'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Guest Post: UK Literary Landmarks for Kids

Planning on travelling any time soon? Bring bedtime stories to life with a trip to one of the UK's many novel places to visit. Whether it's a site that inspired a classic story or an attraction that celebrates a timeless tale, we take a look at some of the best destinations for exploring the worlds of your favourite books.

Harry Potter

Kids hooked on the world of Harry Potter can explore many of the book and film locations in the City of London on a number of guided or walking tours. Follow the Death Eaters' route of destruction, taking in Trafalgar Square and the Millennium Bridge, or admire the exterior of the Ministry of Magic at Great Scotland Yard, or Gringotts Bank at Australia House.

Take a stroll down Diagon Alley (or Goodwins Court near Leicester Square), or along Charing Cross Road, where the Leaky Cauldron is supposedly located. Or visit Kings Cross Station to see the Platform 9 3/4 plaque and a trolley disappearing into the wall.

Peter Pan

J.M. Barrie's enchanting adventure is an all-time children's classic, and a trip to Kensington Gardens will bring this magical tale to life for little minds. Barrie's house is opposite the park, where you'll find the bronze statue of Peter Pan surrounded by mice, squirrels and fairies, situated on the site where he is meant to have landed when flying out of his nursery.

The park is also home to the Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, a wonderland of wigwams, whispering willows, tree houses, walkways, mermaids and a giant pirate ship — the perfect play area for Neverland fans.

Winnie the Pooh

Ashdown Forest in Sussex is the inspiration for A.A. Milne's Hundred Acre Wood in the charming tales of Christopher Robin and his toy animal friends, so an 'expotition' to Pooh Country is a delightful day out for children.

Hunt heffalumps and woozles in the pine trees and heather before heading for a game of Pooh Sticks on the footbridge across the Medway, and top it all off with a trip to Pooh Corner, a quaint little shop packed full of Pooh keepsakes and collectibles.

Alice in Wonderland

Fans of Lewis Carroll's whimsical nonsense tales should head to Oxford, where they can learn about the author and the real-life Alice, who was daughter of the Dean of Christ Church College, a friend of the author.

Visit the Museum of Oxford to see some of her personal belongings, or take a tour around Christ Church, where you'll learn all about the curious characters and the real people on which they were based. You will hear all about the White Rabbit, the Dodo, Billy the Lizard, the Jabberwocky and more, while enjoying a beautiful riverside walk through the Christ Church Meadow — available by appointment only.

Beatrix Potter

All twenty-three captivating characters are brought to life at the World of Beatrix Potter attraction in the Lake District, where you can visit Mr McGregor's greenhouse, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle's kitchen and Jeremy Fisher's pond. Enjoy a wander through the Peter Rabbit Garden, full of old varieties of fruit and vegetables that featured in the beautifully-illustrated books, before stopping for afternoon tea at the award-winning tea room.

Fans can also step into Beatrix Potter's world with a visit to Hill Top, her home in Hawkshead, painstakingly preserved to remain as it was when she lived there.

Roald Dahl

A visit to the glorious, galumptious Children's Gallery in Aylesbury is a phizzwizzing day out for all ages, with plenty of interactive treats. Discover the creations of Willy Wonka, squirm through Fantastic Mr Fox's tunnel and check out the upside-down room from The Twits.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is nearby, filled with biographical bits and pieces from the author's life. Afterwards, drop into Cafe Twit for a whizzpopping hot chocolate, a snozzberry yoghurt or a slice of Bogtrotter cake.

Wind in the Willows

This vintage countryside classic is celebrated splendidly at the Henley River and Rowing Museum, where you will journey through the pastoral tale with E.H Shepard's iconic illustrations along with interactive exhibits.

Meander around Ratty's Refuge, a garden designed to protect the endangered water-vole, where you can spot sculptures of the story's lovable creatures. Why not spend the afternoon messing about on the river in a rowing boat, or see real-life woodland creatures on a wonderful wildlife cruise.

Children of Green Knowe

Lucy M Boston's haunting series of books about ghosts, tree-spirits and walking statues was set in Green Knowe, a house based on The Manor, her home in Cambridgeshire. The magical moated house was built in the 1130s, and many items mentioned in the books can be found there, including the St Christopher Statue.

The enchanting garden is full of secret corners, perfect for hide-and-seek among the topiary chess-pieces. The Manor is open for visitors by appointment, but tours are often led by a Boston family member, ensuring a rich and insightful experience.

The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett's literary gem is directly based on the walled garden in Great Maytham Hall in Kent. Burnett lived in the Grade II listed house in the early 20th Century, and during her time there, she discovered a door hidden among the ivy which led to an overgrown and neglected garden. She set about restoring it with roses and a gazebo, where she would spend temperate summer days.

Visitors can enjoy this special secret hideaway on selected days in early summer as part of the National Gardens Scheme.

Rupert the Bear

Comic-book favourite Rupert the Bear is celebrated in Canterbury, the birthplace of his creator, Mary Tourtell. Passers-by can peek into the Rupert Bear Museum window and see their favourite character enjoying tea with his parents. Rupert shares the museum with Bagpuss, the sleepy seventies television cat, whose creators were also local.

There's tons of hands-on fun for families as you discover the story of everyone's favourite bear, including a giant snakes and ladders game. Afterwards, head outside for a pleasant picnic in the adjacent medieval herb garden.

These glorious literary destination ideas are brought to you by Show and Stay, the UK theatre break providers.