Five great British walks with a literary twist

Five great British walks with a literary twist

From Boswell and Johnson bickering in Scotland to the coast that inspired Enid Blyton’s Famous Five

Enid Blyton, Isle of Purbeck, Dorset

Enid Blyton took her holidays on the Isle of Purbeck (not in fact an island, but a chunky peninsula, with cliff-top walks, moors, hidden coves, a steam train, ruined castle and a lingering air of adventure). She came up with the idea for The Famous Five when staying at the Ship Inn in Swanage in 1942, so that’s as good a place as any to set off for a bracing walk in the company of the hyperactive Enid.

Head south, then west along the coastal path, past the lifeboat station, perhaps with one of her evocative nature books in hand, with the waves slapping in the caves to your left, along banks of blackthorn, gorse and teasels, with larks in the air. You could take a dip at Dancing Ledge: dynamited to create a swimming pool by a local headteacher in more anarchic times, it appears in the Malory Towers books. And then cut north to the unimprovable Square & Compass pub at Worth Matravers, before reaching Corfe and its jackdaw-infested castle, inspiration for the Famous Five’s Kirrin Castle. It’s time to raise a glass of ginger beer in honour of Enid, whose dubious vision of cheery bobbies and suspicious outsiders retains a suffocating resonance. Toot toot! The steam train’s waiting to take us back to Swanage.

JB Priestley, Wharfedale, Yorkshire Dales

How long you make this walk is up to you. Jack Priestley wrote that in his youth there were Bradford folk who’d think nothing of tramping 30 or 40 miles every Sunday; and when he returned to the city in 1932 (he’d left to join the army in 1914, aged 19, and got stuck in the south), he walked from Ilkley to Hubberholme before lunch. Or so he implies in his peerless travel book, English Journey. But that’s 25 miles, along the banks of the Wharfe, and he says he rolled into the George Inn (“soup, yorkshire pudding, roast chicken and sausages, two veg, pudding, cheese … all for two and sixpence each”) before taking the long route home via Blubberhouses. He was probably driving.


Andy Halliday

Andy is a camping expert with over 20 years of outdoor experience. He shares his expertise through his blog that features on his very own e-commerce camping gear store. He aspires to use his knowledge and experience to help disabled families get the most out of every trip they take.

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