Stunning Stories for Stay-cationers this Summer
Whilst some intrepid travellers may be jetting-off to foreign climes this summer, a great deal of us will be holidaying in good old Blighty. With its green and pleasant landscape, the United Kingdom boasts lush, rolling pastures, verdant valleys, shimmering lakes and waterways, and formidable, ancient rock formations. There is also a fine selection of literature steeped in the evocative atmosphere of Britain’s natural heritage. Come with us as we take a reader’s ramble around the choice destinations for a UK summer getaway.
The Lake District
Ranging across Cumbria in North West England, the Lakes have a stronger connection to great literature than many natural wonders of the British landscape. Its fells, woodlands and lakes have inspired the Romantic poetry of William Wordsworth and the anthropomorphic creations of Beatrix Potter, but perhaps the ultimate Lake District books are Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. Although the peaks and islands in the novels are fictionalised, they are extensively based on their real-life equivalents in and around Windermere and Coniston, and evoke hazy, long lost summer childhoods at play in the great outdoors.
On the tip of South West England nestles a county so mired in its own tradition and identity that it is practically a different country. Cornwall’s diverse coastlines – the wild, rugged North and the ‘Cornish Riviera’ of the South – may now be ideal locations for surfing and other water sports, but in centuries past they were hotbeds of smuggling and piracy. Dive in to the heady atmosphere of Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek to appreciate the maritime heritage of the beautiful county.
The Peak District
Spanning Derbyshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and South and West Yorkshire, the Peak District is renowned for its stunning mountainous terrain. Tors abound in the national park and these rocky outcrops are eulogised in Helen Mort’s Black Car Burning, a sensitive, brooding novel that revolves around the relationships between a group of climbers and the metaphorical connotations of the Peak District’s craggy environment.
Think Cotswolds and the mind automatically turns to ‘chocolate box’ cottages lining beautifully ordered and tidy village lanes. And when you think of literary English villages the mind automatically turns to genteel, decorous murder. MC Beaton’s frothy Agatha Raisin mysteries make the most of the picturesque Gloucestershire location.
Dorset is a county that has seen its fair share of history, from the country’s first ever Viking raid to the political cause célèbre of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Its chalk downs, limestone ridges and clay villages have led to over half the county being declared an area of outstanding natural beauty, whilst its Jurassic coastline makes a dramatic appearance in John Fowles’ postmodern masterpiece, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
Home to the national parks of Exmoor and Dartmoor, and the nexus of charming seaside towns known collectively as the English Riviera, Devon is more rural and layered in moorland than its South West neighbours. The trope of the ‘local’ Devonshire village, remote and cut off from modern society has recurred in fiction over the years, with Amanda Craig’s wickedly satirical The Lie of the Land being its most recent iteration.
The Highland Lochs
Best viewed shrouded in early evening mist, the Lochs that flow through the Scottish Highlands are strongly redolent of Celtic folklore and a certain mythical beast that may, or may not, reside in the largest of them. Kirsty Wark’s new novel The House by the Loch channels the sense of romantic grandeur and ancient mystery of these remarkable bodies of water.
The Brecon Beacons
The forbidding Brecon Beacons are a magnet for those holidaymakers looking for a more active and challenging vacation. The names of the peaks – Pen Y Fan, the Black Mountain - feel culled from Tolkien or some other pastoral fantasy, and the national park that houses these impressive mountain ranges is steeped in Welsh lore and archaic custom. Ronald Welch’s time-slip children’s novel The Gauntlet makes brilliantly atmospheric use of Carreg Cennen castle, located within the bounds of Brecon Beacons national park.
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