It is a truth universally acknowledged that every man in want of a wife should take his girlfriend on a weekend away. So wrote Jane Austen and Bridget Jones… or words to that effect, at least.
And with 2017 marking the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, why not spend a few days walking hand-in-hand in the footsteps of one of the world’s beloved romantic authors?
To help you discover the romance and beauty of Jane Austen’s England, we chatted to Visit England as part of their “Year of Literary Heroes 2017” to find the best locations hosting events in Austen’s honour.
Whether it’s the glorious spas of Bath, the stunning beauty of Chatsworth House in the Peak District or the loveliness of Hampshire, we’ve made a list of some fantastic Austen-approved destinations that will surely get the thumbs-up from your significant other too…
Fall in love with a resplendent city that inspired two of Austen’s most famous works: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
Bath’s perfectly preserved Georgian architecture remains unchanged from the streets depicted in novels, and you can explore them on a free downloadable audio walking tour of the city ‘In the footsteps of Jane Austen’. Be sure to stop off at the Jane Austen Centre too, where an exhibition of costumes, manuscripts, and film clips bring the author’s world to life in a wonderful Georgian townhouse setting.
Fans of the famous author will also love the city’s annual Jane Austen Festival in September, packed with a calendar of events including masquerade balls and the spectacular Grand Regency Costumed Promenade.
Stay in The Gainsborough, Bath, Somerset…
A beautiful 18th century hotel, The Gainsborough features both Georgian and Victorian facades and interiors that are luxurious to the hilt.
Think plush carpets, elegant furniture and tall, wonderfully comfortable double beds. However, the piece de resistance of this hotel is the Spa Village Bath set beneath the glass atrium of the hotel.
Inside the Spa Village you’ll find two natural thermal pools of varying temperature, traditional and infrared saunas, a steam room and an ice alcove, plus elegant relaxation areas where you can simply recline with a book. The spa also includes 11 treatment rooms where you can be pampered in an aromatherapy tradition that goes back centuries in Bath. It really is a haven of a relaxation.
As Austen’s birthplace, Hampshire is an essential stop-off on an Austen-inspired trip in England. In particular, the town of Chawton where she spent her most prolific writing years will be a major focal point for the Jane Austen 200 commemorations and events.
Star attractions include Jane Austen’s House Museum – her former home – and Chawton House Library, which will host changing exhibitions, talks, activities and other special celebrations between March and December.
If you can only go to one event, make it the annual Regency Week festival in June. Held in and around the market town of Alton and Chawton, there will be Regency-style music, dining, drama, talks, workshops and guided walks and tours, as well as a Regency Ball!
Stay in The Angel Citylodge, Privett, Hampshire…
A popular 4-star hotel, The Angel Citylodge is not far from Austen’s house in Chawton and surrounded by the idyllic Hampshire countryside.
The hotel features comfortable rooms equipped with luxury hypnos beds, a flat screen TV plus the all-important tea and coffee making facilities so you can recover with a brew after a long day of exploring.
The hotel is located in the heart of the South Downs National Park, nearby to the Alton Watercress Steam Railway and just under an hour’s drive from Highclere Castle, the stately home that provides the exteriors for Downton Abbey.
Die-hard fans should stop off in the rural village of Steventon; with a population of around 250, a small parish church and a smattering of thatched cottages, it really is a charming spot – and with good reason.
There are plenty of elegant country hotels just a short drive away from the village so you can really make the trip special. Why not treat yourself to a stay at Oakley Hall Hotel?
Stay in Oakley Hall, Basingstoke, Hampshire…
This magnificent residence hosts 50 luxurious bedrooms featuring beds lined with Egyptian cotton, free WiFi, oversized baths and complimentary eco-friendly toiletries.
Set amidst beautiful gardens, Oakley Hall is ideal for relaxing, and the decadent Glass House restaurant is the perfect spot for a champagne afternoon tea or an AA Rosette dining experience.
Austen mentions the house frequently in her letters to her sister Cassandra. In fact, the lady of the house, Mrs Bramstone, later went on to become the inspiration for Lady Bertram in Austen’s third novel, Mansfield Park.
Jane Austen was so taken with Chatsworth that it’s believed to have inspired Mr Darcy’s residence Pemberley in her novel Pride & Prejudice.
It’s no surprise then that the majestic Derbyshire estate took a starring role alongside Keira Knightley in the 2005 film adaptation of the book.
Stay in The Rutland Arms, Bakewell, Derbyshire…
It is believed that Jane Austen once stayed in The Rutland Arms nearby to Chatsworth House whilst visiting the area and revising the final chapters of Pride and Prejudice.
Each bedroom of the hotel is individually furnished in a way that carefully preserves the hotel’s history whilst providing modern comforts. True fans can opt to stay in the Jane Austen Four Poster Room or choose from a standard double, twin bedroom, special adjoining family rooms or from their selection of four-poster bedrooms.
Set in the picturesque town of Bakewell, the Rutland Arms is also the perfect place from which to explore the magnificent Peak District. Guests staying for three nights or more can receive free tickets to Haddon Hall, another location used in the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
The final resting place of Austen is hosting a plethora of special events to celebrate the leading literary lady. One highlight will be The Mysterious Miss Austen exhibition at the Winchester Discover Centre (13 May – 24 July) with precious Austen pieces, including loans from the National Portrait Gallery and British Library, on display.
The city has also launched a unique ‘Rain Jane’ Trail (until 31 May 2017) consisting of 12 quotes from Austen in 39 locations across the city, created in a special outdoor paint that will appear only when it rains.
Winchester Cathedral, where Austen was buried in 1817, will also be running ‘Tours and Tea’ guides revealing an intimate and amusing insight into her life and connections with the cathedral.
Stay in the The Winchester Royal Hotel, Winchester, Hampshire…
A grand hotel in the city centre, the Winchester Royal Hotel is a beautiful 16th century building just a stone’s throw away from Winchester’s impressive cathedral. The 85 luxurious bedrooms range from a standard double room to a sumptuous suite with a four-poster bed.
The hotel offers complimentary luxuries such as free WiFi, flat screen TV and 24-hour room service, but you can also purchase additional extras to make your stay even more opulent. For example, if you wish to spoil your loved one then you can order a bottle of champagne, a box of chocolates or even a bouquet of flowers so they feel thoroughly indulged!
The Austen family had many ties to Kent; Austen’s father was born, attended school and later taught in Tonbridge, where a Jane Austen Walk and audio tour can be taken around the town.
Take a look around Goodnestone Park near Canterbury; the former home of her brother Edward’s wife’s family, is now a sumptuous stately home. Surrounded by 18th-century parkland, the house retains lots of charming original features from the Georgian period, transporting you back to the dinners and dances she would have attended there.
Stay in the Best Western Abbotts Barton, Canterbury…
A stately 19th century mansion, the Best Western Abbotts Barton hotel is the perfect place to explore the Kent countryside, shops, restaurants, and cathedral in the lively city of Canterbury.
As the ‘garden of England’, Kent is known for its many quaint English country gardens and the Best Western is no different, surrounded by two acres of manicured greenery.
All of the rooms are well appointed and include an en-suite bathroom and tea and coffee making facilities.
From the hotel, you can enjoy activities such as golf – Kent is blessed with many wonderful golf courses, fishing on both the river and the sea, or simply getting to know the beautiful city of Canterbury.
For more literary inspiration, check out hotels that transformed the literary world.