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Literature in North Devon

From romantic poets to novelists, North Devon’s dramatic landscape has long inspired people. Several of the best loved romantic poets and writers settled in the region, giving the towns of Lynton and Lynmouth the nickname of Little Switzerland and lending their names to walking trails and even towns. Arguably the most famous literary works to come out of North Devon are the classic novels Lorna Doone and Tarka the Otter, but there are plenty more that have used the landscape as the setting for their novels and poems. 

Lorna Doone: An epic romance

Exmoor is the setting for the Lorna Doone story, author Richard Doddridge Blackmoor based his novel in this uniquely dramatic area of North Devon and it’s not hard to see why. He spent much of his childhood here so it’s no wonder that he was able to conjure such an epic story that manages to weave the look of the moor in with the saga of the Doone family. The novel itself was based on a number of legendary figures from the region’s history and the Doone Valley that is described in the book is based around the Lynton area. If you have been in the area recently, you might have noticed that the book celebrated a milestone anniversary and there were a number of events being held to commemorate it – which seems like the perfect opportunity for you to visit Exmoor yourself and immerse yourself in the adventures of the Doone family! 

Though Lorna Doone is his most famous work, Doddridge Blackmoor based many of his other books in North Devon too, including Tales from the Telling House, Jennifried’s Story and Maid of Sker, which also featured notable local figures. 

It isn’t just Lorna Doone that has made Exmoor a haven for bibliophiles and writers alike. The moor has provided inspiration to a whole host of names, including the poets Coleridge and Wordsworth, who spent some time in Lynton the Valley of the Rocks and other areas of the moor. They were also joined by Robert Southey, his publication, Commonplace Book, features many mentions of Lynton and Lynmouth and how he saw them as The English Switzerland. 

Follow Tarka around the Tarka Trail

It will be no surprise to learn that the Tarka Trail is connected to Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter. The story follows Tarka, an otter, who lives around the Taw-Torridge rivers in North Devon and much of the story takes place in the area around Barnstaple. Should you want to, you can head to Canal Bridge on the River Torridge, which is where Tarka’s story started and ended and have your own adventure exploring the trail either by foot or by bike. The trail covers around 180 miles but with several access points, it is easy to pick and choose which parts of the trail you want to visit. 

You can even visit Henry Williamson’s former writing hut which he built using the money he earned from Tarka’s story, it’s located in Georgeham near Croyde

Westward Ho! – a literary hotspot

Did you know Westward Ho!’s name comes from a novel? Well, now you do! The village got its name from Charles Kingsley’s book of the same name. Kingsley, who is also famous for writing The Babes in the Woods, lived in nearby Bideford and based his novel in the region. The story focuses on Amyas Leigh who sails to the Caribbean to battle the Spanish during the Elizabethan era and takes inspiration from much of Devon’s maritime history. The success of the book lead to the village we now know as Westward Ho! being developed into the popular seaside resort we all know and love. Charles Kingsley himself even opened the first hotel which was built in the village!  Kingsley wasn’t the only author to put Westward Ho! on the map, it was also where Rudyard Kipling of Jungle Book fame went to school. 

Whatever kind of adventure you want to have in North Devon, there are plenty of books offering the perfect inspiration! 

Enjoy North Devon's literature festival

Appledore Book Festival Sep 13

Celebrating literature and arts by the sea. First established in 2006, the Appledore Book Festival takes place in the beautiful, historic fishing village of Appledore, situated on the North Devon coast approximately three miles from Bideford. The Festival continues to thrive and grow - becoming one…

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