Novel rooms to rent

by David Nicholson | Published on

What inspires an author to create a great novel? For some, it might be love, loss or revenge. But for others, it is the place that they call home: the beauty of the view from their living room window; the familiar warmth of their kitchen; or the happy memories of their childhood bedroom.

Such is the power of association between authors and their properties, that having a famous writer as a former owner, occupant or even merely as a fleeting visitor can hold significant interest and add significant value.

For all those book lovers who fancy immersing themselves in literary history, here is a collection of properties that inspired some of Britain's best-loved books, all now available to rent.

Eilean Shona, Scotland

Lying off the west coast of Scotland is the delightful island of Eilean Shona, two and a half miles by one and a half, with its own beach, wooded hills and oyster beds. It was here, in the magnificent eight-bedroom estate house, that JM Barrie wrote the screenplay for Peter Pan, along with Mary Rose, a rather grim play about death and loss. You would have thought that the experience of being looked after by an army of staff, wandering through the gorgeous woods, swimming or fishing in the sea would put him in a pretty good mood, although these days the price tag of £10,000-plus a week might dent your optimism.

The Cabin, Tenby

For at least 15 years, Roald Dahl and his family would spend their Easter holidays at The Cabin, right on the sea front next to the harbour, with views on three sides out across Carmarthen Bay to the Gower Peninsula. Still owned by the Dahl family, it appears in the author's memoir, My Year, written just before he died, where the creative genius behind Charlie and the Chocolate Factory waxes lyrical about collecting winkles from the rocks to boil and eat with bread and butter. "It's more like being in a boat," says Sophie Evens at Coastal Cottages, who lets it out for between £362 for an off-peak four night stay and £1,243 a week in high season.

Greta Hall, Cumbria

The Coleridge Wing of Greta Hall is where the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived in the early 19th century and composed many of his finest works. "I question if there be a room in England which commands a view of mountains, lakes and woods superior to that in which I am now writing," he wrote. The wing sleeps six in three bedrooms, including a 300 year old 'opium bed' and stands in three acres of wooded gardens. It can be rented via Cumbrian Cottages from £480 per week.

Barnhill, Jura

Budding authors looking to get away from the bustle of modern life should head for Barnhill on the island of Jura on the west coast of Scotland, where George Orwell wrote 1984. You need to take not one but two ferries to get there from the mainland, followed by an arduous bumpy trek along the coast by Land Rover. The nearest village – Craighouse – is several miles away. "There are hardly even any shepherds over there," says Dougie Lindsay, who has sailed past the house many times. A lethal whirlpool called the Corryvreckan is just offshore; Orwell himself was once almost sucked into it when his boat overturned and he only just managed to scramble ashore. Contact for lettings details.

No 43 Cloth Fair, London

Just around the corner from the Smithfield market in London, 43 Cloth Fair was home to the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman in the 1950s and 60s. Most famous for his line 'Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn't fit for humans now', he clearly loved this more hectic bit of urban life. Now owned by the Landmark Trust, it has been kept in its period condition, with William Morris wallpaper and a genteel air. There's just one bedroom and a well-stocked library, including works by and about Betjeman. A week costs from £928 – contact the Landmark Trust.

The Old Mill House, Hampshire

Now enjoying renewed celebrity thanks to Jane Campion's film Bright Star, Romantic poet John Keats was just 26 when he died in Italy. Before setting sail, he spent his last night in England at The Old Mill House, on the edge of Old Bedhampton village in Hampshire, the home of his friend John Snook. Sitting grandly on a lake, with its own heated outdoor swimming pool, eight bedrooms and a riverside terrace, the 18th century, Grade II-listed house was where Keats wrote part of The Eve of St Agnes – a poem about a man who hides in a woman's bedroom to watch her undress, but then gets lucky when she invites him into bed with her because she thinks she's dreaming. Not a feminist classic... Call the current owner Caroline Ground on 020 7736 0131 for letting details.

Plas Tan-yr-Allt, Snowdonia, Wales

The Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, aged 20, moved here with his pregnant wife Harriet in 1812. Fresh from being expelled from Oxford and with fiery notions of worker emancipation in his head, Shelley was shot at by a mysterious intruder a year later and fled to Ireland. You can stay in Shelley's Theatre, with its four poster bed, where the poet used to recite his work. Contact

Sons and Lovers cottage, Nottingham

DH Lawrence, the author of Women in Love, Sons and Lovers and Lady Chatterley's Lover, lived in a modest terraced miner's house in Nottingham from 1887 to 1891, and then based the house of one of the characters in Sons and Lovers on it. The property now houses a museum dedicated to Lawrence in the downstairs rooms, but you can rent the upstairs rooms. Contact the Cottage Guide.

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