Activities, Tours, Trails and Holidays
Jane Austen 200th Anniversary Tour, various locations
Against a nostalgic backdrop of small villages and stately homes, Jane Austen's novels take their readers back to an idyllic 19th Century England. Having successfully run Jane Austen tours for several years, this new celebratory trip from Tours International includes special anniversary events and exhibitions, as well as the houses which inspired the grand homes in Austen’s novels and visits to Jane's childhood home in Steventon; Chawton and the museum of Austen memorabilia; Winchester, where she died and is buried; Lyme Regis, which featured in Persuasion; the British Library to see her writing desk and manuscript; and many more! All enhanced by Georgian-style afternoon teas and classic pub lunches. Travel and accommodation (excluding flights) will be organised for you.
CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien Tour, Oxford
This specialist tour covers the regular haunts of the two most famous writers in the Inklings, Oxford’s legendary literary group. Led by an expert guide, the tour visits the pub the Inklings met in, the colleges associated with the two writers, and sites that offer a glimpse into the imaginary worlds created by the pair. The tour runs once a month on a Saturday throughout 2017.
Discover England’s Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy tours, southern England
Discover England Tours has tours dedicated to two giants of English literature. New for 2017, to mark the 200th anniversary of the writer’s death, is the four-night Jane Austen Literary Tour, which visits: Austen’s family homes; Bath and Lyme Regis, which both inspired Austen; her grave in Winchester Cathedral; and film locations from screen adaptations of the author’s novels. Not new but decidedly noteworthy in VisitEngland’s Year of Literary Heroes is the two-day Thomas Hardy Literary Tour. It visits: Dorset villages typical of Hardy’s novels; places that inspired some of his finest works; Hardy’s cottage and birthplace as well as his later home; the church where his heart is buried next to his two wives; and the extensive Hardy Collection in Dorset County Museum.
Sherlock Holmes 125th Anniversary Tour, various locations
The year 2017 marks the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes publication – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1892. This new anniversary tour, which has been adapted from the previous Sherlock Holmes tour, retraces Sir Conan Doyle's steps, visiting his favourite haunts in London and the South-East, plus the locations which inspired him when writing about the renowned detective. Tour highlights include 221B Baker Street – now the Sherlock Holmes museum showcasing a recreation of his study and Dr Watson's bedroom; the Langham Hotel which famously hosted a dinner between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde; Doyle's house in Crowborough and Groombridge Place, scene of The Valley of the Fear; and many more!
New trails added to ‘Tess's Journey’ – Foot Trails’ Hardy Tales walking trip, Dorset
Discover Dorset with this inn-to-inn style walking trip which enables guests to walk in the footsteps of one of the most well-known characters of Hardy's novels, Tess D'Urbervilles. New trails include exploring on foot the magnificent views of Shaftesbury, the “Shaston” of Thomas Hardy’s novels, one of the oldest and highest towns in England, which dominates what Hardy called the “engirdled and secluded” Blackmore Vale. Each holiday is tailored to suit guests’ requirements and the season. From £565 per person for 4 nights, including all transfers.
New trail added to Somerset Knights Quest experience, South Somerset and Dorset
Foot Trails have introduced a new independent trail of 8/11 miles to the Somerset Knights Quest experience, which offers peaceful trails across rural Somerset – where you can explore stunning castles, historic stone villages and a hill fort where legends of King Arthur and his knights resound. The new trail will incorporate villages and locations at Dorset borders that have a strong Saxon history and story to tell – right at the time Arthur is said to have existed. You will stay at a 17th country inn and the holiday will be planned for you to your dates and for how long you wish to stay. Prices start from £320 per person for 3 nights. Explore this area steeped in history, legends and ancient stories as King Arthur fever spreads across the country ahead of the release of the film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword in May.
Celebrate 80 years of The Hobbit with a journey through Tolkien country with Drifters’ canal boat holiday, Worcester & Birmingham Canal
Take a narrow boat to explore some of the landscapes that inspired Tolkien’s masterpiece The Hobbit, which will be celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2017. Tolkien spent much of his childhood exploring the village of Sarehole (now Hall Green), Moseley Bog, the Malvern Hills, and nearby Bromsgrove, Alcester and Alvechurch. On a short break with Drifters, travel lock-free to the village of Lapworth and back. On a week’s holiday, cruise the Stourport Ring, including a section of the River Severn and the cathedral City of Worcester. Short break prices on a boat for four start at £520 in 2017, weekly hire from £800.
The Forbidden Forest opens at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
31 March 2017
The latest permanent addition to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter is the Forbidden Forest. Visitors will come face to face with the enormous spider Aragog the Acromantula and bow to Buckbeak the Hippogriff as they wander through 19 trees, each with a diameter of over 12 feet. The Forest will showcase the detail and craftsmanship that went into creating the Forest’s magical creatures, and demo techniques used by filmmakers to control the weather.
New Beatrix Beyond Hill Top tour, Ambleside, Cumbria
April – October (every second Saturday)
This new tour takes you beyond the familiar Hill Top setting, Beatrix Potter's 17th-century farmhouse that helped inspire many of her tales, to see the whole of Beatrix Potter's legacy in the village of Near Sawrey. Discover how modern day Sawrey still retains many of the views Beatrix was determined to preserve and find out how those living in the village today, inspired by Beatrix, are finding new ways to make a living from farming and from the fleece of Herdwick sheep descended from Beatrix Potter's own flocks. Priced at £25 per adult, including entry to Hill Top and exclusive access to the farmyard and Castle Cottage.
The Hardy Way walking tour, Dorset/Wiltshire
1 April – 31 October 2017
Inntravel’s new walking tour, The Hardy Way, follows the footsteps of Thomas Hardy characters along Britain’s first literature-themed long-distance path. Inntravel collaborated with Margaret Marande, author of The Hardy Way – A 19th-century Pilgrimage, to create this six-night self-guided holiday that cherry-picks the highlights of her 220-mile curated walk through Hardy’s quintessential Wessex landscapes.
The first Deepings Literary Festival, Lincolnshire
28 – 30 April
The first ever Deepings Literary Festival is a festival for everyone who enjoys words – the written word, the spoken word, the recited word and the sung word too. Over three days, the Deepings will host a stellar cast of writers of both fiction and non-fiction, storytellers and folk singers. Amongst this year’s speakers will be Alison Weir, acclaimed British novelist and historian, who will speak about Fotheringhay and the fall of Mary Queen of Scots. Fans of Erica James will have a chance to have lunch with the popular author and aspiring authors can attend a workshop with novelist Louise Doughty. The star event is a black tie gala dinner with writer, broadcaster and former MP, Gyles Brandreth.
New cultural tour of Cornwall
29 April 2017
HF Holidays new ‘Artists and Writers in Cornwall’ tour will follow in the footsteps of Daphne Du Maurier, Barbara Hepworth and Poldark as it explores top Cornish artistic centres such as St Ives, Fowey and Charlestown. The seven-night tour departs 29 April 2017.
New Hound of the Baskervilles-themed pub to feature on specialist tour, Devon
The Royal Oak pub in Ashburton will have a Hound of the Baskervilles theme when it reopens, earning it a place on Unique Devon Tours’ The Hound of the Baskervilles Tour itinerary. The tour covers the
Archaeologist Guided Tours of King Arthur’s Glastonbury, Stonehenge and Avebury
May – September (select dates)
This feature-packed archaeological tour takes in the iconic stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury, and delves into the legend and archaeology of King Arthur’s Glastonbury. The film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword will be released in May, so brush up on your Arthurian knowledge and visit locations associated with the fables. Leaving from London by luxury bus, this Stonehenge tour will explore its iconic standing stones and broader landscape with expert analysis by our archaeologist guides. Midday on towards the Isle of Avalon, following delightful back roads until Glastonbury Tor where legend tells us King Arthur was brought after being mortally wounded in battle and then the enigmatic ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, Arthur's place of burial. Finish by visiting the largest stone circle in Europe at Avebury, with its beautiful medieval village situated inside. Adults £99; Senior/Child £95.
New Tennyson Trail leaflet, Lincolnshire
Ahead of the 125th anniversary in October of the death of Alfred, Lord Tennyson a new Tennyson Trail leaflet is being launched in Lincolnshire in May. Tennyson (1809-1892) was born and brought up in the Lincolnshire Wolds, and the gentle rolling landscape provided inspiration for some of his early work. Visitors to the county are able to follow in the footsteps of the famous poets on the Tennyson Trail including Somersby where he was born and spent his early years, the countryside that inspired him, picturesque Tetford, where the 16th-century White Hart Inn served as the poet’s local, and Tennyson’s ‘haunt of ancient peace’ at Gunby Hall, near Spilsby. The trail also features the Lincolnshire coast including Mablethorpe where Tennyson spent his childhood holidays.
Row the Literary Thames, Oxford to London
3 September (new dates may be added)
What better way of illuminating England’s most famous literary heroes than by rowing the river that inspired them? Row England will be running new, fully guided literary-themed rowing trips, starting in Oxford with a picnic on the very spot on the banks of the Thames in Godstow where, in July 1865, the real life Charles Dodgson entertained Alice Liddell with fantastical stories; Charles Dodgson wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll, and the tales he told were recorded in the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You’ll also stop at Marlow, where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein; Cookham Deane, where as a child Kenneth Grahame was inspired to write Wind in the Willows; Mapledurham House, the real life inspiration for Toad Hall – to name a few! A seven day trip costs £1400 and includes accommodation in cosy riverside inns and classic hotels.
Attractions and Exhibitions
Strange Worlds: Visions of Angela Carter at the RWA, Bristol
Until 19 March
The Royal West of England Academy presents a major exhibition which brings together art and literature to explore the enormous impact of author, journalist and magical realist Angela Carter - one of the most distinctive literary voices of the last 100 years. Alongside painting, sculpture, drawing and film, the show includes illustrations from Carter's books, manuscripts, photographs and personal artefacts, giving a compelling insight into her visual imagination.
Jane Austen Among Family and Friends, The British Library, London
Until 19 February
To mark the bicentenary of the death of one of England’s most-loved writers, Jane Austen, the British Library are bringing together writings from Austen’s formative teenage years for the first time in 40 years. The British Library are uniting the three treasured notebooks that Austen kept of her teenage writings, which include The Beautiful Cassandra, a story dedicated to Austen’s sister, and a spoof history of England featuring illustrations of the Kings and Queens by Cassandra Austen. The exhibits reveal family joys and sorrows which shaped the writer: one letter tells of Austen’s sorrow on the death of her father, while a poem expresses the joy Austen felt on the birth of her nephew.
JRR Tolkien in Staffordshire, Stafford Library, Staffordshire
Until 27 February
This touring exhibition focuses on JRR Tolkien’s Staffordshire connections, particularly the time he spent in Staffordshire during the First World War. Copies of original artwork, such as domestic scenes and landscapes drawn in Staffordshire by Tolkien in 1918, are included along with photographs especially loaned by the Tolkien Estate and Bodleian Library. The exhibition was in Lichfield Library from 19 November 2016 – 8 January 2017 before moving to Stafford Library. Admission is free.
Medieval Manuscripts of Cirencester Abbey 900, Corinium Museum, Gloucestershire
16 January – 21 May
Revel in this rare opportunity to see the Abbey 900 manuscripts which were housed in Cirencester Abbey Library at its Dissolution in 1539, before being displayed in the Cotswolds market town. Loaned to the Corinium Museum by the Bodleian Library and Jesus College Oxford, the centuries old manuscripts will form part of the major celebrations to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the founding of Cirencester’s Augustinian Abbey of St Mary, by King Henry 1 in 1117. These year-long celebrations will include concerts, photography and flower competitions, guided walks of the abbey, athletics events, performing arts and two re-enactments.
Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle
11 March – 8 July
This exhibition from House of Illustration gives a unique insight into the origins of some of Quentin Blakes most characteristic and popular creations, from his illustrations for Roald Dahls classic Childrens books to The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams. Inside Stories showcases Blake’s first roughs, storyboards and finished artworks, demonstrating how his ideas evolve, as well as his use of a wide range of different techniques and media to create his distinctive and unforgettable illustrations, including inks, watercolours and pastels.
The Word-Hoard: Love Letters to Our Land at Wordsworth House, Cumbria
11 March – 3 September
A stunning new exhibition at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth celebrates the beauty of our landscape and the evocative language once used to describe it. Guest-curated by award-winning author Robert Macfarlane, The Word-Hoard: Love Letters to Our Land features breath-taking images by his parents, Cumbrian photographers Rosamund and John. The exhibition builds on themes Macfarlane explored in his best-selling book Landmarks, responding to startling deletions from the Oxford Junior Dictionary, which ranged from acorn and bluebell to otter and wren. Free with entry to the house and garden.
Arnold Bennett: In Life and Art, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
18 February – 2 July
Dipping into the museum’s world-class Arnold Bennett collections of artworks, personal possessions and clothing, photographs, documents and ephemera, this exhibition creates new perspectives on the man, his life and times, marking the 150th anniversary of his birth.It will draw on many of the artefacts, watercolours and other Bennett materials held in the Museum’s collection, many of which have not been on public display before.
The Gruffalo River Ride adventure opening at Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey
Opening 18 March
Based on the best-selling children's book by Julia Donaldson, visitors will join the story's brave mouse character on a magical riverboat journey through the deep dark wood. As you float down the lazy river, the world of The Gruffalo will magically unfold in front of your eyes, with exciting twists and turns along the way!
Draw New Mischief exhibition, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire
25 February – 15 September
This new exhibition celebrates more than two centuries of political cartoons inspired by Shakespeare,
including historic and recent political cartoons and new commissions by five cartoonists. Shakespeare’s plays have been a touchstone for cartoonists who have drawn upon them to comment upon the political events and personalities of their time. Shakespeare’s incredible capacity to reflect human behaviour continues to provide cartoonists with a ready stock of rich imagery that resonates with the reading public. The exhibition is free.
The Forbidden Forest, Warner Bros Studio Tour, London
This exciting, permanent expansion to the Studio is dedicated to the Forbidden Forest, a place strictly off-limits to ‘Hogwarts’ students, but ready to be explored by the public. As you venture deeper into the forest, you’ll come face to face with its majestic creatures, and see the magnificent detail and craftsmanship that went into creating each one.
Lincolnshire’s Tennyson Research Centre, Lincolnshire
Previously housed in the dome of Lincoln Central Library, this spring Lincolnshire’s Tennyson Research Centre is moving to a new home and will offer increased visitor access to a huge array of historic manuscripts, proofs, letters, photographs and personal belongings. Previously, anyone wanting to view the collection had to make an appointment, but from April there will be more public access without the need to book at the new Centre, within the Lincolnshire Archives on Rumbold Street, Lincoln. Collection highlights feature Tennyson’s Library, containing over 3,000 books reflecting his intellectual curiosity and often annotated by the poet himself, as well as around 200 proofs of Tennyson’s poetry, many significantly corrected in the poet’s own hand, including altered galley proofs of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. Among almost 9,000 letters is one of sympathy from Queen Victoria to Tennyson on the death of his son and another from Prince Albert asking the poet for his autograph, while personal possessions include his pipes, spectacles, hat and cloak. The move is following the recent restoration, thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding, of Somersby’s St Margaret’s Church, the 15th century church where Tennyson’s father was rector.
Reopening of the Lyme Regis Museum, Dorset
The Lyme Regis Museum will be reopening in 2017 after a major refurbishment that began in September 2016. The museum has fantastic literary collections on Jane Austen, John Fowles and Tracey Chevalier. Lyme holds a number of connections with respected writers, many of whom are represented in the museum, these include: Henry Fielding, Jane Austen, Francis Palgrave, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien and Tracy Chevalier.
Fickle Fortunes: Jane Austen and Germaine de Staël, Chawton House Library, Hampshire
12 June – October
July 1817 saw two deaths: Jane Austen, and Germaine de Staël a long-standing superstar of pan-European intellectual, political and literary life. This four month exhibition will present related items in the library’s own collection alongside rare items sourced from other international research libraries. During the exhibition Chawton House Library will host an international conference: ‘Reputations, Legacies, Futures: Jane Austen, Germaine de Staël, and their contemporaries.’
Jane Austen by the Sea, Royal Pavilion, Brighton
17 June 2017 – 8 January 2018
This display in the Royal Pavilion will explore Jane Austen’s relationship with coastal resorts, and life in Brighton during her time, to mark the bicentenary of her death. It will paint a picture of the fashionable watering hole in the early 1800s, when it was a thriving garrison town featured in Austen’s novels alongside other towns all along the south coast. Curator Dr Alexandra Loske has gathered items including one of Jane Austen’s music books, rare manuscripts and letters and key loans yet to be announced. These will sit alongside prints, paintings and caricatures of the resorts and fashions popular with coastal visitors in Austen’s lifetime, and original Regency costumes from Brighton & Hove’s own collection.
Arthur Rackham in Sussex: A 150th Birthday Celebration, Bateman’s, East Sussex
8 September – 29 October
To celebrate the 150th birthday of Arthur Rackham, the National Trust Bateman’s House, the former home of Rudyard Kipling, is hosting an exhibition of his works, particularly focusing on his illustrations of Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill and other work in Sussex. These will be accompanied by modern art and music responses inspired by his legacy, as well as art workshops and competitions, and public talks. The wonderful illustrator of many children’s books, including Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Wind in the Willows, and Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill, Arthur Rackham is widely considered a leader of the Golden Age of Illustration.
Saving Shakespeare’s Birthplace: The 170th Anniversary
This temporary exhibition celebrates the 170th anniversary of when the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was formed. It shows how Charles Dickens spearheaded the campaign to save Shakespeare's Birthplace for the nation, supported by theatrical re-enactment of the purchase of the Birthplace.
New Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library
20 October 2017 – 28 February 2018
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the British Library will host a new exhibition dedicated to the magic of Harry Potter. The exhibition will be the first of its kind to celebrate a single series of books by a living author. Exhibits will include previously unseen materials from author JK Rowling and the book’s publisher Bloomsbury, as well as magical treasures from the British Library’s own collection of wizarding books.
Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring A Classic, London
16 December 2017 – 8 April 2018
The unique exhibition will explore the success of Winnie-the-Pooh and the relationships that created him, including Christopher Robin’s make-believe with his toys and the collaboration between Milne as author and Shepard as illustrator. Designed for both children and adults, the exhibition will draw on the V&A’s collection of pencil sketches, proofs, letters and photographs, and many key loans. In addition, the original manuscript of Winnie-the-Pooh from the Wren Library at Trinity College will be on display for the first time at the V&A.
Inspired by the Word, various galleries
A fascinating exhibition by contemporary artists celebrating the literature of Hampshire writers – Jane Austen, Edward Thomas and Gilbert White. Winchester Cathedral, Gilbert White’s garden at The Wakes in Selborne, Petersfield Physic Garden and Museum (new galleries), Chawton House Library and the Red House Museum garden, Christchurch, will showcase sculpture, letter carving and works in other media. 2017 marks the bicentenary of the death of Jane Austen in Winchester and the centenary of the death of Edward Thomas at Arras.
Memorial to J. R. R. Tolkien, Pembroke College, Oxford
Prominent metal sculptor, public artist, and great nephew of J. R. R. Tolkien, Tim Tolkien is preparing to complete his next piece - a memorial to his great uncle to be sited under the window of his old college rooms at Pembroke College, Oxford. The project has finally come to fruition after much time spent fundraising and gaining English heritage permission as the exterior walls of the old quadrangle are grade 2 listed. The memorial is expected to be unveiled this academic year, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit.