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Literary Holiday Destinations

12 May 2017

How many of us have wanted to walk straight into the pages of our favourite books? While it might not be possible quite yet to experience the lives of the fictional heroes and heroines we've walked side by side through life with for a little while, and sometimes who'd want to (think of just about any character from a Stephen King novel).

But one of the best ways to get a taste of these alternate universes created solely from words, is to visit the destinations in which they're set. And while everyone's tastes are different, there are some classic literary works that are widely recognisable to all, from the keenest bookworm to those buying last minute paperbacks at the airport.

Harry Potter

The myth that this magical series about a young wizard growing up and honing his craft whilst in the shadow of the ever-present Lord Voldemort, the world's most powerful dark wizard, is just for children is pure piffle. Throughout her books, J.K Rowling weaves complex, intertwined narratives while introducing us to what are now some of the world's most famous villains and protagonists.

One of the most enduring experiences in the student's time at their school of witchcraft and wizardry is a journey on the Hogwarts's Express, and now muggles can follow in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione with a trip aboard the Jacobite steam train. Following a line that's often described as the 'greatest rail journey in the world', you'll cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct and take in the scenic landscapes of Scotland's Western Highland region.

Anna Karenina

Set amidst the opulence of Russian high society during the second half of 19th century, Tolstoy's epic tale of love, betrayal and morality comes to life as you walk the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg, perhaps even taking a train between the two cities much like the fated Anna herself.

You can even visit some of the attractions outlined in the book, such as Moscow Zoo, Nevsky Prospekt and Peterhof Palace, often referred to as the 'Russian Versailles' thanks to its beautiful grounds filled with spectacular fountains and waterways.

Wuthering Heights

Back in overcast Britain, Cathy and Heathcliff are wandering the wild moors of Yorkshire, a setting writer Emily Brontë knew well as it was the area in which she grew up, being inspired by the undulating hills around her childhood home of Haworth. And it's hard not to attribute some of her character's qualities to the novelist herself as very little is known about the reclusive and mysterious Emily, who only ever produced this one novel.

A born story-teller, she manages to describe the natural settings of her turbulent revenge story in such great detail that visitors today are still able to pick out topographical landmarks;

"The abrupt descent of Penistone Crags particularly attracted her notice; especially when the setting sun shone on it and the topmost heights, and the whole extent of landscape besides lay in shadow. I explained that they were bare masses of stone, with hardly enough earth in their clefts to nourish a stunted tree".

While you're in the area, you won't want to miss out on seeing the Brontë Parsonage itself, the site where this literary family produced some of the most renowned books in English literature.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Just like Sayuri, you too can soak up the sights of Japan's sublime cherry blossoms in Kyoto, while also taking in other sights from this decade-spanning novel about what it really means to be a woman in a heavily male-dominated culture. The Geisha Quarter of the city still exists, though it mainly caters to tourists these days as opposed to businessmen looking for an evening's entertainment, and there are still 260 Geisha living in Gion Corner alone, who you're sure to see out and about in their authentic kimonos and face paint.

You can also make a wish, just as young Sayuri does, at the Fushimi Inari shrine and take tea at a ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel replete with shoji sliding doors and futons to sleep on).

A Room with a View

Perhaps you're tempted to relive the constraints of Edwardian society as you explore renaissance Florence, the opening setting of E. M. Forster's much-lauded, A Room with a View. You can avoid the "peevish wrangling" however of Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin Charlotte Bartlett by booking your hotel on the internet or through a tour operator, ensuring you get the room with the view you want, though might miss out on that best seller in the process.

And while you're in the Tuscan capital, enjoy the same artistic ambience exuded by architectural gems such as the Ponte Vecchio, Dante's tomb, located in the heart of Santa Croce, and of course the ever romantic yet distinctive Duomo. Pick your way through the medieval streets on your way to an afternoon at the Uffizi or take a table at one of the many pavement cafés and enjoy a typical Italian pastime of coffee supping and people watching.