Literary Locations You Can Visit! (Or Just Read About)

Inspired by Alyssia’s post Literary Homes You Can Buy! (Or Just Visit), my recent vacation where I toured historical sites, and the summer travel season, I thought I’d bring you a post on literary locations you can visit. Though it won’t be through any such means as a magic wardrobe, that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as fantastical!

Cover of The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

We’ll start this list off with two epics, and being a biased fan, we’ll begin with my favourite world: Middle Earth.

Most people know that the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were filmed in New Zealand and that, besides the incredible bigatures, much of the stunning scenery we see on screen are straight shots of actual locations. So I’m here to recommend three lesser known places than Matamata, NZ (home to the Shire) to visit.

Moseley Bog, Birmingham, UK served as Tolkien’s inspiration for the Old Forest, a place that might be more familiar to book fans than movie fans. In the books, it abutted Buckland—ancestral home to Merry Brandybuck—and was full of living, angry trees and a curious (and much debated) character named Tom Bombadil.

Next is Tongariro National Park, NZ, which is the fourth oldest national park in the world, the filming location for Mordor and birthplace of the One Ring, and a place where the scenery is breathtaking in real life rather than despairing as depicted in the films.

Pelorus River, Marlborough, NZ is a Hobbit filming location, where the Dwarves (and titular Hobbit) were in for a barrel ride down the river as they escaped the prisons of the elf-king of Mirkwood. If you choose to visit, you can take a much lovelier (and drier?) guided kayaking tour.

Cover of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Our second fantasy epic would be the world of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Visiting it requires no magical, mystical standing stones—only a trip to gorgeous Scotland where the TV series was filmed.

While the stone circle Claire went through isn’t real, it’s surroundings are. Kinloch Rannoch was the location for Craigh Na Dun, and though filming took place partially on a private farm, the general area itself is open for visits!

Next is Doune Castle, home to Colum MacKenzie and his clan, which was also featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and played the role of Winterfell in Game of Thrones!

Finally, Falkland, aka Inverness, was the stand-in for the town Claire lives in while in her own time in the 1940s. It’s an hour’s drive north of Edinburgh and you can even stay at the guesthouse featured in the show, called the Covenanter Hotel.

Cover of Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith

Topping off our epic locations is a galaxy far, far away…okay, not literally. But you can visit the filming locations for the Star Wars planet Tatooine, home to both Anakin and Luke Skywalker, without going off-world, just by visiting southern Tunisia! George Lucas even borrowed the name of the Tunisian town ‘Tataouine’, spelling variation aside!

Fun fact: my father’s family is Tunisian, and last year my parents (my mom being the Star Wars fan) went and visited Matmata, the set of the Lars homestead and moisture farm. I haven’t yet been myself, but I’m hoping to go on my next visit. My mom assures me that it’s as otherworldly and sandy as depicted in the movies. For even more sight-seeing, check out the town of Tozeur, which has several Star Wars filming locations for you to explore.

From fantasy epics to classics, here are more fictional places to explore!

Cover of Downton Abbey DVD

Okay, while not quite a classic (if still classy), I wouldn’t be surprised if Downton Abbey becomes one! And I’m sure it already is for fans, especially considering the amount of awards it was nominated for and won!

Highclere Castle in West Berkshire, UK, the home and filming location of the period drama (and movie), offers guided tours, high tea, concerts and others events, and lodges you can rent for two nights for a really lovely immersive experience. Visit and relive various scenes for yourself, with or without historical costumes to match!

Cover of The Shining by Stephen King

For the horror classic The Shining, I’ve got two locations for you, one for the book and one for the film. Exterior scenes for the haunted Overlook Hotel where filmed in Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon, but Stephen King wrote the book in (and was no doubt inspired by) The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, where you can experience an hour-long horror tour.

Cover of Ulysses by James Joyce

James Joyce’s celebrated novel Ulysses spans an entire day in Dublin, Ireland, but the story opens in Martello Tower in Sandy Cove, Dublin, where there is a museum dedicated to the author, full of his memorabilia.

Cover of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

From adult classics to children’s, here are some fantastical sites for you and your family to enjoy!

The real-life inspiration for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden lies within Great Maytham Hall, England. Burnett rented the estate for ten years, and when she glimpsed a neglected garden hidden behind an overgrown wall, she spent a considerable amount of time and effort rejuvenating and restoring it and, many years after living there, penning the novel inspired by it.

Cover of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England served as the inspiration for The Hundred Acre Wood in Winnie the Pooh and is the same forest author A. A. Milne lived by and explored with his son, Christopher Robin. It’s currently owned by the Ashdown Forest Trust and managed by the Conservators of Ashdown Forest, who preserve and protect this natural woodland, but it is open for visitors and perfect for family trips.

Cover of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

While it would be impossible to visit the actual Neverland, Moat Brae House and Garden in Scotland, where J. M. Barrie lived and played as a child and which served as inspiration for the fantastical world where children never grow up, has dedicated itself to being a children’s literature centre and delivering some of the magic, adventure, and imagination of Peter Pan.

Cover of The Chronicles of Narnia DVD

This list of children’s fiction locations wouldn’t be complete without real life locations to parallel the ones in C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or the visually gorgeous movies that adapted the book series.

The first location is Cathedral Cove, NZ where the siblings discover the ruins of their castle at Cair Paravel, complete with a deep river chasm and cascading waterfalls.

The second is the ancient Elephant Rocks in Otago, NZ on the rolling hills in the Waitaki district of the South Island, which were transformed into Aslan’s Camp in the first film.

Finally on our list of literary locations, we have blockbusters!

Cover of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon DVD

The first two are Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers. You can visit Arashiyama Forest in Kyoto, Japan to see the gorgeous, towering bamboo forest depicted in multiple scenes in both movies for yourself!

Cover of Up DVD

Bet you never expected animation to make this list, but guess what! You can visit Angel Falls in Venezuela, aka the tallest waterfall in the world, which was the real-life inspiration for the stunning Paradise Falls in Up.

Cover of Tomb Raider DVD

There’s another adventure movie real-life set you can visit. Fans of Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft and Tomb Raider can visit the ruins of Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia, as featured in the film.

Cover of Jurassic Park DVD

While most of the scenes in Jurassic Park were shot in studio, the exterior shots of Isla Nublar (aka the site of the OG Jurassic Park) were of Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii.

Cover of The Hunger Games DVD

And finally, if you fancy visiting President’s Snow’s house from The Hunger Games movies you can! It’s historic Swan House in Atlanta, Georgia and it’s open to visitors and offers a 45-minute guided tour featuring props from the film and photo-ops in the home’s elaborate dining room and President Snow’s office.

And there you have it, a short(…ish) travel guide for any of you who’ve fallen in love with a world you may have previously thought could only be visited through the pages of a book or on the silver screen. Happy travelling! Comment below if you’ve been to one (or more!) of these places, or somewhere else straddling the line between fiction and reality that I haven’t listed!

About Sumayyah

Sumayyah is an Information Assistant at the Vaughan Public Libraries. She's also a bookworm and author, constantly dreaming up a multitude of different stories and wrestling with finishing them.  |  Meet the team