The best places to read
With warmer days and lighter evenings all on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to switch off, get outdoors and engage the mind with a good book.
But just as important as picking the right book is choosing the right place in which to enjoy it, so here’s our pick of some of the best places to read across England, Wales and Northern Ireland…
1. Gibside, Newcastle upon Tyne
If you believe reading is best enjoyed with a good view and plenty of tea and cake to hand, then Gibside’s 400 acre ‘forest garden’ could be just the place for you. Designed in the 18th century, Gibside combines woodland and open spaces with atmospheric buildings, making it the ideal place to roll out the rug and lie back with your favourite book. And if you’re after the perfect accompaniment then a visit to the Gibside Larder is a must. It sells the region’s finest award-winning food, including produce from local National Trust estates. You’re sure to find something mouth-watering on offer.
2. Boscastle, North Cornwall
It's not hard to see how the landscape surrounding Boscastle provided inspiration for one of Thomas Hardy's early books, 'A Pair of Blue Eyes'. The secluded meadows of the Valency Valley are filled with brightly coloured wild flowers in summer and offer a peaceful retreat; it's the perfect place to loose yourself in your favourite book. If you can tear yourself away for long enough, then why not pop into the café at Boscastle Harbour for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
3. Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire
With broad lawns and spectacular views over parkland, the garden at Kedleston is full of fascinating ornaments and buildings; the perfect distraction should you encounter difficult chapters. Enjoy turning the pages in the wider park where the lakes and cascades provide a tranquil atmosphere to relax and unwind. There’s also the chance to stretch your legs on the three mile-long ‘Long Walk’, perfect for pondering the deeper meanings of your latest tome; it offers stunning views back to the house.
4. Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire
Settle yourself on a bench and take a moment to savour the views over Stroud and the Severn Vale before absorbing yourself in your favourite book. If visiting in the summer months, look out for butterflies and an array of colourful wild flowers, such as the Pasque flower and early purple orchids. Laurie Lee, the author of Cider with Rosie, grew up near to Rodborough and once wrote of Stroud, 'If ever I saw blessing in the air I see it now in this still early day'.
5. Lyme Park, Cheshire
A must for Austen fans, Lyme played a starring role as Jane Austen’s ‘Pemberley’ in the BBC’s adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. There’s plenty of room to unwind and find the perfect reading spot in the 1,400 acre park, which contains an early 18th-century hunting tower called ‘The Cage’, woodland and a lantern folly with breathtaking views. Or find a bench in the Victorian garden and enjoy the sunken parterre, luxurious Jekyll-style borders and the lake where ‘Darcy and Elizabeth’ famously met.
6. Stourhead, Wiltshire
Celebrated for its beauty across the world, Stourhead near Bath is a haven of tranquillity. Hidden away in a secluded valley the 18th-century landscape garden is the perfect location for relaxing with your book of choice. With over a 100 acres set around a huge lake, scattered with classical and Gothic buildings, you might have trouble deciding just where to sit. It’s great for a bit of people-watching too; find a space near the Palladian bridge - it’s everyone’s favourite photo op.
7. Buttermere in the Lake District
Alfred Wainwright, the well-known author of the 'Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells', made this area famous with his hand-written and hand-drawn guides to the Lakes. Pack a picnic and come and experience the lakes of Buttermere, Crummock Water and Loweswater for yourself. Take your pick of the many places where you can throw down a rug and immerse yourself in a good book. Alternatively, take yourself and your book on a boat trip round one of the lakes: boats are available to hire on both Crummock Water and Loweswater.
8. The Quantocks, Somerset
Pack a picnic and a good book and head to the Quantocks where you'll be surrounded by beautiful countryside and lots of good reading spots. The Quantock Hills were loved by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth in the late 18th century and provided inspiration for the first edition of the revolutionary 'Lyrical Ballads', a collection of poems by both Coleridge and Wordsworth, published in 1798. Pop into the village of Nether Stowey and find out more about Coleridge at his former home, Coleridge Cottage.