so many fantastic literary landmarks to see. Be sure to visit the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Gaskell House, Plymouth Grove, and The Portico Library. 

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Oxford University

Oxford, Oxfordshire 

Home to the world-renowned university, it’s little wonder that Oxford ranks among the top literary hot spots in the UK. As a place for readers, writers and thinkers, the city has spawned some of the biggest names in literature, from J.R.R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll to Philip Pullman, Colin Dexter, and C.S. Lewis. 

Oxford has not only been a stomping ground for the literary elite, but has also inspired many of history’s greatest literary references, including the rolling hills of Hobbiton, the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and the Narnian wardrobe. Today, the literary locations of the city can be brought to life through landmarks like the Eagle and Child pub, Bodleian Library, Christ Church and, of course, Oxford University as a whole. 

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Brighton Royal Pavilion with water lilies

Brighton and Hove, East Sussex

Brighton and Hove is a city famed for its creative and culturally rich environment, so it makes sense that this seaside city is in the top five UK literary hot spots. Home to several greats, Brighton has produced some of the world’s most renowned writers, including Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, and Graham Greene. 

And when it comes to literary landmarks to visit, Brighton doesn’t disappoint, with Brighton Pier, Kipling Gardens, Royal Pavilion, Sussex Square, and the University of Sussex. If you time it just right, you might even catch the Brighton Festival – one of the largest and most established arts festivals in England, with events including live poetry and creative writing workshops. 

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A Roman bath in Bath

Bath, Somerset

Although probably most renowned for its ancient ruins and superb Georgian architecture, the city of Bath is also the 6th most popular literary hot spot in the UK. The city has been home to and the holiday setting for several iconic 18th and 19th-century English novelists and poets. We’re talking about the likes of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and William Wordsworth. 

Today, Bath continues to live up to its rich literary history, harbouring some of the most impressive bookish landmarks in the UK, including the Jane Austen Centre, Parade Gardens, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein, and the Royal Crescent. 

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The Millennium Centre in Cardiff

Cardiff, Wales

Wales has a long and proud literary heritage, and its capital has many admirable links to literature. The birthplace of poets Gillian Clarke and Gwyneth Lewis and the stomping ground of a young Roald Dahl, Cardiff is well-deserving of its seventh place finish in our list of literature hot spots. 

If you choose to visit Cardiff, be sure to leave some time to visit the Millennium Centre, which is adorned with the words of poet Gwyneth Lewis; Roald Dahl Plass, a public square dedicated to the author himself; and Cardiff’s shopping arcades, which are enshrined in Gillian Clarke’s poem, In a Cardiff Arcade, 1952

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The Liver Buildings and birds in Liverpool

Liverpool, England 

Liverpool is a city that values all kinds of creative talent, from music to art and literature. So why wouldn’t it feature on a list of the top 10 UK literature hot spots? After all, the city has inspired a handful of literary greats, such as Willy Russell, Beryl Bainbridge, and Carol Ann Duffy. 

When it comes to bookish places to visit in Merseyside, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Bluecoat is Liverpool’s contemporary arts centre and the oldest surviving building in central Liverpool, and a great place to visit to experience art in new and unique ways. Other must-visit places for book lovers include Liverpool Central Library and Kernaghan Books – a little bookshop in the courtyard of Bluecoat. 

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Lake Windermere in the Lake District

Lake District, Cumbria 

Perhaps best known for its vast bodies of water surrounded by outstanding countryside, the Lake District’s other claim to fame is the writers that were influenced by this wonderful landscape. In particular, the Lake District inspired many of the Romantic poets of the late 18th and 19th centuries, such as William Wordsworth, John Ruskin, and Samuel Coleridge, as well as many children’s authors like Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome. 

Today, visitors to the Lake District can visit Dove Cottage, the home of the renowned Romantic poet, William Wordsworth. Or take a trip to Beatrix Potter’s old haunt, Hill Top, where she wrote 13 of her 23 books, including the famous Peter Rabbit collection.

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View of Swansea from the sea

Swansea, Wales 

Last but not least, Swansea places tenth among the UK’s literary hot spots. Without a doubt, Swansea’s largest claim to literary fame is the writer Dylan Thomas, who was born in the Welsh city in 1914. He is known for his poignant poetry, books and plays. Thomas’ birthplace is now a museum and guest house where guided tours and events regularly take place. 

And just a stone’s throw from his birthplace sits Thomas’ childhood playground of Cwmdonkin Park, where you can see the drinking fountain that features in his poem, The Hunchback in the Park. In Swansea city centre, you’ll also find the Dylan Thomas Centre, home to a large exhibition dedicated to Thomas. 

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Map of the UK's literature hot spots

Map of the UK's literature hot spots


Literary holidays in the UK

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the literary wonders the UK has to offer, why not choose one of our cosy cottages? Whether you prefer a coastal break close to Brighton or a quirky cottage near Edinburgh, we’ve got a home away from home for you to enjoy your latest read!

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.