Top 10 book locations in England

As chosen by author Julie Cohen

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I was born in a small mountain town in America and I came to England for two reasons. One was, I wanted to marry a Beatle. And the other was the literature. This list is a bit skewed towards the south of the country, because that’s where I live now, and these are the places I can visit on a regular basis, which remind me of my favourite books.

1. WATERSHIP DOWN

I absolutely loved this book about rabbits as a child and it was a thrill to find out that Watership Down really exists in Hampshire, between Newbury and Basingstoke. You can trace the rabbit protagonists’ route on foot (passing by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s house), and have a picnic under Bigwig’s Tree. Magical.

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2. KENSINGTON GARDENS

We usually think of Peter Pan living in Neverland, but in the original book, James Barrie put his fairy boy in Kensington Gardens, where he, and other fairies, emerged at night. That’s why there’s a glorious statue of the Boy Who Never Grew Up in the park.

3. LYME REGIS, DORSET

The setting both for Persuasion, by Jane Austen, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles. Therefore it is one of the most romantic places in existence, though haunted with melancholy and perhaps the scent of fish and chips.

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4. STONEHENGE

In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy calls it ‘a vast erection’. Enough said.

5. THE LONDON UNDERGROUND

Once you read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, you will never feel the same about the boring old Underground again. It’s the setting for a magical, dangerous alternative London.

6. KING'S CROSS STATION

Platform 9 ¾. Likewise Paddington Station: All Of.

7. WHITBY

It’s here that Dracula landed his boat, with plans to take over all of England. There’s also a wonderfully quirky series of novels by Paul Magrs set here, about mystery-solving old ladies Brenda and Effie, who are more than a little gothic themselves.

8. SLOUGH

Yes I know, but Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising is set here, in the village of Dorney just outside of Slough, and it is one of the best children’s books ever written, and that is enough to make Slough magical.

9. WESTMINSTER BRIDGE

Westminster Bridge inspired Wordsworth’s poem, which is the most evocative of a quiet city that I have ever read. I might be a little bit pretentious, but I can’t go over Westminster Bridge without murmuring, ‘And all that mighty heart is lying still!’.

10. 221B BAKER STREET

I’m an enormous Sherlock Holmes fan and I’ve visited Baker Street a million times—even though when the stories were written, number 221 didn’t exist. I recently went on a pilgrimage to find 187 North Gower Street, where BBC’s Sherlock was filmed, and stood outside it snapping photos like a crazy fangirl.

And one more from out of England...

11. RUMFORD, MAINE, USA

The place I come from is tiny and obscure, but isn’t that devoid of literary allusions, either. Richard Russo’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Empire Falls was partly based on it; my favourite memoir of last year; and Stephen King set his fictional town Castle Rock just a few miles from there. We used to look for Cujo in the woods, which is pretty good training for a novelist, I reckon.

Julie Cohen's fourth novel, Where Love Lies is out 31 July.

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