Whether your TikTok FYP is full of romantasy titles or you’ve long been a fan of books and the great romantic poets and writers that found inspiration on Exmoor, there’s lots of literary history to discover in North Devon and Exmoor.

The region has long been a favourite of the great writers, with people like Percy Bysse Shelly spending time here and giving Lynton and Lynmouth their nickname of Little Switzerland, he came up with the name alongside his friend Robert Southey. Others, like Charles Kingsley even inspired the names of whole villages and Rudyard Kipling has a walk named after him!

Here are some of the top places to visit to uncover more of Exmoor’s literary history, as well as some little known facts about the region. Who knows, perhaps you’ll be struck with inspiration too!

  • Follow the Tarka Trail and relive Tarka the Otter.
    Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson is one of the most famous works to come out of the area, it inspired the Tarka Trail, which follows the same route that Tarka takes in the book. The trail is 180 miles, so you won’t complete it in a day, but you can pick up the trail at a variety of places and wherever you join in, you can be sure of picturesque scenery and a great place to either go for a walk or a ride.
  • Follow Kipling Tor
    Another walking route inspired by a writer is Kipling Tor, which is named for Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, among other works. Although not native to the area, he attended school in Westward Ho! for a time and while a student, would spend much of his time out on Exmoor. Kipling Tor follows one of his favourite routes.
  • Visit Westward Ho!
    As well as being the former home of Rudyard Kipling, Westward Ho! itself is also full of literary connections. The village was named after a book written by Charles Kingsley, an author who lived in nearby Bideford. He and his brother, Henry, both wrote several novels while living in and around North Devon and Exmoor. Henry’s novel, Ravenshoe is also partly set on Exmoor.
  • Explore the Doone Valley
    Perhaps the most famous book to feature Exmoor is Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore. It’s one of the great romances of the British literary canon and there are sections of National Trust managed property that are named after the book and its characters.
  • Little Switzerland
    Little Switzerland, or as we’ve already mentioned, the twin towns of Lynton and Lynmouth are very picturesque, so it's no wonder that they inspired the romantic poets of the time. Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote Queen Mab and several political pamphlets while living in the area, that is until government spies caught up with him. His buddy, Robert Southey wrote several romantic verses while staying here too.
  • Links to Lord Byron
    While the mad, bad and dangerous to know poet and lothario Lord Byron didn’t spend time in the area as far as we know, his daughter Ada Lovelace did. She had a house in the region which would later serve as the inspiration for writer, Margaret Drabble, who used it in her book, the Witch of Exmoor.
  • Other Devon writers moved to Exmoor too
    One of the best known of these writers who lived in other areas of Devon is Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was born in Ottery St Mary. He moved his family to the Exmoor area and was inspired when walking across the National Park to write the Tale of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, two of his best known poems.

Want to indulge in more literary connections? Make sure to book tickets to this year’s Appledore Book Festival, which takes place between 13th and 22nd September 2024. This year’s programme has yet to be announced, but you can be sure of a week of events perfect for bibliophiles everywhere – while you’re in Appledore, why not spend some time explore Exmoor and see whether inspiration strikes you?