Instant inspiration: for author Phoebe Smith Snowdonia is a surefire cure for writer’s block

CULTURE CLUB • August 2019

Bookish Britain: an authors’ guide to the UK’s most inspiring spots

From Bram Stoker’s fascination with the gothic Whitby to the Oxford pub where J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis mused over literary ideas, Britain is a hotbed for book lovers and writers alike. To celebrate our island’s most poetic pockets, we chat to authors and pinpoint where in Britain inspires them most

Kensington, London

Says who: Dame Jacqueline Wilson, author of the Tracy Beaker series
“I’ve always found London inspiring. I love the beautiful Victorian houses on Melbury Road, Kensington (pictured below), so much so I invented an extra one where my imaginary Rivers family live in the 1880s. I stole some interior design and the stuffed peacock from nearby Leighton House Museum. I don’t write in London, though. I live in the countryside, so in summer I walk my dog in the meadows, musing over characters.”
Jacqueline Wilson's new book, Rose Rivers, published by Yearling priced (£6.99) is out now

01 Stepper Point

Stepper Point, Cornwall

Says who: J P Delaney, author of The Girl Before
“My summers have always been spent in the same tiny hamlet on Stepper Point, near Padstow in Cornwall (pictured above). There’s nothing between you and the cliffs but fields of corn – which, in summer, turn the same golden hue as the beaches. If you know where, you can scramble down to snorkel, or jump from the rocks into the surf. I’ve never set a book there, but it’s the place I think about most often, my spiritual home.”
JP Delaney’s new psychological thriller, The Perfect Wife, is released on 8 August 2019

The National Theatre, South Bank

Says who: Elanor Dymott, author of Slack-Tide
“I spent much of my childhood overseas. The National Theatre on London’s South Bank was somewhere my family touched down on every UK visit. Now I’m an author, it’s the perfect place to write: there are hidden corners and dark recesses with comfortable sofas. Magic is happening all around: costumes fitted, lines rehearsed, and every day there’s that ultimate inspirational moment – the pause before the curtain goes up, when everything is still, and anything possible.”

Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

Says who: Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure
“Barafundle Bay (pictured below) doesn’t feel like something that should exist in the UK. But it does. Walk over the cliffs from the car park and you come across a stunning stretch of white sand, offset by intensely blue sea, the odd stranded jellyfish. It inspired the setting of my first novel, The Water Cure. It’s both awe-inspiring and peaceful, a reminder of the total beauty we have on our doorstep in the UK.”
Sophie’s next book, Blue Ticket, will be released in 2020

02 Barafundle Bay

Dukes Bar, London

Says who: Charles Cumming, author of The Man Between
“For any lover of spy fiction, Dukes Bar is a place of pilgrimage. Located in a secluded courtyard in the heart of London’s Piccadilly, it’s here that Ian Fleming coined the phrase ‘shaken, not stirred’. Whenever I need literary inspiration, or just some good old-fashioned luxury living, I’ll head to Dukes, settle into an armchair and order a vodka martini from a white-jacketed barman. There are few more civilised ways to pass an evening.”
Charles Cumming’s spy novel, The Man Between, is out now in paperback

Aberdeen to Edinburgh, Scotland

Says who: Stuart MacBride, author of the Logan McRae series
“My literary hotspot is a bit strange – it’s a train carriage, on the East Coast Main Line between Aberdeen and Edinburgh. There’s something very productive about writing as Scotland goes by. The shimmering sweep of Montrose Basin; the salty swagger of the coast between Arbroath and Dundee; those stunning views across the Forth (pictured below) as the train winds through Kinghorn, Burntisland, Aberdour, North Queensferry; then the magnificent Forth Bridge and its companions. How could that fail to inspire?”
All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride is out now in hardback, audio and ebook

06-Forth Railway Bridge

Snowdonia, Wales

Says who: Phoebe Smith, author of Extreme Sleeps: Adventures of a Wild Camper
“Writer’s block is my worst nightmare, but thankfully I know the cure. I head to Snowdonia National Park (pictured top of page) in North Wales and get walking. My go-to spot is Llyn Bochlwyd, under the flanks of a mountain called Tryfan. There’s something about that peak, rising like the spined back of a sleeping beast, that never fails to stir my soul and heighten my senses. I can look out to the tumbling hills that surround me, and out to sea. I defy anyone to go there and not feel instantly inspired.”

North London

Says who: S K Tremayne, author of The Ice Twins
“I’ve used many iconic British locations in my books, from the wistful beauty of Skye and the Hebrides, to the doomy cliffs of West Cornwall and Zennor. But if forced to choose one location, it would be where I live, on a curving road in north London. At one end is Camden Town (pictured below), with all the human comedy you could ask for. At the other end is Regent’s Park, in all its moods: soothing, lonely, beautiful, cheering, eerie. It’s pretty much perfect.”
Just Before I Died by S K Tremayne is out now in paperback

04 North London

Esters, Stoke Newington

Says who: Laura Jane Williams, author of Our Stop
“There’s a café tucked away on a backstreet of Stoke Newington, north London, called Esters. That’s where my imagination comes alive. Stoke Newington is a hub for artists and bohemians – over an oat-milk latte you can overhear DJ Gilles Peterson talking about his next set, or be sat next to a performance artist who was on stage with Bjork last week. To write, I need something to ignore, so a café is the perfect place to get inspiration for characters, and then zone out as I let them loose on the page. I get my best work done there.”

03 Bath


Says who: Elif Shafak, author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World
“Bath (pictured above) has a quiet beauty and unpretentious charm. It’s packed with architectural gems, quirky shops filled with local artisans’ works – and some of the world’s best fudge. I especially enjoy visiting venues where Georgians would dance and drink tea. I’m also a devotee of the Bath Literature Festival where audiences are always passionately interested in the art of storytelling. A town where any writer would feel at home.”

This article has been tagged Destination, Culture