Charles Dickens – Central London: Champion of the poor, Dickens’ novels brought to attention the appalling poverty of the poorer citizens of London. Starting at 48 Doughty St, now The Charles Dickens Museum, where Dickens lived from 1837 to 1839, this walk weave its way from Chancery Lane through Saffron Hill, to St Paul’s and over London Bridge to Borough, taking in countless sites associated with Dickens’ famous novels. Explore the wonderful Borough Market then finish up with a pint in the George Inn featured in Little Dorrit and the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London.
Sir Walter Scott – Loch Katrine: When Scott’s epic poem, The Lady of the Lake, was published in 1810 it was an immediate literary sensation. Set in and around Loch Katrine in the scenic Trossachs, it tells the story of Ellen Douglas, exiled on an island in the loch. The Highland outlaw and folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor was also reputedly born on the loch’s shores. You can walk to locations relevant to both works such as Ellen’s Isle and the burial ground of the MacGregors, and you can take a cruise on the loch’s resident steamship, called of course, the Sir Walter Scott. Take the 10.30am sailing, alight at Stronachlachar Pier and walk back along the shore road through a glorious landscape.
William Blake – Central London: This quintessentially London poet lived almost his whole life in the capital. He knew “each charter’d street” – and this walk takes you through some of London’s most famous quarters. Starting at 17 South Molton Street where he lived, travel across Regent Street into Soho where Blake was born in 1757, in a house that stood on the corner of Broadwick and Marshall Streets. Around the corner, at 28 Poland Street, he wrote Songs of Innocence. Carry on through Soho and Leicester Square to the National Portrait Gallery where the painting of Blake by Thomas Phillips hangs. Cutting through Covent Garden you arrive at the place of his death, now an alley at the back of the Savoy.
William Wordsworth – Rydal and Grasmere, Cumbria: Possibly the most popular literary walk in the country, this stroll around the stunning Lake District makes an incredible initiation into England’s most beautiful region. A circular walk takes in tiny Dove Cottage, where he produced his best work, and Rydal Mount, where he lived the last 37 years of his life, as well as the Wordsworth Trust Museum, the graveyard where he and his sister Dorothy are buried, and two of Cumbria’s loveliest small lakes, Grasmere and Rydal Water.
Jane Austen – Chawton, Hampshire: Starting from Chawton Cottage, the house Jane lived in for the last eight years of her life and wrote or revised her six great novels, this walk takes in many spots mentioned by Jane in her letters, the church where her mother and sister Cassandra are buried and some beautiful Hampshire countryside. Chawton Cottage, now a museum, is also worth some time.
The Brontë Sisters – Haworth, Yorkshire: There is a plethora of moorland walks around Haworth associated with the literary sisters Anne, Charlotte and Emily, who lived at the Parsonage (now a museum). A highlight is the trail to Top Withens, said to be the setting for Wuthering Heights and the Brontë Waterfall, written about by Charlotte; details can be found at www.brontecountrywalks.co.uk
Samuel Pepys – City of London: Pepys was an MP famous for the diary he kept throughout the 1660s. Start at Seething Lane, where Pepys lived and is now buried, in St Olave’s church, then walk south to the Tower of London, where he watched the Fire of London in 1666, then west to Pudding Lane, near the Monument, where the fire started. Climb up Monument for a fabulous city view. Continue past St Paul’s Cathedral to Fleet Street; a plaque in Salisbury Court marks the place of Pepys’ birth in 1633. The walk takes in much of the most historic parts of the City.