UK Travel

Jane Austen’s Bath

Bath's Royal Crescent, once one of Regency England's most fashionable addresses, now the site of a splendid house-museum and the five-star Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Bath, UKStory and Photos by Monique Burns.

Films like “Pride and Prejudice,” featuring the wealthy but aloof Mr. Darcy and the poor but brave Elizabeth Bennet, have charmed moviegoers for decades. But few know the real Jane Austen, the writer whose insights into the manners and mores of Regency England inspired six of the world’s bestloved novels, including Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and, of course, Pride and Prejudice.Reading Austen’s works is always a treat. But the best (and most adventurous) way to commune with Jane Austen and her unforgettable characters is to follow in their lively footsteps.



Jane Austen’s Hampshire

Jane-Austens-House-at-Chawton-Hampshire-County-England-filled-with-period-furnishings-and-the-authors-memorabiliaStory and Photos by Monique Burns.

In search of Jane Austen, the English author who penned classics like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, most people head to Bath, less than two hours west of London. There the 18thcentury beau monde came to dance, attend concerts, flirt with suitable mates, and “take the waters” at ancient Roman springs. Briefly a Bath resident, Austen set two of her six novels there: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.


Dragons, Ghosts and Witches: Every Night is Halloween in Burley

Burley Market Cross, New Forest National Park, Burley, Hampshire, UKStory and Photos by David A. Laws.

For most of us, dragons, ghosts, and witches raise goosebumps but once a year. For the citizens of Burley, deep in the woods of England’s New Forest National Park, every night must feel like Halloween. The hamlet of Burley is far from an undiscovered tourist gem. Quaint tearooms and souvenir stores straddling its winding, one-block main street bustle by day. But visit late on a fall afternoon, when shadows from towering beech and chestnut trees hasten early dusk, and you’ll sense the chill as spirits of the Dark Arts seek to reclaim their realm.



Steinbeck in Somerset: “The Time at Discove”

Steinbeck, Discove Cottage, Somerset, UKStory and Photos by David A. Laws.

“Bruton is the only spot in the world I have refused to see again since John died.” (Elaine Steinbeck -1992) Elaine Steinbeck’s comment in a 1992 letter to artist Betty Guy refers to the time that she and her husband John Steinbeck spent at Discove Cottage in Somerset, England while he worked on his “reduction of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur to simple readable prose without adding or taking away anything.”




Winston Churchill, RLS, and the Literary Chines of Bournemouth

Winston Churchill, RLS, & the Literary Chines of BournemouthStory by David A. Laws.

“To plunge or not to plunge, that was the question!” Winston Churchill. Dashing onto a rustic footbridge traversing the steep-sided, wooded ravine of Alum Chine, the youth climbed up onto the handrail and jumped towards an overhanging fir branch. His younger brother Jack and a cousin watched in horror as the bough snapped. Eighteen-year old Winston Churchill plunged 30 feet to the ground. For three days in 1892 the prolific author (43 book-length works in 72 volumes) and future prime minister of Great Britain lay in a coma followed by three months of bed rest to recover from a ruptured kidney and broken thigh. Modern visitors to this site in the resort town of Bournemouth on southern England’s Dorset coast ponder how close this prank came to changing the course of history.



A Pilgrimage to Wales: Or how I learned about the American invasions of Britain

Story by David A. Laws.

Fishguard, Seabourne, Wales, UKThat one nation’s hero is another nation’s terrorist is seldom addressed in parochial school history books. Most children learn of the villainous redcoats in the American war of independence. Few texts tell of the American invasions of Britain. Or that one of these incursions led to the printing of the first one-pound note. These were unexpected connections I uncovered as I pursued a pilgrimage to Wales (Cymru in the Welsh language) to discover the place of my grandfather’s birth in the coastal county of Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro).



The Magical Masterpiece Mystery Tour

Story by David A. Laws.

Masterpiece Mystery Tour, Midsomer County, Great Britain, England, UKD.S. Jones: “This village is weird, sir” – D.C.I. Barnaby: “Jones, they’re all weird.(From: Midsomer Murders: The Made-to-Measure Murders.)  The south-west counties of England are rich in compelling authors, magical characters, and scenic settings from popular PBS television drama and mystery programs. I planned a recent trip to visit friends in the area around a tour of locations associated with three of our Masterpiece favorites – Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby’s blood-soaked Midsomer County, Jane Austin’s Winchester, and Ross Poldark’s brooding Cornish moorlands: a personal Masterpiece mystery tour.



John Clare Country: the bucolic landscape for the most famous English Peasant Poet you’ve never heard of

Helpston Village sign, John Clare Country: Bucolic landscape of the most famous English poet you have never heard ofStory and Photos by David A. Laws.

Byron, Keats, Wordsworth – for a few brief months in 1820, when his first book of verse topped the English best seller list, John Clare, who worked as a farm laborer near Peterborough 80 miles north of London, outsold them all. Hailed as the “Peasant Poet” by London society for his vivid descriptions of landscapes and English rural life, fickle popular taste rejected his more accomplished later works. Much of his work was inspired by the natural landscape of what is now known as John Clare Country.




Exploring the Cheshire Ring Canals

Cheshire Ring Canals, Exploring the Cheshire Ring Canals, Cruising the Cheshire Ring Canals, Cheshire, UKStory and Photos by John Sundsmo

Exploring the Cheshire Ring Canals: “Wheer yo’ fro’?” said the man in tweed as he and his spaniel blocked my canal path.  Quickly twisting the words in my mind, I deduced he either properly identified me as a foreigner or he thought I was a local and wondered where I was walking from.  Taking the last first, I answered “Bugsworth Basin.”  Now he had me, my California through-the-nose accent was a dead giveaway.  “American are you?”  now in proper English.  “And you are from Lancashire,?”  I said.Aw’r (I were) but now I live here near Disley.




A Dylan Thomas Pilgrimage in Wales

A Dylan Thomas Pilgrimage in Wales, Dylan Thomas' view of Swansea waterfront view to the east along the beach from Meridian Quay Tower Maritime Quarter, Wales. Part of a Dylan Thomas Pilgrimage to historic sites from the poet's life that still remain from where he lived with his wife and childred and where he wrote his poems.Story and Photos by Monique Burns

With velvety green hills and dells, craggy mountains and moon-shaped bays, sandy estuaries dappled with cockles and mussels and miles of coast lapped by wave-struck seas, Wales has inspired countless writers, dramatists and musicians. Perhaps the most legendary of all was native son Dylan Thomas, author of lyrical classics like “Fern Hill” and “Under Milk Wood.”




Road tripping in the Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highllands, Dazzling Achmelvich Beach, Scottish HighlandsStory and Photos by Monique Burns

Road tripping through the Scottish Highlands. Framed by lofty mountains and etched by trickling burns and rushing rivers, the Scottish Highlands cover roughly 10,500 square miles, about the size of Massachusetts. Herds of wild Scottish red deer, domesticated sheep and somewhat tame Highland cattle, great lumbering beasts with long pointy horns and shaggy red and blond coats, people its vast undulating moors.



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