UK literary hotspots revealed for World Book Day

By Nigel Booth
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 6:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 6:02 pm
Reading is good for the mind (photo: adobe.com)
Reading is good for the mind (photo: adobe.com)

Literary centres

We all love a good book and there's nothing that makes a story more compelling than a perfect setting to bring the story to life.

With World Book Day on March 3, new research by South Western Railway reveals the literary hotspots in the UK - the real life locations that have been used as a backdrop for some of our favourite books.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Curl up with a good book (photo: adobe.com)

South Western Railway has looked into the settings of thousands of books on Goodreads to find the areas in the UK that are most commonly used as settings in books, as well as discovering the average book rating for each location and the most common genre set here.

When someone reads a good book, imagination takes over to merge the story and reality. Readers envision locations and watch the stories play out in front of them, bringing the characters and settings to life.

With so many beautiful cities appearing as backdrops in some of the most famous stories to be written, South Western Railway wanted to find out which UK cities are most frequently found as the settings for these beloved characters.

Looking at lists of novels that are set in the UK on Goodreads, South Western Railway conducted a deep analysis into the settings of over a thousand books to reveal the top literary hotspots in the UK.

The top 10 literary hotspots of the UK

1 London

2 Edinburgh

3 Brighton and Hove

4 Oxford

5 Bath

6 Liverpool

7 Cambridge

8 York

9 Bristol

10 Glasgow

Where are the UK's literary hotspots?

It may come as no surprise that London is the most popular setting to be used in books.

More than 400 novels in the research used this city as the basis for adventures and escapades.

From solving mysteries in Sherlock Holmes to navigating life as a single woman in Bridget Jones’s Diary, the capital is home to many much-loved characters.

With nearly 40 books set here, Edinburgh is the second most popular backdrop for novels in the UK.

The Scottish city is home to many of Ian Rankin’s books and plays a key role in the life of his famous character Inspector Rebus.

Mystery is the top genre for this city, with other novels such as Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber and One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson located here too.

It’s Brighton and Hove that takes the bronze medal for literary hotspots across the UK, and just like Edinburgh it’s mystery and crime that populates this vibrant city.

Home to the popular character of Superintendent Roy Grace in the series of books by Peter James, the city is also the backdrop for Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock and Sara Sheridan’s Brighton Belle.

Alternative Genres

Oxford and Bath make up the rest of the top five, yet here they both bring different genres to the mix.

The fantasy genre enters the top ten with Oxford as the key location, being one of the settings for Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, which stole everyone’s heart when it was made into a film of the same name.

The other genre to grace the top 10 is classics, which are brought to the table with the beautiful city setting of Bath, included in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Highest Average Book Rating

Out of the top ten literary hotspots in the UK, York is the setting to the books with the highest ratings, with an average of 4.1 out of five. Mystery is the most common genre here with historical detective novels such as Sovereign by C.J. Sansom and The Apothecary Rose by Candace Robb taking place in this medieval city.

Paul Bright, Head of Marketing at South Western Railway, said: “For avid readers, there’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a good book and letting the characters and their stories unfold right in front of you.

"There are so many amazing locations across the UK that are the home to some of our favourite characters and we want to showcase these literary hotspots."

He added: "A fan of Sherlock Holmes? Take a day trip to London and cast your eyes to where his famous home would have been in Baker Street.

"Or, if you enjoy Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials series, including the famous The Golden Compass, head to Oxford and admire the settings that inspired the fictional Jordan College.

"Whatever genre you prefer, there’s plenty of cities to visit across the UK where you can walk in the same steps as your favourite characters.”

For more information go to South Western Railway site: https://www.southwesternrailway.com/where-next/things-to-do/literary-hotspots-uk website.