Cycle through Inspirational England

Iconic locations that have helped create world famous fiction

When you cycle with us on an Active England tour you find yourself surrounded by inspirational sights; the lush green valleys of the Cotswolds, the impressive Georgian architecture of Bath and Oxford’s dreaming spires. They all lend themselves to the realms of creativity and fantasy. So, it will come as no surprise to learn that some of the world’s greatest works of literature have been written or created in this region of England.


The author, who is probably most famous for her wonderfully funny romantic novel Pride and Prejudice, lived in the city of Bath for many years. Although she did very little writing during her time in the city, it clearly had a great impact on her and her future works. Two of her six novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were set in this Roman city, and it is one that she depicts vividly as a place of pleasure for people in high society.

On our Active England tours, you can visit the Jane Austen Centre, and experience a snapshot of the great novelist’s life.


Lewis Carroll, author of the world famous children’s fantasies Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass was a student at Christ Church, Oxford. It was here that he befriended college Dean Henry Liddell, and his family, including their youngest daughter Alice – who would become Carroll’s inspiration for the spellbinding stories.


A few years later, two more authors attended Oxford colleges who would go on to produce world famous works of fiction: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were close friends and both served on the English faculty at Oxford University in the 1920s.

Lewis wrote the Narnia Chronicles, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – about children who discover a secret door to the magical kingdom of Narnia.

Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which has sold over 150 million copies and has been made into a series of massive box office hit movies.

Although these fabulous works of fiction weren’t set in Oxford, the two authors spent a great deal of time together, sometimes in local inns, discussing ideas for their novels. Their time at Oxford definitely played a part in the creation of their books.


This enchanting region is a popular location choice for movie production companies.

Hogwarts Academy, as attended by Harry Potter and his friends, must be the most iconic fictional school in the world of film. It’s impressive dining room and staircase were both based upon the dining room at Christ Church, Oxford. Some of the filming took place there and a larger replica was also built at Leavesden Studios, near London.


The dreamy charm of the Cotswolds make an obvious choice as the setting for romantic movies, and many great love stories have been filmed here. Parts of Pride and Prejudice (2005) were filmed in the lovely village of Lannock and the backdrop of the Cotswolds lent itself ideally to Thackeray’s classic Vanity Fair. And in Bridget Jones’ Diary her parents’ house was in the Cotswolds,


It’s not just period dramas and romantic comedies that are set in this area – action movies have also used it as a backdrop. An exciting car chase in the James Bond movie Die Another Day was actually in a car park in Bourton-on-the-Water. In Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Bond return to college briefly to brush up on his language skills at Brasenose College, Oxford. And The Bourne Ultimatum, starring Matt Damon, also features scenes filmed on location in Oxford.


One of the stops on our Active England tours is the stately home, Highclere Castle. Over the years scenes from many shows and movies have been filmed here. But recently Highclere has become synonymous with one hugely famous costume drama – Downton Abbey. The series, starring Dame Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, chronicles the lives of the aristocratic Crawley Family. As well as visiting Highclere Castle, our tour also takes in the little village of Bampton were most of the exterior shots from the show were filmed.

Find out more about visiting the Downton locations.

Of course, we couldn’t really write about great literature without a mention of Shakespeare. Stratford-upon-Avon, another stop on our tours, is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Although the playwright spent most of his adult life in London, it was in Stratford that he began his incredible career, and it was also the place he retired to.

From the bustling student city of Oxford and the tranquil vistas of the Cotswolds – the sights, architecture and heritage of this region are quite extraordinary. Its vivid beauty has been captured by many writers and directors over the years. You can see it on TV or read about it in a book, but to fully appreciate its magical charm you have to experience it for yourself.

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