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If you need inspiration for your next trip, look no further. Travel back in time to Jane Austen’s day with a visit to some of the idyllic locations featured in her novels. While things might have changed a bit since her day, many of the places that inspired her books are still there, and you can visit them!
From the rolling hills of Surrey to the stunning lakes of Derbyshire, there’s a multitude of incredible and historic sites to explore from Jane Austen’s beloved books. In this article, we’ll take you on a tour of the five most iconic Austen locations that you can visit around England, and discover how the places have changed since Austen wrote her books.
Many of Jane’s characters live in beautiful stately homes, enormous Palladian-style palaces with vast grounds and sculptured gardens. The plots of her books often circle around the subjects of money, position and class, so these enormous houses often play key roles in the stories.
Think of Mr Darcy’s ancestral seat, Pemberley, in Pride & Prejudice. When the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, first sees the house, she cannot help but imagine herself as the mistress of this magnificent pile. In the 1996 BBC TV series adaptation, Lyme Park in Cheshire was used to depict this location. However, the 2005 film version may be closer to what Austen herself envisioned. They used Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. Jane mentions Chatsworth in P&P as one of the great houses Elizabeth visits with her aunt and uncle before Pemberley. Regardless, both houses are stunning.
The iconic scene where Elizabeth first meets Mr Darcy at Netherfield Hall was filmed at Basildon Park in Berkshire. This Neo-classicist mansion, with its imposing facade, couldn’t be a more fitting location.
According to the sycophantic Mr Collins, no invitation could be great than that of to dine with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. In the 1995 series, this frost reception was filmed at Belton House in Lincolnshire. Several of the rooms inside the house also served in different scenes.
It is not uncommon to use several locations to depict one place. Many of the sumptuous interior shots of the 2005 movie were filmed at Wilton House near Salibury.
The landscape of rural England is woven into Jane’s novels, and there is no better way to immerse yourself in her stories than to visit the settings in which her characters lived. Jane herself spent most of her life in the quiet village of Chawton in Hampshire, and the family’s home is now a museum you can visit.
Emma was set in the Surrey countryside in the fictional village of Highbury. In the 1996 movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, they filmed in the village of Evershot in Dorset. The book’s most emotional scene takes place on Box Hill, where Emma embarrasses herself and her friend and is sternly admonished by Mr Knightly. This beauty spot is a wonderful destination for a day out.
In Pride & Prejudice, Austen says there is “no finer county in England than Derbyshire.” If your ideal holiday is a rambling walking trip, then look no further. The verdant and green hills of the Peak District inspired Jane immensely, and it is no wonder she set P&P there.
A perfectly preserved English village, Lacock in Wiltshire has been used in numerous period dramas. In the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, Lacock stands in for the fictional village of Meryton.
If the seaside is more your cup of tea, perhaps a visit to Lyme Regis would do the trick. A quaint seaside town on the Dorset coast, this was the setting of Austen’s story of thwarted romance, Persuasion. Take a walk along the historic harbour, The Cobb, in which Persuasion’s pivotal scene took place. Jane herself was also a frequent visitor to other seaside spots such as Portsmouth and Southampton, the former being the humble origin place of Mansfield Park’s heroine, Fanny Price.
Cities Bath and London were the epicentre of culture and society in Jane’s day, the places to be seen and present oneself in society. For Austen’s sometimes impoverished heroines, these visits would be their chance to mix with high society and bag themselves a wealthy husband.
Nowhere in England represents Austen as strongly as Bath. It was here in Persuasion that Anne and Captain Wentworth reconnect. In Austen’s day it was a bustling and cosmopolitan spa town. It is home to the Jane Austen Centre, the definitive museum on all things Austen. It hosts the Jane Austen Festival, a 10-day extravaganza that includes a costumed ball, talks by writers and many more exciting events. People in Austen’s day could still swim in the Roman Baths, which you can now visit on a guided town. She also enjoyed walking around the beautiful Sydney Gardens, just a stone’s throw from the centre.
If you are in London and are looking for some Austen inspiration, you can see her name in the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. Many of the locations named in Austen’s books are in incredibly preserved streets and you spend a very pleasant afternoon exploring these areas. In Emma, Emma’s sister lives in Brunswick Square in Bloomsbury. And in Pride & Prejudice, Jane Bennet calls on Caroline Bingley at her pied-a-terre on Grosvenor Street in Mayfair.
We hope this article has given you some ideas for your next trip!
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