Friday, 15 August 2014

Books and Holidays Guest Post by Ian at Great Stories

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Ian Skillicorn of 

Corazon Books with his Books and Holidays post

The Great Escape: book-inspired holiday destinations

I’ve loved visiting the West Country ever since summer holidays to Cornwall and Devon as a child. With its fascinating history and breathtaking scenery, it’s not surprising that the area has inspired countless writers over the years.

My favourite part of the West Country is the North Devon coast, which is the setting for many well-known novels. Nearly 90 years ago, Henry Williamson wrote the tale of Tarka The Otter, who lived and swam in the River Taw and the River Torridge. Nowadays you can follow Tarka’s journey by walking or cycling along the Tarka Trail, a 180-mile route through woods, valleys, and stunning coastline. There’s also a railway line named after the famous otter  The Tarka Line which goes between Exeter and Barnstaple stations. From Barnstaple, you can travel on to the Valley of Rocks in Lynton, which inspired poets such as William Wordsworth. It’s also home to feral goats like the one in the photo. The tourists love them, but some of the locals are less enthusiastic. Google Lynton goats if you want to know more!

If you’ve read Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore, you would definitely appreciate a visit to Doone Valley on the North Devon/Somerset border. Among the sights to take in are Lorna Doone Farm and The Church of St Mary in nearby Oare, where an important part of the story takes place (no spoilers for those who haven’t read it...). Lorna Doone didn’t sell well when it was first published but found great success the following year and hasn’t been out of print since, which should give hope to all aspiring writers out there!

Watersmeet in North Devon is said to be one of the inspirations for James Herberts spooky thriller The Secret Of Crickley Hall. Not that you’d know it if you visited Watersmeet House, nestled in the valley where two rivers meet (hence its name). As you can see from the photo, the former fishing lodge is now a National Trust tearoom, with not a ghoul in sight.

Recently, I jumped at the opportunity to publish The Country Doctor by Jean McConnell, which is about a young doctor, Linda Ford, who swaps a career in a busy London hospital for a West Country GP practice. Linda soon discovers that countryside living can be very eventful. The novel shows how some experiences are universal no matter where you are  love and relationships, family secrets, envy and revenge; it’s all happening in the small rural villages where Linda’s patients live. And as the story is set in the 1970s, Linda also has to deal with old-fashioned attitudes towards women doctors. But despite the hardships and drama, Linda also finds kindness and hope; its essentially a heart-warming story.

Writing about these special places has transported me back to the wilds of Exmoor. Luckily for me, this blog post is actually the last thing I’m writing before going back there on holiday. As you read this, I may just be looking out for one of Tarka’s descendants along the River Torridge, or having a cream tea sitting outside Lorna Doone Farm. Wherever you are, enjoy the summer and happy reading.

Ian Skillicorn, Corazon Books

The Country Doctor by Jean McConnell

Corazon Books


Lorna Doone Farm: Badgworthy Water flowing through the hamlet of Malsmead
Watersmeet: said to be one of the inspirations for The Secret of Crickley Hall
Feral Goat: one of the wild residents of the Valley of Rocks in Lynton
The Country Doctor: cover artwork

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