Famous writers and literature
The stunning landscape of the North York Moors has fired the imaginations of some of our best-loved writers and it’s easy to see why.
Nineteenth century authors Lewis Carroll and Bram Stoker found inspiration in the dramatic coastline, the stunning sweeps of open moorland welcomed works from Laurence Sterne and the tranquil dark skies inspired Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan’s tribute. Even today, we’re lucky enough to call local residents The Yorkshire Vet (Julian Norton and Peter Wright) and best-selling author Philippa Gregory (‘The Other Boleyn Girl’) our neighbours.
Put down your book and follow in the footsteps of our literary greats
The haunting remains of Whitby Abbey would set any heart racing, so it’s no surprise that the gothic ruin was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. Stoker’s walks along the dramatic cliff tops to Kettleness in the National Park, the area’s mysterious tales of the ship ‘Dmitry’ at Tate Hill beach and ghostly sightings of Barghest (the mythical monstrous Black Dog) all add to the foreboding atmosphere of the novel. Sink your teeth into the history and sights that inspired Stoker, including the 199 Steps leading up from Tate Hill to St Mary’s Church.
Alf Wight (James Herriot)
The World of James Herriot offers a truly unique encounter into the world’s most famous vet. Housed in his former home and surgery in Thirsk, he described the view from nearby Sutton Bank as “the finest in England”. Set in the 1940s style, the Museum tells the story of his life as a vet turned author, whose works inspired the feature film starring Anthony Hopkins and subsequent BBC and Channel 5 series ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. Channel 5’s documentary ‘The Yorkshire Vet’ is home to local vet and author Peter Wright who worked with Alf Wight.
2020 marked the 50th anniversary since the first James Herriot book, If Only They Could Talk, was published. Alf Wight's books are partially autobiographical, with many of the stories loosely based on real events or people and his work as a vet in the North York Moors during the 1960s and 1970s (although the stories are set in the 1930s-1950s).
It was in the romantic, medieval All Saints Church in Brompton on the southern edge of the National Park where William Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson in 1802, and paused at Sutton Bank on his wedding day to write his poem ‘Composed After a Journey Across the Hambleton Hills, Yorkshire’.
The vicarage in Coxwold, now known as Shandy Hall is home to The Laurence Sterne Trust. Widely regarded as the godfather of modernist literature, it was here he was inspired to write ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman’ and ‘A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy’. Open to the public during the summer months, the vast collections of books, paintings, prints and manuscripts provide a window in to the world of the eighteenth century writer.
The Victorian hotel La Rosa, welcomed famed author of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) between 1854-71. One of the seaview rooms is even dedicated to the author, decking out the interior as his study. It is believed he based the poem ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’, which appeared in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ on his walks along the beach from Whitby to Sandsend.
Fans of ITV’s ‘Heartbeat’ will recognise the National Park’s honey-pot village of Goathland as ‘Aidensfield’. Based on the ‘Constable’ series of books by author and former policeman Nicholas Rhea (Peter Walker), his life in the National Park fuelled the creation of Sgt Rowan.
Festivals for literary lovers
- Sci-Fi Scarborough, for comic book buffs head to this annual event in April to get your yearly dose of Sci-Fi fun
- Books by the Beach (11-13 June 2021) a lively programme that brings bestselling authors and actors to Scarborough
- Ryedale Book Festival, a festival devoted to all things book related, it’s something for the family to enjoy throughout the year with events in Malton and surrounding attractions
- Whitby Literature Festival (January 2022), celebrating Whitby's role in inspiring so many writers past and present, from Caedmon, the first-ever English poet, to Bram Stoker, JRR Tolkien and Lewis Carroll.
- Malton Dickensian Festival, held each December to champion the works of Charles Dickens, this festival event includes Christmas Carols and visits to Scrooge’s Counting House.
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