Devon Literary Adventures

To celebrate the lovely weather, the start of the summer holidays and the stunning county of Devon, we've rounded up some hot-spots perfect for literary adventures on a summer's day. Over the years, writers have been inspired by Devon's rugged beauty. If you can't understand why, Ian Sansom wrote an article titled 'Devon Sent: Why Writers Can't Resist the County' to shed a little light on the matter!

The Hound of  the Baskervilles | Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

First up, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's, The Hound of the Baskerville's. In this classic horror story, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are up against folklore, a family curse and the legend of a phantom hound. Set on Dartmoor, the heavy, mysterious fog makes the phantom hound only too easy to imagine. The inspiration for this story came from the legend of Richard Cabell (d. 1677) who was a notoriously immoral squire. After his death, it was said he could be seen leading a pack of phantom hounds across the moor. To re-live this story, you can visit Buckfastleigh, where the tomb of Richard Cabell remains. Furthermore, it is believed that Baskerville Hall is based on one of three halls found on or near Dartmoor: Fowelscombe, Hayford Hall and Brook Hall. If you head to Grimspound, you'll see the iconic Bronze Age settlement, and from there to Fox Tor Mire, the inspiration for the bleak and inhospitable Grimpen Mire in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Dart | Alice Oswald

Another title that begins on Dartmoor is the book-length poem by Alice Oswald, Dart, which traces the lives of people, creatures and legends along the length of the river from source to mouth. Whilst the poem is rooted in history and folklore (the drowned man who haunts the Dart, the waternymph and the dead tinners whose names overflow in a splurge on the page), Oswald creates a sense of discovery as the river travels down its path. The poem introduces the reader to fisherman, naturists, swimmers and sewage workers. Whilst it would be difficult to walk from source to mouth in one day, exploring the banks of the River Dart (with this book in hand) gives a fresh perspective on the beauty and harshness of nature and the diversity of life and livelihoods in the heart of Devon.

Collected Poems | Ted Hughes

Another for poetry lovers, is the Ted Hughes Poetry Trail at Stover Country Park. The trail was created to celebrate Hughes' links with Devon and the poems have been chosen to relate to the nature that can be seen and heard around the nature reserve. There is also a shorter trail suitable for children. The full trail takes 2 hours and there are shorter routes available. Poems featured in the trail include 'Wren, 'Pike', 'An Otter (Part I)', 'The Harvest Moon', 'To Paint A Water Lily', and 'The Thought-Fox'.

War Horse | Michael Morpurgo

Just north of Dartmoor, and a lovely place to explore with children, is War Horse Valley Country Farm Park, which brings to life the wonderful tales written by Michael Morpurgo. Parsonage Farm, the setting of Morpurgo's infamous War Horse, now boasts a museum, animals, a farm trail, games, trailer rides, tea rooms - which can all be enjoyed while observing the idyllic valley.

And then there were none | Agatha Christie

Another one for detective stories, And then there were none by Agatha Christie tells the story of ten strangers lured to an island off the Devon coast. One by one, they begin to die - who is the killer and will any of them survive? Christie's inspiration for the haunting island setting of this tale is Burgh Island, a small island in South Devon. Burgh Island is connected the mainland by a sandy beached that is covered at high tide. Visitors can get to the island by 'beach tractor' from Bigbury On Sea. The island is a great place to explore, or to observe from the sandy beach. On Burgh Island are the remains of the Huers hut, where fisherman would keep a lookout for shoals of pilchards, The Pilchard Inn, and Burgh Island Hotel, an Art Deco building that looks over the beach at Bigbury On Sea.

Slapton Sands | Francis Cottam

Just along the coast is Slapton Sands, the setting of the mystery novel by Francis Cottam. Alice finds herself on the south Devon coast researching an event that claimed the lives of over 1,500 American marines. But her stay is disturbed by haunting incidents that suggest someone doesn't want her to be digging up the past. The tale of a tragic event, it's disastrous consequences and a poignant love story.

Tarka the Otter | Henry Williamson

From the south coast to the north coast, explore the Tarka trail on bicycles or from one of it's lovely pubs and tea rooms overlooking the water after reading Tarka the Otter. This 1927 novel, loved by all ages, captures the wildlife in Devon through an otter's eyes. From his first year as a young cub learning to swim and hunt to his first litter of cubs. A loved creature in the literary world, Henry Williamson's novel has inspired great writers and poets such as Ted Hughes and Rachel Carson.
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