Library sleepover, Flintshire
Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden is the ultimate destination for those who like to wind down with a bedtime story. Founded by William Gladstone, the former British prime minister, in 1894, the Grade I-listed library is now home to 250,000 works, some 32,000 of them shuttled there in a wheelbarrow by Gladstone himself – at the age of 85 – from Hawarden castle. Run as a charity, the property is the UK’s only residential library, with 26 bedrooms and a bistro as well as those hallowed reading rooms.
Doubles from £135, B&B, with various discounts for students, clergy and members of the Society of Authors, gladstoneslibrary.org
A room of one’s own, Cornwall
Penzance’s historic Chapel Street has many a literary connection. From the house in which Maria Branwell, mother of the Brontë writing clan, grew up, to the Admiral Benbow pub – said to have inspired the inn of the same name in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island – the street promises rich pickings for visiting bookworms. Not least at Women in Word, the bookshop of the Hypatia Trust. Sitting towards the top of the street, it specialises in women’s fiction and nonfiction and includes titles by local writers. Behind it is a stylish two-bedroom holiday apartment, income from which supports the Trust’s work.
Three nights from £373.50 for four people, self-catering, hypatia-trust.org.uk
Book club holiday, North Yorkshire
HF Holidays’ new book club holidays are for anyone who has always fancied joining a book club but can’t commit to regular meetings. In addition to a Literary Oxford trip, timed to tie in with the city’s literary festival this month, the company is introducing a thriller-based break in the Lake District in October. Also in October is a gothic fiction holiday at Grade II-listed Larpool Hall, just outside Whitby. On the latter participants will spend the weekend reading and discussing three key works as well as heading out on guided visits to relevant locations, such as Whitby Abbey.
Three nights from £449pp, full-board, hfholidays.co.uk
Book butler on call, Cambridge
Cambridge isn’t short on bookish pleasures. The city’s University Arms hotel, however, offers several under one roof. Guests can sleep in suites named after locally affiliated writers such as Lord Byron and Christopher Marlowe, browse bookshelves curated by Heywood Hill of Mayfair, sip a Bloomsbury Boozer in the bar or enjoy afternoon tea in the hotel’s 200 well-stocked library. Since December they have also been able to call on the services of a “book butler”, who will discuss literary interests, preferred authors and themes over a cup of tea then have a bespoke range of titles delivered to their room.
Doubles from £188, room only, universityarms.com
Readers’ retreat, Scottish Borders
Close to Peebles, on the Neidpath castle estate, Barns Library is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment set in an old stables courtyard. All on one level, with a private garden and direct access to a 200-year-old arboretum, it’s a romantic spot. There’s a four-poster bed fringed with silk, an intricate frieze to gaze at from a clawfoot bath, textiles in warm, earthy colours and a wood-burning stove. The name hints at the biggest draw for visiting bookworms: between the dining area and the kitchen a run of bookshelves is ready stocked with holiday reading. For further inspiration, Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott’s former home, is 40 minutes’ drive away.
Three nights from £330 for four people, self-catering, neidpathcastle.com
Pick up a Penguin, Shropshire
A Georgian manor house surrounded by graceful gardens and gentle countryside west of Shrewsbury, Whitton Hall has been a B&B for 30 years. Wooden panelling, antique furniture and home-cooked hospitality (dinners can also be arranged with a bit of notice) draw a roster of regulars. Book lovers tend to make straight for the Penguin Bar – so called because it houses a collection of more than 400 vintage Penguin books as well as an honesty bar stocked with bottles sourced from Tanners, the illustrious Shrewsbury wine merchant. The B&B’s six bedrooms can be booked individually but it’s also ideal for book club over-nighters.
Doubles from £130 a night with a two-night minimum stay, B&B, whittonhall.com
Literary lookout, Kent
Founded in 1873 by local philanthropist Caroline Wollaston, the Boatman’s Reading Rooms in Deal was originally designed to offer the town’s famous boatmen some scholarly escapism, recuperation or simply an alternative to the pub. Celebrated as heroes by some, opportunists by others, the small-boat sailors worked in tough conditions, doing everything from shuttling people and supplies to and from ships to helping with rescues and recoveries. (Many also did a fair amount of smuggling.) Today the Georgian building serves instead as a refuge for holidaymakers. Along with four bedrooms and front-row views of the sea, there’s wallpaper emblazoned with snippets from Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, a small guest library and, for those seeking inspiration for their next novel, a secret tunnel.
Two nights from £854 for 10 people, self-catering, byquince.co.uk
Storybook city break, Edinburgh
With its ancient tenement setting and high-rise views of Princes Street Gardens and the Firth of Forth, this studio apartment in Edinburgh has all the ingredients for a fairytale weekend away. Owned by bookbinder Rachel Hazell, it has book-themed decor, with book art on the walls, a library of modern Scottish literature and a writing desk. It’s in the old town, looking out to the new, so brilliantly located for exploring the Unesco City of Literature: the Writers’ Museum is on the doorstep, the Scottish Poetry Library is just down the hill. Those short on time can sign up for a Book Lovers’ Tour and take in many of Edinburgh’s literary sites and citations in one 90-minute swoop.
From £405 for two people for three nights, self-catering, thetravellingbookbinder.com
Author’s escape, Devon
A Scandi-style, timber-clad house near Braunton with two bedrooms, bright windows and a moss–green kitchen, the Author’s Escape was originally built in the 1950s by Tarka the Otter writer Henry Williamson, though it has since been through a sustainable renovation. Williamson used money he won in a competition to buy the land and build the listed writing hut that stands in the garden, complete with battered leather chair and a collection of scratched 78s. Now a peaceful country retreat for holidaying readers and writers, the house comes with a selection of books (Williamson’s among them) and plenty of sun-dappled corners to enjoy them in, inside and out.
From £200 for four, self-catering, kiphideaways.com
Scholarly style, Outer Hebrides
A 19th-century school on North Uist magicked into a modern holiday home, Tigharry Schoolhouse has swapped rows of desks for cosseting bathrooms, tactile kilim rugs, velvety cord armchairs and an honesty bar stocked with locally distilled Downpour gin. As befits a former centre of learning, the soaring open-plan kitchen and dining room also includes one of the best holiday cottage libraries in Scotland, running to 1,000 titles. If you can drag your eyes away from the clouds skittering hypnotically past the property’s large windows, you’ll find everything from local and less-local fiction to works on local birds, wild flowers and cooking.
Three nights from £300 for four people, self-catering, tigharryschoolhouse.com