Why Yorkshire is the UK’s top county for holidays with a literary link

PUBLISHED: 09:54 09 May 2017 | UPDATED: 21:29 04 January 2018

Pic Joan Russell
Town feature on Haworth. Bronte Parsonage.

Pic Joan Russell Town feature on Haworth. Bronte Parsonage.

Joan Russell Photography

Are tourists booking holidays in Yorkshire because of books?

Rachel Feldberg director of Ilkley Literature FestivalRachel Feldberg director of Ilkley Literature Festival

Three sisters on a wild and windy moor, a vet elbow-deep in disgruntled farm animals and a mysterious aristocrat who’s a sucker for a pretty neck might not sound like natural born crowd-pullers, but this unlikely literary triumvirate are all key elements of Yorkshire’s success story as a national and international tourist attraction.

New research by VisitEngland has named Yorkshire as ‘the UK’s top county for holidays with a literary link’. In its first ever survey of literary tourism, it found that 20 per cent of trips taken by book-lovers were in our region – home of the Brontës, Herriot country and Whitby Abbey, which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Rebecca Yorke of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth said: ‘The Brontë story continues to captivate people all over the world and the Museum is proud of the role it plays in promoting Yorkshire across the globe and thus contributing to the visitor economy.

‘We’re building on the success of Charlotte’s bicentenary year and are currently experiencing high visitor numbers. As well as visiting the museum, our visitors spend time in Haworth’s shops, pubs and cafes, which is great news for both the local area and the wider region.’

Crowds gather at Ilkley Literature Festival Photo: Paul Floyd BlakeCrowds gather at Ilkley Literature Festival Photo: Paul Floyd Blake

Interestingly, the VisitEngland research also revealed that more than half of British holidaymakers actively sought out literary attractions while on their travels, while one in four visited a book-related location and a similar number read a novel set in the place they were visiting.

So, what is it about Yorkshire that’s inspired – and continues to inspire – so many authors to put pen to paper?

‘Whether it’s the glorious countryside and rugged landscape, the expanding cities and bustling market towns or the diverse communities that shape them, there is a rich seam of material for writers, poets and artists to absorb,’ said Rachel Feldberg, director of Ilkley Literature Festival.

She believes the numerous literary festivals now held across the county every year also do their bit to keep book-related bookings high. In Ilkley alone there are more than 250 events, including workshops, talks and performances, bringing entertainment for visitors and increased footfall for local businesses.

‘We know that around 23,000 people visit our festival every year,’ she added. ‘You only need to walk through the town over the festival fortnight to pick up on the activity and buzz that the event brings.’

Heather French is joint founder of Books By The Beach, Scarborough’s literary festival, now in its fourth year.

‘Festivals are so important to the cultural feel of a town,’ she said. ‘They help to promote a sense of place and encourage diversity, while also increasing tourist numbers and aiding economic development because visitors tend to stay overnight, using hotels, shops and restaurants.

‘Whether it’s books, music, arts, drama or even beer – the bigger the mix the better if it means we can keep culture alive on the coast.’

Celebrating the literary giants of Yorkshire on World Book Day

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