Jul 03, 2013

    Great haunts for fans of British lit

    As celebrations for the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice hit full stride, those seeking to experience Britain's literary destinations will have a dubious luxury of choice.

    In a country where every seaside cliff, meticulous garden, cobbled street or quiet watering hole seemingly has some connection to British authors or stories, how does one choose among the abundance of tours, excursions, museums and festivals?

    For Louise Allen, British author of dozens of historical romance novels, visiting the museums and haunts of her country's most-celebrated writers has become a welcome by-product of researching settings for her tales of lustful lords and ladies.

    She discusses her favourite destinations.

    What advice would you give for anyone trying to decide which tours and attractions are the best?

    Check out the amount of details in the brochures or websites and see how good the response is to any queries you send them.

    Ask about the qualifications of the tour guide and the size of the group; you want to make sure you can hear the tour guide, and some destinations can get quite crowded.

    Ask how you will be travelling. The problems with some tours that I've seen are that they spend an awful lot of time travelling.

    People think that England is small, but so are a lot of our roads, and traffic can be heavy, and you can spend an awful lot of time between places.

    So make sure that you will be spending the maximum amount of time at the things that interest you.

    What are some of your favourite destinations that might be a little less known?

    Broadstairs in Kent is something that foreign tourists just never seem to get to even though it's a fairly easy trip from London.

    It is a charming, rather old-fashioned seaside town with a beach and great cliff walks, and has strong ties to Charles Dickens.

    For lovers of Keats, there is Hampstead with his house and walks on the Heath with great views of London.

    For fans of C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien, the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford is a great place to drop in. It has an English-pub interior and is where the Inklings, the drinking club that Lewis and Tolkien belonged to, used to meet.

    What if you're travelling with kids?

    Mix in some child-friendly activities along the way.

    If you want to see the Globe Theatre, why not start at Southwark Cathedral, where Shakespeare worshipped. Take in the original 1822 Old Operating Theatre, explore the fantastic Borough Market full of foodie treats, see the full-sized replica of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hinde, then walk along the river to the Globe for fantastic views.

    For Harry Potter fans, visit Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King's Cross so they can have their photos taken while pushing a trolley through the wall.

    For those hoping to get in on the Jane Austen celebrations, what are some of the highlights?

    In London, I think it's Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey for the real fans. It's a remarkable collection of monuments and memorials for her and all sorts of people - Burns, Keats, Shelley and many writers of Austen's period.

    Also, go to the houses she visited, particularly the one at Henrietta Street in Covent Garden, where she stayed with her brother Henry.

    She wrote a lot about going to the theatre there, and you can visit the theatre and do a behind-the-scenes tour.

    Bath, of course, is the other obvious one, and the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton is absolutely delightful.