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A Literature Lover’s Guide to Hampshire

Image credit: @JimCallender via Twitter

With Christmas on the horizon and the temperature plummeting, there is nothing better than snuggling up with a book and a cuppa. At this time of year, many of us choose to return to our old favourites, from Dickens to Austen, to remind us of Christmases past. As it happens, both authors have connections to Hampshire, a picturesque English county that is beautiful at the best of times, not to mention at “the most wonderful time of the year.” That’s why we decided to head to Hampshire for our Christmas Literature Lover’s Guide.

Jane Austen’s House Museum, Chawton
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book-lover visiting Hampshire must be in search of some Austen. And they won’t have far to look, as the beloved romantic novelist is one of the most famed literary residents of this southern county. She wrote many of her major works in her Chawton home, which now houses the Jane Austen’s House Museum, which is describe as the most treasured Austen site in the world. Peruse this charming Grade I listed building and discover a multitude of Austen’s personal effects, including hand written letters, jewellery, first editions, and even the table where she wrote her timeless tales. Once you’ve explored the house, make sure you don’t miss a stroll around the cottage garden; after all, as Jane wrote in Mansfield Park “to sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment”. Having said that, at this time of year you might not want to spend too long out in the chilly air! So after your garden-gazing, be sure to warm up at Cassandra’s Cup, the café opposite the museum, which is named after Jane’s sister. Surely no ending could be more perfect than a mug of hot chocolate whilst reading your favourite Austen novel?
Jane Austen’s House Museum is in Chawton, Hampshire, GU34 1SD
Cassandra’s Cup is located at The Hollies, Winchester Road, Chawton, Hampshire, GU34 1SB

Why not visit Hampshire with a Macmillan Collectors Edition book to accompany you? We're giving away The Jane Austen Collection to one of our Culture Calling readers. Enter here.

Charles Dickens' Birthplace Museum, Portsmouth
When it comes to Yuletide literature, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has to be top of the pile. So if you’re looking for a festive literary landmark to visit, take a trip to the birthplace of the author who introduced us to one of the most infamous characters in Christmas culture, Ebenezer Scrooge. The Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum in Portsmouth features three furnished rooms, including the one in which Charles was born, all faithfully decorated in the Regency style that the Dickens family favoured. The Museum is usually closed for the entirety of the winter months, but this year you’re in luck, as they will be opening on 19th December to celebrate 175 years since the publication of A Christmas Carol. God bless us, everyone!
Image credit: Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum via Facebook

The Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum is located at 393 Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth, PO1 4QL
Keats’ Walk, Winchester
What’s more Christmassy than a wonderful wintry walk in the December frost? Especially after a slap-up dinner? Choose from Winchester’s plethora of pubs for a Sunday roast with all the trimmings before you follow in the footsteps of one of the nation’s most beloved Romantic poets, John Keats. The Keats Walk mirrors Keats' own daily route during his restorative stay in Winchester in 1819, whilst he was consumed by love and poor health. Despite his sad reasons for being in the Hampshire town, his visit proved fruitful, as it inspired his seminal poem Ode to Autumn. Maybe you’ll feel similarly enlightened and inspired as you meander past beautiful sights including Winchester Cathedral, Cheyney Court (one of Winchester’s most photographed buildings) and St Catherine’s Hill.
You can download the map of Keats’ Walk from the Visit Hampshire website.
Flora Thompson & Edward Thomas Walks, Liphook & Steep
If you’ve caught the winter walking bug, then make your way to the nearby villages of Liphook and Steep in Hampshire for two more literary routes to follow, perfect for beating the Boxing Day blues. First up is the Flora Thompson circular walk in Liphook, which tracks many of the sights that inspired the author’s work, one of her most famous novels being Lark Rise to Candleford, which you may know from the BBC television adaptation. Then, hop over to the village of Steep to follow in the footsteps of another Romantic poet, Edward Thomas. Thomas lived in Steep in a redbrick house and based his pastoral poems on the Hampshire countryside surrounding the village. His circular walk is a 4-mile route which takes in stunning views of the South Downs National Park from Mutton Hill, as well as literary landmarks such as Thomas’ home, and two engraved windows in Steep Church which commemorate the centenary of his birth.

Download the map of Flora Thompson circular walk here.
Download the map of the Edward Thomas circular walk here.

Gilbert White's House & Garden and The Oates Collection, Selbourne
The Natural History of Selbourne was published in 1789, and it hasn’t been out of print since – quite a literary achievement. The author, Gilbert White, was a celebrated naturalist, and you can visit his house in Selbourne to learn more about his achievements, to see the original manuscript of his seminal book, and to explore the surrounding gardens and parkland, which feature a multitude of eighteenth-century plants and garden methods inspired by White and his writings. Also, don’t miss the opportunity to learn about the adventures of Frank Oates (who travelled extensively around Africa and Central America) and Captain Lawrence Oates (who famously headed to the South Pole with Captain Scott in 1912, and sadly lost his life) in the house’s Oates collection.
Gilbert White’s House and Garden and The Oates Collection is located at The Wakes, High Street, Selbourne, Hampshire, GU34 3JH