While many head to Wiltshire in search of an English country cottage holiday full of peace and tranquillity, there are many who head to this land-locked county to experience its flourishing relationship with literature. From the best festivals of the region to certain areas which have been depicted in stories from years gone by, here’s a great guide to help you turn the pages of the region’s literary past.
Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival
Recognised as one of the biggest and best Wiltshire events dedicated to historical literature, the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival is designed to excite, inform and inspire all who visit. Set in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside just 12 miles from Salisbury, those visiting can expect a pleasant mix of themed talks, discussions and debates.
This year’s instalment – scheduled to feature from 23-29 June – sees a lively programme with well over 110 top-class literary events to entertain adults and children alike. There will also be a host of guest speakers on hand throughout the festival, with Homeland star Damien Lewis, comedian and historian Al Murray and television presenter Jeremy Paxman among the most high profile in the 2014 programme.
Salisbury International Arts Festival
Although Salisbury is best known for its beautiful cathedral, the age-old city is inundated with cultural enthusiasts between late May and early June thanks to its International Arts Festival. An event which has gone from strength to strength since 1973, this fantastic Salisbury arts festival combines literary events with a variety of performing arts, dance, film and theatre to provide a great mode of fun for all.
This year’s event was a huge success and included among the popular literary events was a guide to the English Language by David & Hilary Crystal, a talk with journalist Peter Snow and Rachel Joyce in Conversation. If you want to experience the fun for yourself, keep an eye on the official website to see updates for the next year.
Bath Literature Festival
Although Bath doesn’t sit in the boundaries of Wiltshire, the fact that it’s just a stone’s throw away in Somerset means that its Literature Festival is worth a mention. Usually being held over late February and early March, it has been a key date on the literary calendar for 17 years and continues to host a collection of the greatest minds; this year was no exception, with Jennifer Saunders, Jonathan Dimbleby and former Poet Laureate Michael Rosen among the biggest names to feature.
Pubs with a literary past
While all these festivals give a real opportunity to discover the county’s flourishing relationship with literature, one of the best things to do in Wiltshire is to head off on your own discovery; it’s free and provides a great day out for the whole family. If you are set to plan your own literary journey while staying in a Wiltshire holiday cottage, there are a host of public houses which have been depicted in history over many years. Among the best known is the Waggon & Horses, a thatched cottage in Beckhampton which is believed to have provided the inspiration for a scene of the ‘Pickwick Papers’ by Charles Dickens.
Another public house which served as the basis for the world-renowned wordsmith is the Green Dragon in Alderbury, one which is thought to have been mentioned in The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit.