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Image credit: Rod Edwards/VisitBritain

Book Tours

in England

Take the kids on these amazing book tours around England. Diana Plater visits the homes of England's greatest writers, including Beatrix Potter, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, JM Barrie and Lewis Carroll.

Beatrix Potter

The Lake District, England
Is that Jemima Puddle-Duck I see swimming on a tarn (or small lake) at Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm? And Peter Rabbit being chased out of the veggie garden by Mr McGregor?


Born in London on 28 July 1866, Potter’s spirit fills every nook and cranny of her home and farm at Near Sawrey as I recognise illustrations from her books, which also include ‘Samuel Whiskers’ and ‘Tom Kitten’.


When she died in 1943, Potter left all her land to the National Trust, and now you can visit. It’s truly special exploring the fells on her land, often reached via kissing gates, where she collected fungi and botanical specimens and drew the inspiration for her tales.


The 150th anniversary celebrations will extend far and wide in 2016, with a Children’s Literary Festival at Wray Castle taking place on 5-6 March, while a series of storytelling events, a birthday party and a countrywide exhibition of Potter’s artwork round out the affair.



potter


Charlotte Bronte

West Yorkshire, England
In 2016 it will be 200 years since Charlotte, author of ‘Jane Eyre’ and other novels, was born on 21 April 1816. Her famous sisters died in their 20s, but she lived until she was 38 before dying, it’s believed, of severe morning sickness in 1855.


From 1820 the Brontë home became Haworth Parsonage, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum, where I wander entranced from room to room, each filled with simple furniture, clothes and the miniature books they made as children.


I marvel at how they wrote some of the greatest English novels ever published, including ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Shirley’ and ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’, at tiny writing desks in the front parlour.


Family events at the museum include drop-in art and craft activities, writing days, trails, dressing up and talks. In 2016 special exhibitions celebrating Charlotte’s anniversary will be held at the museum and at the National Portrait Gallery in London.


Charles Dickens

London, England
I’m exploring the back streets of Bloomsbury in London when I see a sign pointing to the Charles Dickens Museum and excitedly open the front door to 48 Doughty Street, referred to by the man himself as “My house in town”.


Two of the great 19th-century novelist and social campaigner’s daughters were born here; his sister-in-law, Mary, died here aged 17; and some of his best-loved novels were written here, including ‘Oliver Twist’.


Today, children can experience another era, trying on Victorian costumes and taking part in holiday events from storytelling and butter churning to craft activities. The museum also offers a walk through Dickensian London, where I recognise several scenes from his novels.


In fact I sense him everywhere in England - from the Thames, the scene of the exciting chase in ‘Great Expectations’, to St Saviour’s Dock, where Bill Skyes meets his demise in ‘Oliver Twist’.


dickensBronte

Image credit: Charles Dickens Museum

Image Credit: The Bronte Society

The ruins of Top Withens
To really get a feel for the sisters’ genius, take a walk outside the village past Brontë Falls to the ruins of Top Withens (supposedly the inspiration for Emily’s ‘Wuthering Heights’).

JM Barrie

Kirriemuir, Scotland

The search for eternal youth can take your family on a literary journey across Great Britain, beginning in London and ending in Scotland.


The author, who moved to Kensington Gardens in London as an adult, commissioned Sir George Frampton to build a now iconic statue that depicts Peter flying out of his nursery and landing beside the Long Water.


You can explore the author and playwright’s own life at his old home at Kirriemuir, a small weaving community in Scotland, where he was born on 9 May 1860. Visit the washroom where he rehearsed and performed his childhood plays, perhaps never knowing they would bring so much joy to adults and children alike.


Visit the National Trust for Scotland for more information.


Lewis Carroll

Cheshire, England
Lewis Carroll, the pen name of Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, spent his childhood in Daresbury village, where his father had been a minister.


He lived here until he was 11, from 1832 to 1843. As a lecturer at Oxford University he wrote ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (150 years ago in 2015) and ‘Through the Looking Glass’.


Displays and events as well as presentations by local children and adults at the All Saints Lewis Carroll Centre celebrate the author’s childhood at Daresbury, a village that feels as if it hasn’t changed since. And now I know where the Cheshire Cat came from!


aliceBronte House

Image Credit: VisitEngland/ExperienceOxfordshire

Home of the Brontës © Diana Plater

Shakespeare

2016 is a particularly apt time to visit as it marks 400 years since the death of Shakespeare and the beginning of commemorations and major theatre renovations in his home county of Warwickshire.


Journey to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where his family home and his school room at King George Edward VI School will be reopened to the public.


Little ones can take their ‘when I grow up’ musings to a whole new level on the Tudor Apprentice Trail, as they try their might as a 16th-century butcher or glover, while Shakespeare himself is transported through time as he guides visitors through the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, relating tales of his magnificent life and extensive works.


Shakespeare

Image credit: Visit England

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