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What do Harry Potter, "Alice in Wonderland," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and George Washington all have in common? Linked together, they all become key players in a memorable early July family travel experience that starts and finishes in London.
Major literary anniversaries make great foundations for a customized tour, and in 2016 with the Brontë Sisters, Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl, and Alf Wight (aka James Herriot), we have four very well-known names with which to work.
Talking of much loved fiction as the starting point for a customized UK tour, use the final series of "Downton Abbey," now being screened on Masterpiece Theatre, as the starting point for an On Location itinerary that includes some of the picture postcard Oxfordshire Cotswolds villages featured in the different episodes, treasure-filled Wadddesdon Manor, Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey) and a "life below stairs" visit to the kitchens beneath Petworth House.
Don't be put off by the words "Literary Tour." With the addition of privately owned homes and gardens and the inclusion of pubs and tearooms, tours to the sources of inspiration for great writers and poets can be informative, entertaining, and fun.
Roald Dahl's 100th Anniversary
Born on Sept. 13, 1916, Roald Dahl has captured the imagination of children around the world with his tales including "James and the Giant Peach," "Matilda," "The Fantastic Mr Fox," and "The BFG." Visit the award-winning Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center where he lived and wrote for 36 years, and back in London, include performances of "Matilda" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Why see only one when you could have time to see two?
READ MORE: England As You Like It
Alice's Day July 2, 2016
Masterminded by the Oxford Story Museum, the annual celebration of Alice in Wonderland takes place in a large number of venues across the city and includes a Mad Hatter's tea party, where you can meet the characters from the book and join them for tea, get your face painted or play some nonsensical games. Add in Oxford's links with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien (and back in London a dash of Paddington Bear), and you're on the verge of creating a magical family experience, especially if you weave in some Harry Potter.
Pottering Around England
This tour can include many of the 'On Location' sites in London, Bath, the Cotswolds, and Oxford before returning to London. Highlights can include:
• A full day tour of Harry Potter locations in London, including Platform 9 ¾.
• No 4 Privett Drive and a walking tour of the Wiltshire village of Lacock.
• The fan-vaulted cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral.
• A special walking tour of Oxford, including Christ Church College.
• A tour of the Warner Brothers "Making of Harry Potter Studios"
The Brontë Sisters…
Anniversaries make great hooks for imaginatively themed tours. The Brontë200 program continues next year as the Brontë Parsonage Museum celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë in 1816 with a variety of special events and exhibitions. Her sisters Emily and Anne were born in 1818 and 1820 respectively, making them must-see additions to any literary tour of England.
READ MORE: Farm to Table Finds in England and Scotland
2016 also sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of the children's author Beatrix Potter. Special events in the Lake District will include a children's literary festival at Wray Castle, a brand new guide to tell the story of her life, a trail based on the film Mrs. Potter, storytelling events and, of course, a special birthday party on July 28.
… and James Herriot.
2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alf Wight, aka the author James Herriot, the Yorkshire country veterinarian whose adventures inspired the hugely popular TV adaptation of "All Creatures Great and Small." A tour of his beloved Yorkshire Dales and a visit to his former home, as well as the World of James Herriot must be added to any north of England tour.
The Brontës, Beatrix Potter and James Herriot
To get the very best out of the three anniversaries, you won't be surprised to learn that using the Manchester gateway to the north of England, it's possible to customize an eye-catching tour which brings them all together in a very imaginative way.
Fans of the Queen of Crimewriters will get a kick out of a few days at the annual Agatha Christie Festival that takes place on the English Riviera in September. Maximize the returns by adding a closer look at Oxford, the source of inspiration for Colin Dexter's "Inspector Morse" and finish off in London with a closer look at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's hero, Sherlock Holmes. Don't forget to add an evening at the Mousetrap, now in its 63rd year!
Paull Tickner is an expert in developing customized niche travel programs for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Check out his website at http://www.customgb.co.uk and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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