One step into these whimsical places and it’s easy to see how famous authors were inspired to write some of the most cherished books of all time. If you’ve ever fantasised about experiencing the world of your favourite fictional characters, look no further than these incredible spots around the globe that have inspired some of the world’s greatest literature.
1. Top Withens, West Yorkshire, England
Inspired: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Top Withens is a now-ruined farmhouse said to have inspired the Earnshaw family home in Emily Brontë’s famous novel, Wuthering Heights. Despite the farmhouse bearing no real resemblance to the family home, the moorland ruin has a plaque affixed to the decaying walls noting that the farmhouse is associated with the novel. Top Withens and its surrounding countryside are popular destinations for both literature buffs and keen walkers alike. It’s a fairly easy walk to the farmhouse, although beware some steep steps.
2. Mark Twain Cave, Hannibal, Missouri, USA
Inspired: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
McDougal’s Cave, the fictitious exploration grounds of Tom Sawyer, is based on the very real McDowell’s Cave in Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, now known as Mark Twain Cave in honour of the author. Twain (real name Samuel Clemens) used real-life events to inspire his book, including the macabre antics of physicist Dr Joseph Nash McDowell, who purchased the cave and used it for grim experiments, including attempts to petrify the remains of his deceased daughter. It was suspected that McDowell would steal bodies from the local graveyard, which Twain weaved into the plot of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
You can take tours of the cave complex, which is now a National Natural Landmark.
Closest airports: Hannibal Regional Airport, Lambert-St Louis International Airport
3. The Elephant Café, Edinburgh, Scotland
Inspired: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
While J.K. Rowling famously said that she was inspired to write the Harry Potter series on a delayed train between Manchester and London, much of her writing was done in the Elephant Café in Edinburgh. A gourmet tea and coffee house, Rowling would take to writing in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle. Who knows, one visit and maybe you’ll suddenly be inspired to write the next best-seller!
Closest airport: Edinburgh Airport
The Hogwarts Express. J.K. Rowling wrote much of her beloved Harry Potter series in the Elephant Café in Edinburgh
4. Sands Point, New York, USA
Inspired: The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
‘Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans.’
Sands Point, a small village on the north shore of Long Island, was the inspiration for East Egg in Fitzgerald’s famous novel, the home of old money and highly respected residents, including Daisy and Tom Buchanan. A French Normandy-style mansion on Long Island’s Gold Coast, once owned by Fitzgerald’s friend Mary Harriman Rumsey, is said to have inspired the old-money mansion and lavish parties featured in The Great Gatsby.
5. Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, England
Inspired: Winnie The Pooh by AA Milne
Step back into your childhood and explore the gorgeous Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, where author AA Milne would take his now famous son Christopher Robin, which became the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood in the beloved Winnie The Pooh series. Once a medieval hunting forest, the tranquil parkland is now considered an Area of Outstanding Beauty, and is full of woodlands, small farms, ridges and open heathland.
Closest airport: London Gatwick Airport
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6. Hanging Rock, Victoria, Australia
Inspired: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
A foreboding volcanic formation in the heart of the Australian bush, one could be forgiven thinking they are in the middle of nowhere at Hanging Rock, despite only being just over an hour from the city of Melbourne. Here, walking trails weave through the unusual rock formations and local flora, creating the perfect setting for Joan Lindsay’s cult Australian novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Despite being a work of pure fiction, visitors still feel that they could simply disappear here, just as Miranda and her classmates did in a tale that has become somewhat Australian folklore.
Turned into an iconic film directed by Peter Weir in 1975 (and now a mini-series starring Natalie Dorman and Yale Stone released in 2018) Picnic at Hanging Rock remains one of Australia’s favourite stories.
7. Bath, England
Inspired: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Bath was home to the famous English author between 1801 and 1806, and is where she based her novel Persuasion, among others. So proud is Bath to have played a significant role in inspiring Austen that the town opened the Jane Austen Centre, where you can snap a selfie with a wax figurine of Austen or delight in a ‘Tea with Mr Darcy’ at the Regent Tearooms.
Closest airport: Bristol Airport
8. The Great Maytham Hall, Kent, England
Inspired: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Burnett’s own lavish country house, with its blooming and picturesque gardens, inspired one of the most beloved children’s books of all time, The Secret Garden. Despite publishing more than 50 novels and a series of plays, mostly aimed at an adult audience, Burnett’s most famous piece was that of the orphan Mary Lennox who came to her uncle’s gloomy English manor and discovered the hidden garden. Burnett channeled her own love of gardening in the story, and visitors today can wander the grounds and admire the real Secret Garden.
Closest airport: London Gatwick Airport
9. Lake District, England
Inspired:The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The absolutely gorgeous Lake District in the northwest corner of England is worth a visit for its sheer beauty alone – Beatrix Potter certainly did during her childhood, and it’s easy to see how the rugged mountains, sweeping countryside and glistening lakes inspired her delightful children’s tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck. A keen activist and conservationist, Potter bought up much land around the Lake District, and when she died she left 4,000 acres to the National Trust so her beloved countryside could be preserved for all to enjoy.
Closest airport: Manchester Airport
Beatrix Potter spent many childhood holidays in the Lake District, England, where she was inspired to write her classic children’s tales
10. Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire, England
Inspired: Dracula by Bram Stoker
Perched high above the town of Whitby, an eerie silhouette looms. So eerie was this ruined abbey that it inspired Bram Stoker, who was visiting Whitby on the Yorkshire coast in 1890, to write his vampire masterpiece Dracula. The impressive ruins of this abbey still exist, and one look at the immense gothic-style architecture overlooking the craggy, windswept coast, watching as the fog sets into the harbour town below, well, you can just imagine a vampire or two lurking around in the shadows.
Closest airport: Leeds Bradford Airport
11. The Big Woods, Wisconsin, USA
Inspired: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder lets us relive her incredible childhood travelling through the midwestern states of America during the 1870s and 1880s in her almost-autobiographical Little Houseseries. The first in this series,Little House in the Big Woods, is based on her memories of the actual Big Woods near Pepin, Wisconsin, where she grew up. Visitors can explore the forest playground of the real-life Laura and Mary, and can even visit a replica little wooden house, based on Wilder’s family home in the first book.
Closest airport: Minneapolis St Paul International Airport
These whimsical destinations don’t just exist on the pages of our favourite books. In fact, getting to them is easier than you think. Once you book your flight and airport transfer, ignite your inner author and explore the places that have inspired the world’s most loved literature.