I recently discovered online (is there any other way to discover things these days?) that there is a Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh. Say what? I have to go. After all, I’m a writer. Plus, it’s free, which is totally in my price range.
Until I make that trip, however, I’ll have to reminisce about my favorite writerly destinations I’ve visited over the years—and I’ve had a lot of them. Years, that is. But also writer destinations. So here, for your reading pleasure and future travel planning, are my seven favorite destinations:
Yes, it’s the Holy Land. Yes, it’s walking where Jesus walked. And it’s also an amazing experience for a writer. Everywhere you turn, someone wrote there, from the many spots that gave birth to biblical writings to the Bethlehem cave adjoining the Grotto of the Nativity where St. Jerome translated much of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek to the Latin Vulgate.
Though William Shakespeare didn’t write any of his plays in Stratford, he may have written some of his sonnets there. But, of course, the Bard’s home and Anne Hathaway’s cottage can be toured.
3. 221B Baker St.
I’m not as big a Sherlock Holmes nut as I am a Shakespeare nut. But my wife did have to remind me, as I sat in the loving re-creation of the famous detective’s London lodgings: “He’s fictional.” Yeah, right, whatever.
4. The Mark Twain House (pictured above)
Samuel Clemens was already famous and wealthy when he built an amazing neo-Gothic mansion in Hartford, Connecticut; but he still wrote some of his beloved works there, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
5. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Cottage
Across the yard from the Twain house in Hartford is the much humbler Victorian Gothic cottage where the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin lived for twenty-three years.
6. City Lights Bookstore
I was giddy when I first visited San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore. It was started by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and was a gathering place for his generation’s “beat poets,” such as Gary Snyder. It was also the USA’s first all-paperback bookstore.
7. The Berry Center
On the way home from a brief writing retreat with a few good writer friends in Louisville, Kentucky, I was excited to stop off at the Berry Center in New Castle, Kentucky. I found it, walked into stately Oldham House that is the Berry Center’s home, and was quickly greeted by a young woman. I expressed some confusion. “I thought the center might be on the family farm.” “Oh, no,” she said, “Grandfather would never allow that.” Oh ho ho, I realized I was talking to the granddaughter of one of my literary idols, Wendell Berry. She graciously offered to escort me next door to the bookstore, next door in a log cabin, and answered my questions and tolerated my fanboying with a quiet, patient dignity.
I could list many more; but I’ll let these suffice for now and ask, What writerly destinations have amazed and delighted you?
How can I relate to you
where I traveled on that night,
make it bold and bright and true
that as I passed into the light,
that when a final breath did pass
I heard a lovely joyous song,
and stepped out on the living grass
to join a happy dancing throng
beneath a vast and coloured sky,
so fresh and sparkling clean,
a breeze that was a holy sigh
of happiness upon that scene…
on Earth I now know Heaven’s lack,
but also know that I’ll be back.
It’s very hard to describe the essence of a near-death experience, and that loveliest of destinations, without sounding like a bit of a crank.
But I promised I would try.
Need an excuse to go to Key West? I could feel Hemingway’s spirit in his upstairs writing room. And greatly appreciated the six-toed kitties.
Laura L. Smith
Les Deux Magots–the famous cafe in Paris where Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and their cronies dined, drank, exchanged stories, and wrote. Sitting at one of the tables people watching in Paris is inspiration for any project you’re writing.
Lisa Loraine Baker
I too loved being à Les Deux Magots! Inspiring, yes. More than even Shakespeare and Company.
The room in London where Samuel Johnson (and his crew) wrote the first English dictionary. It’s upstairs, and the table is one of the longest I’ve ever seen. The dictionary is lots of fun to read, because the definitions all ring with Dr. Johnson’s idiosyncratic opinions. Some of the definitions gave rise to several rules about defining terms, one of which I remember: Don’t write a definition more complicated than the defined term. For example, he defined a network by using the word “interstices.”
Each time I visit Tuscany, I’m inspired by God’s call to my family. In renewed wonder, I realize I’ve been woven through generations before me. God knitted my being into life in this particular family–for His particular reasons. Why me? Why them? For they are by no accident. He ordained my place among them. He has positioned me beside them. Lord, help me hear Your voice and discern Your will through the emotional minefields of family. May I listen well–and steward wisely.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire, where we used to live–right by (what USED to be) Hawthorne’s, “The Great Stone Face”.
Nothing more serene on the planet that I’ve seen yet.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Wow! These would all be wonderful destinations. Hmmm … I think the Mark Twain House might interest me the most. Imagine a Scooby Doo like mystery set there!
D L Whittaker
In Missouri, Hannibal has Mark Twain destinations and Mansfield has Laura Ingalls Wilder home. Laura’s writing desk is worth the visit.
St Louis has Eugene Field home and St Joseph has his famous “Lovers Lane – St Jo”
Yes! I loved visiting LIW’s home in Mansfield. You can pick up so many details about who she was as a person.
Janet Holm McHenry
This summer I visited Monroeville, Alabama, the home of Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. TKAM’s fictional town of Maycomb was based on Monroeville (and wow, you feel as though you’re walking in the story in that town). The courthouse there is now a museum to her and that novel, my fave, which I taught to high school students for years. The Gregory Peck film used that actual courthouse.
A couple others:
– Glen Ellen, near Sonoma CA, a park with the fascinating stone remains of Jack London’s home (which burned to the ground)
– John Steinbeck’s boyhood home in Salinas CA, and the nearby Steinbeck Center
I loved living in Germany and it was very inspirational and interesting. I also enjoyed enormously visiting France, Luxemburg and Belgium while I lived there. Also, in early trips, Portugal and Italy were also great. I’m surprised you didn’t have these on your list. And I don’t have time to tell of all the great places in those countries, but you get the idea… Now I live in homely Texas, but I try to imagine myself still in Germany when I write…
I’ve visited the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London where Silvia Plath and the Bloomsbury Group hung out, and I toured the underground tunnel rooms that inspired Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Personally, I’ll take the Great Outdoors for inspiration. Zion National Park in Utah and Glacier National Park in Montana are particular favorites. I’m sure many a writer has walked those trails. 🙂
Damon J. Gray
I have toured novelist Louisa May Alcott’s home, the one depicted in Little Women and also where she wrote it (the desk is still there). Also visited the Ralph Waldo Emerson home and Walden Pond including the cabin where Henry David Thoreau wrote.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
I loved going to Port Isaac , England, where Doc Martin is set and was filmed. I went during the filming of the tenth season (known as series ten) and got to meet most of the actors that regularly appeared in the show. I understand why Dominic Mingella wrote about the area.
A visit to Oxford University was also awesome, walking where C.S. Lewis and his buddies hung out, and seeing the door and lamp post that he used in a lot of his writing.
I’ve never been to any writer’s home or haunt, but I do make an effort to check out local bookstores when I’m traveling. The most memorable one has been the Book Loft in German Village, Columbus, Ohio. Size isn’t everything, but I was in awe of the fact that the store is so large you need a map to navigate it.
I visited 48 Doughty in London, England—home of Charles Dickens from 1837-39. He wrote Oliver Twist while living there. 📚
Connemara — Carl Sandburg’s home and farm in Flat Rock, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. The house is open to the public for tours. From 2010-2020, the Sandburg family sponsored an annual writer-in-residence. Now they offer monthly virtual writing presentations (mostly geared to beginning writers, I think).
When my husband and I took our honeymoon to England, we visited the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abby. I was a pilgrim visiting a shrine!
The last several years we’ve lived in Jamestown, North Dakota, where the peerless Louis L’Amour was born. You wouldn’t think it, but this place has its own definite charm!
The place I loved as a writer was Oxford in England. It is the home of the writers C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carol and Tolkien.
I went through the beautiful Christ chuch college where Lewis Carol was a Fellow and where he met the characters for his book ‘Alice in Wonderland’. His real name was the Reverend Charles Dodgson.The character of Alice was based on the daughter of the principal of the college. It was this young girl who loved listening to Lewis Carols stories who encouraged him to put them in print.
The other place in Oxford was the pub ‘The Eagle and Child’ where the famous Inklings writing group met to talk about their writing projects. Famous writers included Tolkien and C.S. Lewis who discussed their stories about Narnia and the idea for ‘Lord of the rings’.
I visited the Mark Twain home when I was in Hartford for ReNew in the fall of 2018… where I met YOU for the first time too, Bob! Loved it!
And I love the Carl Sandburg home in Flat Rock, NC—near where I live. Walking through their abode, it’s as if the Sandburgs had just gotten up to take a brief stroll on their farm and told visitors, “Just come on in. Make yourselves at home.”