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Whether drawing inspiration from the rugged landscape of Exmoor or the beautiful architecture of the county’s period properties, Somerset has served as a dramatic backdrop to some of history’s most popular novels.
Why not fire your imagination and follow in the footsteps of great Somerset novelists with a stay in one of our nearby holiday cottages?
Watch out: you may fall in love with the rugged landscape of Exmoor, and never want to leave. This lonely windswept spot formed a suitably romantic setting for Lorna Doone, R D Blackmore’s 17th-century tale of murder, kidnap, robbery and love. The novel tells the story of a young farmer from Oare, John Ridd, who falls in love with the adopted daughter of a family of outlaws, the Doones.
At the heart of Doone Country are the villages of Oare, Malmsmead, Brendon and Rockford. Visit Oare Church via the spectacular steep wooded lane, where Blackmore’s father was rector and where, in the novel, Lorna meets a dreadful fate on her wedding day.
Blackmore wrote several chapters in the 14th-century smugglers’ inn, The Rising Sun, on Lynmouth’s harbourside, which is also said to be the honeymoon location of the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Our Exmoor holiday cottages near Dulverton are perfectly situated to explore Doone country and offer beautiful surrounding countryside, easy access to the coast, and lots of sights and attractions to visit throughout the year.
English novelist, pamphleteer and journalist Daniel Defoe is best known for his novels Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). However, when he was in his twenties, he fought on the side of the rebels at the Battle of Sedgemoor in 1685. Today, you can follow in the footsteps of Daniel Defoe, the Duke of Monmouth and his rebels on an interpretation trail around the small village of Westonzoyland – the setting for the Battle. Enjoy lunch and a local ale at the historic Sedgemoor Inn, which played a part in the build up to the battle. The battlefield site and memorial are on the outskirts of the village. Another must for any visitor to the village is the Museum of Steam Power and Land Drainage at Westonzoyland Pumping Station.
In 1704, Defoe published The Storm, accounting the Great Storm of 1703, which killed 8,000 people and left much of Somerset’s coastal area either flooded or devastated. Later, in 1724, Defoe wrote Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain, which includes some wonderful descriptions of Somerset, including the remark that Cheddar cheese is ‘the greatest and best kind in England’.
Thackeray was a satirical novelist and author of the well loved Vanity Fair. In the 1840s he was a frequent visitor to the medieval manor house, Clevedon Court, owned by his friend Sir Charles Abraham Elton. Take a leaf out of Thackeray’s book and visit Clevedon Court, now a National Trust property with fascinating collections of glass and pottery and a fabulous walled garden.
One of the most prolific American writers of the 20th century, John Steinbeck is famous for many novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939. Less well-known is Steinbeck’s incomplete retelling of Thomas Malory’s medieval romance, Le Morte d’Arthur, which brought him to Somerset. Steinbeck stayed for nine months with his wife at Discove Cottage in Redlynch, just outside Bruton in 1959 and he regarded his time in Somerset as the happiest time of his life. Find the peace that John Steinbeck enjoyed during his time in this small, ancient town, with its narrow medieval alleys and charming river. Steinbeck’s desk can be found at Bruton Museum in the High Street. The town now has a discreet celebrity endorsement, hugely boosted by the opening of art gallery Hauser & Wirth in 2014.