FOLLOW NORTH YORKSHIRE’S LITERARY TRAIL

This July, hundreds of people will head to Harrogate to celebrate the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writers’ Festival, an established headline event in the literary calendar.

Hosted by Harrogate International Festivals, it’s a crime literature lover’s dream, with the cream of the crime fiction community taking centre stage to discuss the genre; their writing influences and insights on the next big thing emerging into the crime writing world.

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The festival takes place at the Old Swan Hotel, where the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie, was found to be staying in 1926. It is perhaps Harrogate’s most famous connection to crime literature, but did you know that many places within the Harrogate area have featured as locations in more contemporary crime novels? And that the wider area of North Yorkshire also has some pretty impressive literary connections, in a broader sense?

We’re not sure why this would be, but perhaps it’s the breathtaking landscapes and quaint, quirky market towns that have ignited the inspiration and stirred the creative juices of well-known authors throughout time.

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For fans of modern crime fiction, the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (a nom de plume of Harry Potter author JK Rowling) feature many of the beautiful locations within the Harrogate district.

Masham is the family home of co-protagonist Robin, and crops up in several of the novels, including for the character’s wedding. 

A pretty market town on the edge of the Dales, Masham is full of independent retailers, art galleries and home to two Yorkshire breweries. You could easily lose a day or two wandering around exploring and imagining what inspired the inclusion of this charming, North Yorkshire gem in the detective novels.

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Nearby Swinton Park - a luxury country hotel in the Nidderdale National Landscape - also features in the Strike series, as a lavish location for a wedding reception - as does Harrogate, for afternoon tea.  So if you’re keen to follow in the footsteps of the dysfunctional detective and the other characters in the series, you have a great excuse to visit the Swinton Estate for a bit of pampering and pop into the spa town to treat yourself.

The late Yorkshire-born crime novelist Peter Robinson was also inspired to feature a scenic landmark of the Harrogate area in his literary works. In the DCI Banks series of books, ‘In A Dry Season’ a long lost village, Hobb’s End is featured, which is flooded by Thornfield reservoir. In real life, the fictional ‘Hobb’s End’ is in fact the village of West End - which was flooded to make way for Thuscross Reservoir.

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Thuscross is a wonderful place to enjoy walking in the Nidderdale National Landscape and is also a perfect place to go stargazing, having been designated a Dark Sky Discovery Site.

When the water levels of the reservoir drop low enough, the remains of West End village can be seen – as was the case in summer 2022 following a period of extremely warm and dry weather.

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And more recently, following a lockdown project, Harrogate resident and author Lorna Snowden decided to base her debut crime novel, ‘Murder After the Matinee’, loosely on Ripon, where it is relocated to Ripley and takes on the guise of the village of Ashdale.

Of course, it’s not just crime novels that have been crafted with North Yorkshire locations at their heart – perhaps one of the most famous works of classic fiction, and of the horror genre, ‘Dracula’, features iconic coastal landmarks, with Whitby Abbey and the 199 steps making macabre appearances in the book.

Whilst on a completely different note, the Thirsk area is widely known as the setting for the ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ series of books, featuring the vet James Herriot and his antics with the animals and humans that he encounters after moving from Scotland to North Yorkshire.

So if you’re a keen reader and would like to follow in the footsteps of the authors who’ve imaginations have gone wild here, plan a North Yorkshire getaway and explore the locations that have inspired some truly gripping works of literature - from classic novels to the present day.

Perhaps you might even be inspired to put pen to paper yourself?

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