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A Literature Lover’s Guide to Yorkshire

3 January 2019 | Emily May

When thinking of Yorkshire, you may find Dales, tea and terriers are the first things that spring to mind. But the county has also been home to many literary legends, who you can pay homage to by visiting the locations in our handy guide!

Whitby Abbey
With the longest day nearly here, where better for a literature lover to embrace the darkness than Whitby Abbey, the inspiration for Dracula by Bram Stoker. There’s plenty to sink your teeth into! Before you meander around the 13th century abbey ruins (which are gothic in both senses of the word!) why not test your endurance by climbing the 199 steps up from the town that Stoker’s mysterious animal bounded up after it came ashore on a deserted ship? Alternatively you could make a trip to the visitor’s centre which houses Anglo-Saxon and medieval artefacts from the abbey’s history, or take part in some of English Heritage’s spooky half term Halloween events, such as a theatrical showing of Dracula in the illuminated abbey ruins.

Image Credit: RichardHow via Flickr
Whitby Abbey is located at Abbey Lane, Whitby, YO22 JT
The World of James Herriot, Thirsk
If you love reading, and love animals, then you’ll probably love the work of James Herriot, the 20th century, Yorkshire-born veterinary surgeon, who wrote a series of books based on his experiences with animals and their owners. Whether you’ve never read them before, or a mega-fan of the Yorkshire vet, head to The World of James Herriot in Thirsk to find out what it would be like to be a busy country vet. You can walk through Skeldale House and see the beautifully restored 1940s rooms and vets surgery, explore the largest collection of James Herriot memorabilia, and even give a spot of acting a go in a mocked up film set from the BBC series based on Herriot’s books; All Creatures Great and Small. After visiting the museum, why not take a walk around the village and find some of the many filming locations also used in the TV show, such as what Herriot dubbed “the finest view in England”, better known as Sutton Bank.

Image Credit: The World of James Herriot via their website
The World of James Herriot is located at 23 Kirkgate, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, Y07 1PL
The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate
To add a bit of mystery (and hopefully not murder!) to your northern literary adventure, follow in Agatha Christie’s footsteps and book yourself into The Old Swan Hotel. The story goes that in 1926 the renowned crime writer went missing for 11 days after arguing with her husband about his affair and desire for a divorce. She was found in The Old Swan, which at the time was known as the Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate, registered under the name Mrs. Teresa Neele from Cape Town. Some believe the disappearance was the product of a nervous breakdown, whilst others speculate that it was a publicity stunt, or even an attempt to make the police think that her husband killed her to get revenge for his affair! Either way, at least it proves that the hotel is a perfect spot to get away from all the worries of your everyday life. You can even engage with the Christie connection at one of the hotel’s Murder Mystery events, which have a different theme each month, from a 1950s “how to murder a millionaire” story to special narratives for Halloween and Christmas!

Image Credit: The Old Swan Hotel Harrogate via Facebook
The Old Swan Hotel is located at Swan Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2SR
York Theatre Royal
Literature’s not just about books, it can also come to life on the stage! Yorkshire gave us Alan Bennet, one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th Century, who set many of his plays in the county. One of his most famous works,The History Boys, is imbued with dry northern wit and is based in a school in Sheffield. So, to pay homage to Yorkshire’s playwriting prowess, why not check out York Theatre Royal, one of the top theatres in Yorkshire’s eponymous city. They’re even putting on Alan Bennet’s award winning comedy masterpiece Single Spies in November, so Bennet buffs can enjoy the play in the writer’s native county. And, whilst you’re in York, don’t forget to drop into Betty’s tearoom for a traditional cream tea, as we’ve heard  Bennet was quite a fan of visiting their Ilkley branch…

Image Credit: York Theatre Royal via their website
York Theatre Royal is located at St. Leonard’s Place, York, YO1 7HD
Betty’s York is located at 6-8 St. Helen’s Square, York, YO1 8QP
Last but not least, a literary visit to Yorkshire would not be complete without paying homage to the novel in which the “wiley windy moors” it’s set on are arguably as iconic as the characters. Wuthering Heights was written by Emily Brontë in 1845/6, and the beloved tale of Cathy and her (literally!) undying love for Heathcliff is thought to be set on the moors around the village of Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived and wrote. Why not go for a dramatic walk across the moors, with the Kate Bush classic playing in your headphones of course, and then finish up back in the village with a visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum on Church Street, which contains the most comprehensive collection of Brontë manuscripts, letters, novels, poetry and secondary material in the world!

Image Credit: Vesna Armstrong via Flickr
The Brontë Parsonage Museum is located at Church Street, Haworth, Keighley, West Yorkshire, BD22 8DR

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