Whether it’s the Romantics and their celebrations of nature and the countryside, Chaucer’s telling of the road to Canterbury or Robert Burns, whose verses are part of the cultural identity of Scotland, poetry is a key part of the country’s character.
This is why World Poetry Day is such an important celebration – not only of poets and poetry but of the landscape that has inspired countless classic verses. So here are some of our favourite poets, poems and the locations that inspired them.
Robert Burns: Dumfries and Ayrshire, Scotland
My Heart’s in the Highlands is a timeless celebration of the landscape and wildlife of Scotland. With this, and many other works, often set to music, Burn’s is equally celebrated as a songwriter as he is a poet.
Ayrshire is the place to visit to begin your appreciation of the ‘Scottish Bard’. The village of Alloway hosts the Burns Cottage Museum, the home Robert’s father built and where the poet lived until he was seven years of age.
The Robert Burns House in Dumfries is where he spent his later years, creating some of his most famous works in the study. It is a key pilgrimage site for many Burns admirers, with Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats among others visiting to pay their respects over the years.
Dylan Thomas: Laugharne, Wales
Thomas’s life in the Carmarthenshire town of Laugharne was a constant inspiration to the writer with his famous radio play Under Milk Wood capturing several of the characters he encountered there.
Poem In October is another example of the region’s beauty. Written after a birthday walk from his home, The Boathouse, up to the shoulder of Sir John’s hill, the poem provides a perfect accompaniment whilst you enjoy the ‘Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk’ around the area.
The Brontës: Haworth, Yorkshire
Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother Patrick (aka Branwell) were homeschooled in the lovely Yorkshire Dales village of Haworth. The siblings’ father was parson at the church and it was in the Haworth Parsonage where they developed their literary talents, developing stories of increasing complexity.
Their first book of poetry only sold three copies, but the sisters continued to produce work in secret and their literary legacy was secured in the following years. The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth is the best place to visit for an appreciation of the Brontës and the beautiful surroundings that inspired them.
Geoffrey Chaucer: Canterbury, Kent
Chaucer is regarded as ‘the Father of English Literature’ due to his work helping to popularise Middle English over the more common Latin, Italian and French. The collected Canterbury Tales is his most celebrated work, a piece that many claim he never completed even though it comprises 24 stories over 17,000 lines of text.
The Canterbury Tales themselves are often bawdy stories told by a large cast of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. The tales offer a window into a time of great change with references to social upheaval, the invention of paper, the written word and political clashes in Britain.
One of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England, there’s nowhere better than Canterbury Cathedral to enjoy an appreciation of Chaucer.
Rudyard Kipling: Burwash, Sussex
Whilst he ligved in some of the UK’s most scenic and vibrant locations, it was Kipling’s time in Burwash, Sussex that proved the most creative.
Here he was inspired to create Puck of Pook’s Hill, a collection of short stories and poetry narrated to two children living near Burwash. The work itself is considered a classic of fantasy that incorporates classic English literature and history.
Burwash is the perfect place to explore Kipling’s life. The author spent over 30 years there at Batemans, a stunning Jacobean mansion that is now open to the public through the National Trust. Inside is still as Kipling left it when he passed away in 1936, with a book-lined study and all kinds of exotic treasures.
William Wordsworth: The Lake District, Cumbria
Daffodils is one of the most famous English poems. It was inspired by a walk Wordsworth took alongside the banks of Ullswater on a stormy day with his sister.
Despite the famous opening line, it’s not too easy to ‘wander lonely as a cloud’ in the Lake District today. Thanks to the heritage of Wordsworth and the Romantic poets – not to mention the wonderful lakes and landscapes, the Lake District is a total holiday hot-spot.
Take yourself away from the tourists, and you can find your own corner of this Cumbrian paradise to contemplate the beauty of nature and find your own inspiration.