If the culture vulture in you has so far missed the fact that 2017 is the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death, fear not. We’re only halfway through the year, which means there’s ample time for lapping up your literary fix. While much of Austen’s life was spent in and around Hampshire, she was quite a staycationer of her time. This literary great has done wonders for the UK short breaks market by being rather mobile for a woman of her time.
Cross reference your diaries with the events and exhibitions below and your long weekends are sorted. What better way to use up those stray days of annual leave…
Jane Austen Festival, Bath
8-17 September 2017
Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806. Her time in the city is actually celebrated every September, not just in 2017. For 10 days the Regency period comes to life in costume, music, theatre, literary debate and food. So dig out your empire line outfit and join in. If you can’t make the festival, Bath short breaks at any time of year will lead you to the Jane Austen Centre and the Regency Tea Room. Sip, don’t slurp, now…
Jane Austen in 41 Objects
Jane Austen played out the last years of her life in Chawton, a Hampshire village near Winchester. Her former home is open to the public. She lived in the house from 1809 until 1817. An active period in her literary career, she revised three novels and wrote four new novels while she lived here. As such this Jane Austen museum provides a fascinating insight into her personal and working life. Its celebration of her bicentenary is an exhibition of 41 objects reflecting her life while in Chawton.
Lyme Regis’ tenuous literary connection, Dorset
For a breath of sea air, Lyme Regis was Miss Austen’s resort of choice. She frequently wrote letters from her own Dorset short breaks there. The seaside resort also featured in her novel Persuasion, which mentions many of the local hostelries.
Derbyshire’s claim to Pride and Prejudice
While sojourning in Bakewell, Jane Austen is thought to have written Pride and Prejudice. The imposing and excessively stately Chatsworth House naturally conjures up thoughts of Pemberley, the estate featured in the novel. It even played its role in the 2005 film adaptation of Austen’s work. Literary associations aside, you’ll find more than 100 acres of grounds to explore outside and tens of rooms to wend through inside.
Berkshire’s Pride and Prejudice stake
When Hollywood got hold of one of the great classics of English literature it put porcelain skinned Keira Knightley in the leading role and easy-on-the-eye Matthew MacFadyen in Colin Firth’s slot as Mr Darcy. Glitz and glamour aside, it perfectly presented the upper echelons of British society by using Basildon Park as Netherfield Park, the residence of the Bingleys. Open to National Trust members, the grounds are free to explore and there’s a fee to tour the house itself.
Lyme Park in Cheshire
If, some 22 years on, you’re still longing after Colin Firth and his wet white shirt as he wandered from the lake towards Jennifer Ehle’s Miss Bennett, then Lyme Park is a must-visit. The very place used to represent Pemberley and ‘that’ scene in this 1995 adaptation makes Cheshire short breaks hot (under the collar) property.
Wentworth Woodhouse, Yorkshire
As stately homes go, this is the largest in the land. Originally the northern seat of the Fitzwilliam family – one of ‘the’ aristocratic dynasties in the early-mid 18th century. The last 40 years have seen it fall into a state of disrepair, but there’s renewed hope for this architectural icon of Yorkshire that lays claim to inspiring Pemberley. New tours explore more rooms than ever before and take in the Baroque and Palladian styles of the two houses.
Coo over costumes in Harrogate
The Royal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate is awash with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte era costumes from the film and TV adaptations of their great works. From Sense and Sensibility wedding dresses to Michael Fassbender’s Rochester outfit in Jane Eyre and Billie Piper’s Mansfield Park presence as Fanny Price, you’ll be in your 18th century fashion element. Short breaks in Yorkshire have never been so fashionable.
UK short breaks sorted
Whether you lug all her books with you on your UK short breaks or pack your Kindle, keep cool in those long hem dresses and watch out for strange men appearing from cold ponds.