The Oxford University City, in the top of tower in St Marys Church. All Souls College, England

BookTok: The Best UK Destinations for Book Lovers

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Literature lovers unite

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The recent rise of the staycation has reinforced something books have been teaching us for centuries: you don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re in another world. As the world’s largest exporter of books, the UK is a fruitful land full of authors, literary festivals, book shops, and destinations that inspire novelists to write. As #BookTok approaches 65 billion views on TikTok, Holiday Cottages have analysed the UK’s literary scene to reveal the best UK destinations for book lovers outside London, considering the number of bookstores, literary festivals, books set in the location, and number of authors who were born, lived, or worked there. Are you a book lover looking for staycation inspiration? These are the best UK destinations for book lovers to visit this summer.

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BookTok: The Best UK Destinations for Book Lovers

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An aerial view of Swansea Bay, South Wales, UK, showing Victoria Park to the city centre

10. Swansea

Perfect for: Dylan Thomas fans

Claiming Dylan Thomas – who was born in the south Wales city in 1914 – as their most famous literary export, Swansea is an unexpected literary destination, prime property for poetry lovers. Perhaps best known for his ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good night’ and ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’, Thomas is known for his poignant poetry, books and plays, and his birthplace in Swansea is now a museum and guest house where guided tours and events regularly take place. There’s also the Dylan Thomas Centre in the city centre, and in Thomas’ childhood playground, Cwmdonkin Park, you can see the drinking fountain that features in his poem, ‘The Hunchback in the Park’. 

Bookspiration: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas

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Postcard type photograph of the beautiful English Lakes in the Lake District

9. The Lake District

Perfect for: Romantic poetry fans

Known for its vast lakes and outstanding natural beauty, the Lake District has been adored throughout time (most recently, Taylor Swift). Most famously, though, the Lake District was revered by many of the Romantic Poets – also known fittingly as the Lake Poets – in the 18th and 19th centuries, namely William Wordsworth, John Ruskin, and Samuel Coleridge. 

Bookshop lovers should attempt The Dales & Lakes Bookshop Trail, or those more interested in the history of the Lakes as a literary destination can take a trip to Dove Cottage, the home of William Wordsworth, or to Beatrix Potter’s old haunt, Hill Top, where she wrote 13 of her 23 books, including the famous Peter Rabbit collection. And, as Taylor Swift sings in ‘the lakes’, those Windermere peaks really do look like the perfect place to cry. 

Bookspiration: Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Albert Dock,Liverpool,UK.

8. Liverpool

Perfect for: Lyric lovers

The Merseyside city has, throughout time, valued all kinds of creative talent – most famously, The Beatles. Though lyricists are arguably some of the most successful writers of our time – Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature emphasises this – Liverpool has also inspired a handful of traditional literary greats, such as Willy Russell, Beryl Bainbridge, and Carol Ann Duffy. 

When it comes to bookish places to visit in Merseyside, book lovers will be spoilt for choice. Bluecoat is Liverpool’s contemporary arts centre and the oldest surviving building in central Liverpool – 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.

Bookspiration: The Mersey Sound (anthology)

 

View of City Hall of Cardiff - Wales, Great Britain

7. Cardiff

Perfect for: Reminiscing the novels of your youth

Wales has a rich literary history, and the capital is fittingly similar: poets Gillian Clarke and Gwyneth Lewis were both born here, and a young Roald Dahl spent much time here. Book lovers should be sure to leave some time to visit: the Millennium Centre, which is adorned with the words of poet Gwyneth Lewis; the 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’.

Bookspiration: Boy by Roald Dahl

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Aerial view of Pulteney bridge in Bath, England

6. Bath

Perfect for: Jane Austen fans

Although probably most known for its ancient ruin, spas, and superbly preserved Georgian architecture, Bath, Somerset is also a hot literary 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, including Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, and William Wordsworth. But it is really because of Jane Austen that literature lovers flock here – try the Jane Austen Centre and the Parade Gardens, or simply walk the stunning streets to feel like you’re a promenading Austen character (or, more recently, a Bridgerton character). 

Bookspiration: Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are both set in Bath, but any of her novels will do the trick

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Brighton pier at sunset

5. Brighton and Hove

Perfect for: Seaside crime fans

A wonderful culture trip regardless, this seaside city has produced some of the world’s most renowned writers, including Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, and Graham Greene, making it an ideal destination for book lovers. There’s literary landmarks galore to book: Brighton Pier, Kipling Gardens, the 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. 

Bookspiration: Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

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The Oxford University City, in the top of tower in St Marys Church. All Souls College, England

4. Oxford

Perfect for: Dark academia fanatics, fantasy lovers

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, with bookshops galore, the literary locations of the city can be brought to life through landmarks like the Eagle and Child pub, Bodleian Library, Christ Church College and, of course, Oxford University as a whole. 

Bookspiration: For old timey Oxford, try Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh; fantasy lovers, opt for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series (and visit Will and Lyra’s bench in the Botanical Gardens).

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Aerial view of Manchester city in UK on a beautiful sunny day.

3. Manchester

Perfect for: Political fiction fans

Manchester: a northern powerhouse known for its music scene and football teams – and, perhaps unexpectedly, it’s also a great destinations for book lovers (it is a UNESCO City of Literature, after all). From Anthony Burgess and Elizabeth Gaskell to John Cooper Clarke and Jeanette Winterson, Manchester has a radical literary history that’s well worth exploring. Be sure to visit the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Gaskell House, Plymouth Grove, and The Portico Library, home to the prestigious literary prize, the Portico Prize.

Bookspiration: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell; Little Wilson and Big God by Anthony Burgess

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Long Exposure over the Lagan River over to the Custom House in Belfast, Northern Ireland

2. Belfast

Perfect for: Irish history buffs

Next up on our list of UK literary hotspots 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.

Bookspiration: The Belfast Anthology by Patricia Craig

Edinburgh cityscape as viewed from the Calton Hill with the Dugald Stewart Monument in foreground in the evening sun

1. Edinburgh

Perfect for: Book lovers across the board

Topping the list of the UK’s literature hotspots 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. There’s also independent bookstores galore; try the Rare Birds Bookshop (brick and mortar front of the popular Rare Birds Book Club subscription box) for a lovely dose of feminism – they only sell books by women.

Bookspiration: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series

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Featured Image: Bodleian Library, Oxford (via Getty)

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