back to top

13 UK Destinations With Amazing Backstories

Come take a history lesson with us.

Posted on

1. The Brontë Parsonage Museum: Yorkshire, England

Courtesy of The Brontë Parsonage Museum

You have to hand it to Mr and Mrs Brontë, for where would British literature be without their remarkably talented offspring?

The Brontë Parsonage Museum is the lifelong home of the Brontë family and is fully open to the public, allowing for a wonderful insight into their lives, loves, and inspirations.

2. Senate House Library: London, England

By An Siarach at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Home to the University of London's world-famous library, Senate House is particularly significant for its other proprietor, The Ministry of Information, which was responsible for controlling news and information during World War II.

Sound familiar? It also served as the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Today it has regular free exhibitions open to the public, found on the fourth floor.

3. Bloomsbury Tavern: London, England

Jason Dodd Photography

Dating back to 1856, this classic London public house has many a story to tell. Legend has it that it was the last drinking spot for condemned criminals, as they made their way from Newgate Prison to be hanged at Tyburn Tree.

Stop by, and perhaps the pub's resident ghost will fill you in on the details!

4. The Jamaica Inn: Cornwall, England

Courtesy of The Jamaica Inn

This quaint inn dates back to 1750, when it was popular with smugglers, who would store everything from tobacco and tea to silks and brandy as they came ashore.

However, it was made most famous by Daphne du Maurier's atmospheric novel Jamaica Inn (which was also adapted into film by Alfred Hitchcock).

She wrote the book after becoming lost in Bodmin Moor's fog, only to be taken to the inn by their horses. It's there that the local parson regaled her with tales of ghosts and smuggling that would serve as inspiration for her works.

5. The Corn Exchange: Leeds, England

Simon Dewhurst

Built in 1827 by renowned architect Cuthbert Broderick as a grand corn market, it has stood the test of time remarkably, with only the most minimal of alterations since.

The famous domed roof – nicknamed "The Balloon" – was designed to allow the most light in without touching the corn, which would turn it a different colour, hence its elliptical shape.

While no corn is traded today, it's now home to Leeds' best independent designers and shops, retaining its strong links to the local trade.

6. Sarehole Mill: Birmingham, England

Courtesy of Sarhole Mill

Sarehole is a small village in the Midlands made famous by a very important resident: J. R. R. Tolkien. Its green fields and rolling hills would become the inspiration for the Shire, the home of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.

And of course, Hobbit fans will recognise Sarehole Mill as "The Great Mill", home to the grumpy Ted Sandyman.

7. The Elephant House: Edinburgh, Scotland

Alf Malin (CC by SA 2.0) / Via Flickr: alfmelin

A quaint tea and coffee house, The Elephant House may have only opened in 1995, but it had made a lot of history in its 20 short years.

Most famously, it is where J. K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter books, just in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.

8. Saltaire Village: Bradford, England

Tim Green (CC by 2.0) / Via Flickr: atoach

Saltaire is a Victorian model village. Not a miniature village, but a very real one, created solely to house the workers of industrialist Sir Titus Salt's five textile mills.

Now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's a remarkable time capsule into another age, when a company manufactured its own employee town. But what makes it even more special is that it's not a yet a relic. People still live there!

9. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch: Anglesey, Wales

Suzanne Gielis (CC by ND 2.0) / Via Flickr: gielissuzanne

Quite the mouthful! Although, the longest place name in Europe isn't much easier in English: Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave.

Previously called just "Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll", it's believed that a local cobbler invented the name in the 19th century to help attract tourism from travellers passing through. Quite the marketing ploy!

10. Hill Top Farm: Cumbria, England

Stephen Allport (CC by SA 2.0) / Via Flickr: stephenallport

Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top in 1905, falling in love with the area immediately. And upon visiting, it becomes clear just how influential it was in her tales of Peter Rabbit and all of his friends.

Over 70 years on since her death, Hill Top remains almost exactly as she left it. Every room features little recognisable inspirations from her beloved children's books, serving as a wonderful insight into her world.

11. The Plough & Harrow: Monknash, Wales

Steve_C / Getty Images / Via gettyimages.co.uk

Situated in the Vale of Glamorgan, this sweet little pub dates all the way back to 1383, but it carries a rather sinister history.

Legends tell of the infamous "Wreckers of the Wick", who would tie lanterns to sheep on the clifftops, confusing sea captains and drawing them onto the deadly jagged rocks of the bay. Once the bounty was stolen, the bodies would be stored at the grange until coffins could be made by the carpenter next-door.

(Oh, and it's haunted too, of course.)

12. Pendle Hill: Lancashire, England

Dave Leeming (CC by 2.0) / Via Flickr: calydel

Speaking of haunted places, how about the cursed Pendle Hill, home of the infamous Lancashire witch trials?

Back in the 17th century, a family of local peasants – purportedly in league with the devil – wrought terror over the era. Cattle died, the milk turned sour, and the butter wouldn't churn. An overzealous young magistrate took it upon himself to try 12 women for witchcraft, and the 10 found guilty have haunted the hills ever since.

13. The John Snow Water Pump: London, England

Betsy Weber (CC by 2.0) / Via Flickr: betsyweber

In the mid 1800s, multiple cholera outbreaks were occurring in London, with many assuming the disease was caused by something airborne, yet epidemiologist John Snow believed it could be carried through water.

When the latest epidemic killed over 550 in Soho in just two weeks, Snow traced the outbreak to a specific water pump and simply removed the handle, proving his theory and ending the outbreak.

The pump still stands today, just opposite the pub named in his honour.

In Britain, you're never too far from a good story.

Write your own magical tale with VisitBritain.