You don’t have to be a bibliophile to know the literary giants of English language hailing from England ! Names like Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Geoffrey Chaucer, Keats, Milton, Wordsworth, Tolkien are part of our lives in the form of movies, poems, plays, books and so much more. And if you happen to be a bookworm like me and devour English classics then a trip to England is like a literary pilgrimage.
I have grown up with books all around me especially Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer, as they were my dad’s favorite and I have vivid memories of him reading the original unabridged versions. I had in fact read majority of Shakespeare’s works by the time I was in grade 7. I have been swooning over Mr Darcy in the Hollywood as well as the Bollywood version of ‘Pride and Prejudice‘ ! And which true blue book lover has not read and wanted to the transported to ‘The middle earth‘ after immersing themselves in ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ ! So a visit to their birth and work places was a must for me while visiting England, for myself as well as for my father.
This is a compilation of authors I managed to pay homage to on my recent trip to England.
There is a good reason why William Shakespeare is referred to as the greatest writer in the English language. The bard is immortalized in his poems, comedies, tragedies and their countless adaptations to this date. We can all agree that he has influenced shaping the English language more than anyone else. I surely didn’t know that he created over 2000 new words and phrases like schoolboy, football, upstairs, downstairs !
You can visit Shakespeare’s house where he was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. He spent his childhood years in this beautifully restored 16th-century half-timbered house. It is now a small museum open to the public and is very popular. It feels like a Mecca for all literature lovers. There are guides dressed in period costumes explaining the details and lifestyle of Shakespeare’s childhood which is really fascinating. I was also truly taken by surprise to see bust of ‘Ravindra Nath Tagore‘ in the garden of his home, of course that is a later addition but it was unexpected indeed !
How To Go – Stratford-upon-Avon is around 167 km from London and takes around 2 hours on train from London Marylebone station. Coaches run from Victoria Coach station regularly to Stratford. It takes around 3 hours depending on the traffic. It is a easy day trip from London.
This is THE place to go when you want to see Shakespeare’s plays right in the middle of London ! Situated on the banks of river Thames, it’s easy to spot with the thatched roof as it is the only one allowed to have a thatched roof post the great fire of London.
2. Jane Austen
The fans of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield park head straight to ‘City of Bath’. Bath was home to Jane Austen for 5 years and many of her works are based and inspired from her time in Bath. You can visit ‘The Jane Austen Centre’, a permanent exhibition dedicated to her. Take the walking tours to follow her footsteps ! I for one am a big fan of hers and was exhilarated to be at this inspiring place.
Here is my low down on Jane Austen’s Bath !
How To Go – There are frequent trains from London Paddington to Bath and takes around 1.5 hours to reach. National Express Coach runs frequent services from London Victoria coach station, Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport to Bath bus station.
3. Geoffrey Chaucer
When I started planning my UK trip, the one place I knew for sure I would be visiting was Canterbury ! I had heard enough from my dad about ‘Tales of Canterbury’ and his absolute devotion to Geoffrey Chaucer. The book is a collection of stories told by fictional pilgrims on the road to the Canterbury Cathedral that helped to shape English literature !
The stories of the pilgrims are painted on window glasses in the Cathedral and are stunning to say the least ! Today after hundreds of years, they stand in all their glory as a testimony to a bygone era and you are left spellbound.
There is also a museum dedicated to Chaucer a short distance from the Cathedral.
How To Go – There are frequent trains from London to Canterbury and takes roughly 1.5 hours to reach. You can board trains from London Victoria, St Pancras and Charing Cross stations. National Express Coach too runs an hourly service between London Victoria and Canterbury.
4. J.R.R. Tolkien
Who hasn’t read or at least seen ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ and/or ‘The Hobbit‘ ! If you haven’t, please DO IT NOW !! I wanted to see the hallowed portals where Tolkien studied and naturally headed to Oxford. It is one of THE most inspiring place I have been to ! The students cycling along the alleys, the intellectual atmosphere, the history seeped in every stone is electrifying.
All the shops here carried testimony to their illustrious alumni by commercializing it 😉 . I didn’t mind honestly, picked up a few things for my kids especially my son who is currently reading ‘The Hobbit’.
How To Go – You can take a train from London Paddington which runs every half an hour, and takes approximately one hour. Special buses called Oxford tube and X90 also go from London’s Victoria Station every 12-20 minutes,and takes around 100 minutes depending on the traffic.
5. J.K Rowling
I was introduced to Harry Potter by my kids as may be the case with many moms like me 🙂 . One read through of the book or even the movie and most of us are drawn into it hook, line and sinker ! Even though the first book of the series was penned in Edinburgh, J.K Rowling as well as the series is as English as it gets.
J.K Rowling was not accepted in Oxford but she did take inspiration from the revered university ! Remember the scar on Harry Potter’s forehead ? It comes from this on a road in Oxford right outside the Brasenose College.
6. Arthur Conan Doyle
‘My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.’
How many of you secretly believe that Sherlock Holmes was all too real and not fictional as told by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ? The fans of Sherlock Holmes have to just trot over to the ‘Sherlock Holmes Museum‘ in Baker street in London where many of the stories began. It is captivating to see the setting exactly like the books. I kept expecting to see Dr. Watson suddenly springing up from some corner.
How To Go – Located on 221 B Baker Street, it is a short walk from the Baker Street tube station.
I wish I had the time to explore Charles Dickens, Thomas hardy, Agatha Cristie, Lewis Carroll and the scores of literary stalwarts from England, but time was not on my side. Hopefully there is a next time for me !
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