Last Updated on: 19th June 2023, 06:58 pm
Witty conversations, impeccable manners, fetching bonnets, accomplished women, and men who know their muslins – the world of Jane Austen is, of course, very different from the real Georgian England.
Still, her prose was rooted in reality observed through sober eyes by an inquisitive and sharp mind.
Her novels, which she named “her own darling children,” speak her truth – the truth of a woman living at the turn of the nineteenth century and seeing through all the pretense, hypocrisy, and social injustices right into the hearts.
Well over two hundred years later, we can say that although society has changed, people haven’t. You can read a history book, but her novels bring this age to life!
Jane Austen’s scathing sense of humor and realness is a massive part of the appeal that made the Georgian era one of the most celebrated historical periods for costume dramas, reenactments, themed parties, and other social events.
Austen and the Napoleonic wars, of course, but for the modern woman Napoleon pales in comparison to Jane.
Whether you are an Austenite or a history buff with a particular predilection for Romantic Age, these are the Jane Austen-related places to visit for an unparalleled Regency experience.
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The Best Places to Visit Inspired by Jane Austen
Here we go!
This little village in Hampshire is Jane Austen’s birthplace, where she spent the first twenty-five years of her life.
She was born on December 16, 1775, the seventh of eight children in a family of a clergyman. Unfortunately, the rectory where they all lived didn’t survive.
However, the place where it used to stand is marked by a lime tree that Austen’s brother himself planted to commemorate their childhood home.
Moreover, St. Nicolas Church, where her family worshipped, still stands. Also, the village itself is idyllic, with plenty of pretty houses from the era to admire instead.
You can incorporate Steventon into a country walk through local villages and churches, including Overton, Ashe, Deane, and North Waltham, where thatched-roof cottages, wood-paneled pubs, and fragrant gardens abound.
Who knows, maybe these sites will inspire you to become an author yourself.
Food for thought: Do you love to write and need some cash to fund your trip to England? Becoming a free essays writer is a quick way to make some spending money.
If you feel the urge to put pen to paper, here is a comprehensive starter guide.
Jane Austen Centre in Bath
The picturesque backdrop for all the drama in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, Bath is also a place where Jane Austen herself lived for many years.
In fact, it was the place to be in the Regency era. Afternoon teas at the Pump Room, balls and courtship at the Assembly Rooms, strolls in the Somerset countryside, shopping for the latest fashions, entertaining guests, and of course, attending private parties – no wonder the place gave her so much inspiration that she wrote about it ten years after she left.
Today, there are still many spots in Bath to give you the experience of the Regency Era and what Jane Austen’s life was like, but you should start with visiting the Jane Austen Centre.
It is a museum set in an 18th-century house, with an interactive tour that will give you an immersive experience of 18th-century life.
There you will learn about fashions people wore, perfumes they used, biscuits they loved, and what all those yearly fortunes in Austen’s books would be worth in modern times.
Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Hampshire
Named the most treasured Austen site in the world, this Hampshire cottage is the place where Jane Austen lived for the last eight years of her life and published all six of her famous novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.
It is now a museum to itself, and you can explore the rooms where Jane practiced the piano, wrote, read Pride and Prejudice to a neighbor, and shared secrets with her beloved sister Cassandra.
The museum recreates a cozy atmosphere with authentic furniture, clothing, tableware, sounds, and even scents.
You can hear the gentle piano and the buzz of the conversation, chiming grandfather clock, creaking floorboards, smell Regency dishes cooking, see a lady’s shawl left hanging for the chair, and of course, feast your eyes on little treasures like Jane’s letters, drafts, and personal belongings.
A five-minute walk from the cottage is the Chawton House. This grand Elizabethan mansion belonged to Jane’s brother Edward.
Jane Austen used to spend afternoons in “the big house” with Edward’s family, dining, reading, and playing with her nephews and nieces.
Austenites know this city as the place where Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817, and was buried in Winchester Cathedral, among other prominent people of the day.
Her grave is situated in the north aisle of the nave and marked by a simple memorial stone. Next to it is an illustrated exhibition about Jane’s life, work, and death.
However, being one of the oldest cities in Britain, Winchester is a sight of its own. There, you can see the remnants of the ancient Roman wall, explore 12th-century Wolvesey Castle, stroll down the High Street, said to be the oldest street in England, and visit the Winchester City Mill, believed to be the oldest working watermill in the United Kingdom, and finally marvel at the Hospital of St Cross, housing one of England’s oldest continuing almshouses. Phew, that’s a lot of superlatives.
There is also a magnificent Great Hall – a 13th-century medieval aisled edifice with a round table.
Of course, it’s rumored to be the legendary table of King Arthur and his knights, but the jury is still out on this. While there, don’t miss the secret garden with an arched walkway and roses looking like it’s straight from a fairy tale.
This seaside resort was considered a popular bathing spot and a healthy retreat in the Regency era.
Wealthy people would go here seeking diversion and cures for illnesses.
Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure if Jane Austen herself ever visited Brighton. Still, it is briefly mentioned in Pride and Prejudice when Lydia Bennet is gushing about it as the best place to find husbands.
It is also featured in Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon, so I’d say it counts.
There are plenty of things to do there: walk on the pebble beach, see the pier, dine at The Regency restaurant, tour the Royal Pavilion, and enjoy the shops.
Situated on the UK’s South West Jurassic Coast, Lyme Regis is another fashionable seaside location on this list.
It was beloved by Jane Austen. She visited it twice, fondly mentioned it in her letters, and made it a setting for some of the crucial events in her last great novel, Persuasion, published posthumously in 1818.
The adaptations of the book were most fittingly filmed here: the 1971 BBC mini-series with Ann Firbank as Ann Elliott, the 1995 adaptation with Amanda Root, and the 2007 TV version with Sally Hawkins bringing the gentle heroine to life.
To follow Jane’s footsteps, visit the Cobb to admire coastal views, appreciate ammonite streetlamps, and find the infamous steps where Louise Musgrave fell in the dramatic scene (several likely candidates contest the title).
Then, you can visit Pyne House (the most likely building where Jane Austen would have resided during her stay), walk in Jane Austen Gardens, enjoy tea in Jane’s Café next to the Gardens, and take a look inside the Lyme Regis Museum to see the objects relating to Jane Austen and her times.
Chatsworth is mentioned in Pride and Prejudice as the place Elizabeth Bennet visits before arriving at Darcy’s residence, the magnificent Pemberley. Maybe it was a clue to us, the readers, that Chatsworth is the direct inspiration for the fictional Pemberley?
Anyway, it is the closest we can get. That was probably the thinking behind casting Chatsworth as Pemberley in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice.
The most exciting thing is that you can recreate Lizzy’s visit even today. Chatsworth House has been home to the Devonshire family for 16 generations and warmly welcomes visitors.
You can explore its 25 rooms, the dramatic Sculpture Gallery featured in the film, 105-acre garden, farmyard, and stables, frolic in the playground, and enjoy refreshments in a restaurant.
Lyme Park in Disley, Cheshire
Are you one of those purists who value the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice above all else?
Then Lyme Park estate is the place to visit as the one and true Pemberley. The imposing house stands in the middle of a National Park full of gardens, follies, and other picturesque structures dotting the grounds.
You can take an organized two-mile Pemberley Walk tracing the footsteps of the BBC series and seeing all the filming locations, including the lake. Yes, that lake. No Colin Firth emerging from it in a wet shirt included, unfortunately.
Among its many attractions, Lyme Park offers the free Regency Dressing Room experience, where visitors can step into Mr. Darcy’s or Elizabeth Bennet’s shoes and take a turn about the room, demonstrating their figures at their greatest advantage. Count me in!
For those who appreciate the real history, however, there is a Behind-the-scenes tour taking you downstairs to the staff quarters, where you can see how Lyme Park servants lived and worked at the turn of the 20th century.
This beautiful house is the residence of the Earl of Pembroke. It has been a family home for over 450 years – and still is!
However, it is open for visitors, and you can stroll on the grounds, explore its many splendid staterooms, and enjoy the art collection, which is an experience in itself.
Yet fans of Jane Austen will recognize this site from 1995 Sense and Sensibility, 2005 Pride & Prejudice, and 2020 Emma.
In fact, Wilton House starred in many films and TV series. Most recently, its lavish interiors were used to recreate Buckingham Palace for Netflix’s The Crown, four different Bridgerton residences, and several locations for Outlander.
Stourhead House and its famous landscape gardens on the border of Wiltshire and Somerset will be familiar to fans of the 2005 Pride & Prejudice adaptation with Mathew Macfadyen and Keira Knightly.
Among its many stunning features with classical garden temples, there is the Temple of Apollo that starred as the pavilion where the first proposal took place (the one in the rain that failed miserably).
However, while there, don’t miss out on other historical attractions, like the house itself, which is one of the first Palladian-style villas built in England, with its Regency library, art collection, and authentic Chippendale furniture.
This is a small place in Scotland just over the English border.
Although it didn’t play any role in Jane Austen’s life and wasn’t featured in any adaptations of her work, it was famous in Austen’s time.
Gretna Green is also mentioned in Pride and Prejudice as the place where George Wickham and Lydia Bennet are presumed to be heading after their notorious elopement, and here is why.
The Clandestine Marriages Act of 1753 prevented young people under 21 from marrying without their parent’s consent in England and Wales.
However, the Act didn’t have legal power in Scotland, so young couples willing to be together against all odds would run away and tie the knot as soon as they crossed the border.
Gretna Green was historically the first Scottish village a traveler from London to Edinburgh would encounter on the old coaching route. That’s why it has become a kind of Regency England’s Las Vegas.
All you needed were two people declaring their willingness to be together, two witnesses, and almost anybody to conduct the ceremony, for example, a blacksmith.
Gretna Green’s blacksmiths were known as “anvil priests,” performing thousands of wedding ceremonies. That’s why the local blacksmith and his anvil became a symbol of nuptials.
The entire village now feels like a wedding-themed amusement park. Even if you don’t plan to get married, this is such a fitting conclusion to your Jane Austen-themed tour since all her books always end in several marriages – happy and not so much.