We’ve all been there: that sense of yearning for more at the end of a brilliant romantic novel. One way of scratching the itch is by organising a trip for you and your amour to the destinations in which your favourite fiction is set – walk where your hero or heroine has walked or talked or eaten or fallen head-over-Heathcliff in love. Here’s our list of the best breaks based on the greatest literary romances.
Gone with the Wind (Atlanta, USA)
While Gone with the Wind is perhaps best known as a silver-screen classic, it started as a Pulitzer-Prize-winning book in 1936. To some, it remains an integral part of Atlanta’s storied history and among the best of American romance fiction.
As such, there are plenty of well-organised activities for those looking to relive Scarlett and Rhett’s life during the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era (1860s and '70s). Start with a drive out to Margaret Mitchell Memorial Park, where you’ll find Stately Oaks, a Greek Revival antebellum house reminiscent of Tara, Scarlett’s plantation home.
If you don’t mind joining a group – “Frankly my dear…” – check out the Margaret Mitchell Tour, which is hosted by ‘Margaret’ herself and visits the author’s house and the Gone With the Wind Museum, among other stops.
Anna Karenina (St Petersburg, Russia)
Some think of Leo Tolstoy’s romantic tragedy as the world’s greatest novel. His kaleidoscopic depiction of a lavish Tsarist Russia will have you trawling Skyscanner for flights to St Petersburg in no time.
It might not be a directly mentioned in the book, but the formidable Winter Palace – now part of the State Hermitage Museum – does a good job representing the opulence of Anna’s milieu. Start early and meander through its myriad reception halls and gilt chambers, taking in the world-class art collection.
On day two, head for the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Built by the city’s founder Peter the Great, this working monastery is one of the city’s oldest buildings. Take a stroll through its famous graveyard and think of Anna praying for forgiveness within!
Pride & Prejudice (Bath, UK)
OK, so Jane Austen’s most famous work is not actually based in Bath. But Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were – as was Jane herself from 1801 to 1806, during its spa-town heyday. “Oh! Who can ever be tired of Bath?” asks Catherine Morland, the heroine of Northanger Abbey.
A Unesco World Heritage City, Bath is a paean to Regency England and the Georgian architecture that shaped it. Start off with a romantic promenade along the Royal Crescent, dropping into No 1 Royal Crescent for a taste of the era’s resplendent interiors.
Then wend your way along the Royal Avenue into town and onto the Jane Austen Centre for your fill of tales and trivia. Take tea, as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy might have done, at the Pump Room, while listening to live classical music. Awfully romantic.
The Notebook (North Carolina, USA)
Nicholas Sparks’ '90s tearjerker is largely based in and around North Carolina’s New Bern. Set between the Trent and Neuse rivers and close to the coast, this charming little city has the hallmarks of a romantic-break destination.
It’s small enough to walk around, making visiting a string of Notebook landmarks relatively easy. Check out the Walk to Remember tour, which includes the Centenary Methodist Church (where the couple regularly sit on a bench), the characterful Masonic Theater and the Alfred Cunningham Bridge.
In the book, Noah is restoring an old antebellum house and New Bern has plenty of B&Bs that fit that description on the waterfront. At one point, he and Allie go kayaking – there are similarly romantic tours close to the city.
Outlander (The Highlands, Scotland)
Time travel, adventure, historical intrigue: the Outlander series is one of the most exciting in our line-up and its setting in the Scottish Highlands certainly helps ramp up the romance.
Rural Inverness-shire is particularly prominent in the books, inspiring many of its fictional locations. A walk around Clava Cairns – a beautiful Bronze Age burial site – will help transport you and your lover back in time, as Claire did (from 1945 to 1743) to the fictional Craigh Na Dun.
Pay your respects to clan Fraser at nearby Culloden Battlefield, the exact spot where Claire and Frank visit on their second honeymoon and Jamie and Claire say their tearful goodbyes.
Rebecca (Cornwall, UK)
While the first scenes of Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic classic are set in the super-chic environs of Monte Carlo, it’s not long before the heroine moves with her new husband, Maxim de Winter, to the wilds of Gribbin Head, Cornwall, where she lives in the fictional country house of Manderley.
Its inspiration, Menabilly House, can’t be visited, but the National Trust’s Gribbin Head Walk nearby takes you through picturesque Fowey, around to Polridmouth Cove and up onto Gribbin Head – all of which feature regularly in the book.
The museum in Fowey has a permanent collection of du Maurier paraphernalia. Across the River Fowey is chocolate-box Bodinnick. The author lived there in a house called Ferryside, where her son still lives today.
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