31 Jul 2011


I've spent the last few weeks travelling through England and part of Scotland. Now back home, I feel different, refreshed and above all ... inspired.

What had been intended as a final research trip for my Cotswolds-based novel, has become much more. Travelling tends to do that: you start off with an idea of where you want to go and what you'd like to do, and somewhere along the way the real journey takes shape.

We hadn't had much time to prepare in advance, but at least the bare essentials were sorted: a base of operations in my oh-so-beloved Cotswolds, a schedule half filled with meetings with friends and family, and a long list of things to do and places to see. We could wing it from there.

During those weeks we explored many Cotswolds towns and villages; we drove up to the North of England, the Scottish Lothians and the Kingdom of Fife; we spent time with family in Lancashire and Yorkshire, then drove south again to Wiltshire where we visited Stonehenge and Avebury, impressive prehistoric tombs and (more recent) hill figures.

Back in the Cotswolds, a day trip to the Forest of Dean lead us into Puzzlewood, which is said to have inspired Tolkien's Forest of Fangorn.

Inspiration is everywhere, all the time, but it seems more apparent when we're travelling. Whether that's due to a vacation mindset, to having more time, to being more relaxed and aware or to the fact that we're in an unfamiliar environment, the fact remains: away from home our senses feast on details we would normally overlook.

Holidays are the perfect time to say 'yes' to opportunities as they arise. I'm glad we let others decide part of our agenda or we wouldn't have discovered the fascinating historic sites around the famous Wiltshire stone circles – or enjoyed a delicious Thai banquet in the old Roman city of Cirencester.

If we hadn't accepted a lift from a friendly driver on our walk to Woodchester Mansion, we wouldn't have met Jim, the passionate archaeologist, who drove us through the mud and up the hill to show what he was working on and explain it to us with verve and vigour.

Inspiration truly is everywhere – for the eyes to see, for the heart to touch and for the mind to explore.

Over the next few weeks, I will share plenty of stories and photographs of the places we've visited (and maybe throw in a few clues about how some of them tie into my novel), but I want to start off by pointing out a few sites and sights that have inspired other writers (and film makers) in the past:

1. Puzzlewood

Puzzlewood is a 14 acre woodland in the Forest of Dean near Ross-on-Wye, Gloucestershire. It is one of the remaining ancient woodlands in England, and said to have been an inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien's forests of Middle-earth.

It has also been used as a setting in the BBC series 'Merlin' and 'Doctor Who'.

2. Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece that has been used in several Harry Potter films. Parts of the historic cloisters, for instance, served as Hogwarts' corridors.

It has also featured in the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas special, and I have no doubt the building has inspired countless of other visitors in their creative endeavours.

3. Woodcarving in Ripon Cathedral

While his father was a canon at the cathedral in Ripon, Yorkshire, Charles Dodgson (better known under the name of Lewis Carroll) might have been familiar with the intricate woodcarvings in the cathedral's 15th century misericords.

One of them depicts a rabbit caught by a griffin while another rabbit disappears – you guessed – down the rabbit hole.

4. Rosslyn Chapel

The Midlothian village of Roslin in Scotland is home to one of the most impressive and inspiring buildings I have ever seen: Rosslyn Chapel.

It was already mentioned in Sir Walter Scott's early 19th century poem 'Rosabelle' (here's a reading on YouTube), but has probably become most famous because of Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code' and the 2005 film.

Which sights, sites, trips or tidbits have inspired you?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥


  1. love the first picture the best!!

    scotland and england did it for me as well - a bunch on my blog in early december, here are a few excerpts: http://www.ecogrrl.net/2010/12/canterbury-tales.html and http://www.ecogrrl.net/2010/12/castle-icious.html

  2. Wait, I'm posting about local Renaissance festivals on my blog and you're off visiting England and Scotland and hopefully seeing men in kilts? So. Not. Fair.

    Okay, whining done. Wow, what a great trip. I almost used Rosslyn Chapel for the opening scene in my new novel (prequel to the other), but changed to a small mausoleum in Largs instead (because of geography).

    Still jealous, but hoping to see more pictures!!

  3. Oh my, that forest is so - I don't know what to say, except I want to walk into that photograph and stay there awhile.

  4. I love the photo of the wood carving.

  5. First off, thanks for the great inspiration for me to travel (once the kids are a bit older, I'll be at it again). One of my most memorable was trekking in Nepal and Bhutan.

  6. L.G.: if it's any consolation, I didn't see many kilts. I did have some vegetarian haggis, but I would settle for the kilts any day! Rosslyn Chapel is a magical building. As far as I'm concerned, all the legends are true. It's just 'that kind of place'. Great to see you again and I promise there will be plenty of pictures in the weeks to come! :-)

    Anne: it was fabulous. It's a strange place, though. Puzzlewood is quite small, but it looks and feels bigger, except when there are kids running around and shouting. ;-) Most of my pictures of the woods didn't work out (they're all a bit greyish whereas the actual wood is a lush, mossy green), but I'll post the ones that do it justice in a follow-up post! :-)

    Suze: cute, isn't it. :-) It's hard to imagine they're that old!

    Munk: you're very welcome. Thanks for stopping by after my long absence. :-) I would love to visit Nepal and Bhutan - and Myanmar, Bangladesh, ... Actually, I still have most of Asia on my list!

  7. ah, England and Scotland ... you do know that after this post I will probably die from envy and jealousy :)

  8. and why wasn't I informed of Munk's travels to Nepal and Bhutan? Somebody needs to interview him :)

  9. lovely photos, and Puzzlewood is very inspiring in itself.

  10. Nooooo, DEZZY, don't die! Who would spy on Hollywood for us then?

    (I'm with you on the Munk interview BTW. Maybe we should turn it into a Blogfest, in which every participant gets to ask Munk 1 question.)

  11. Michelle: thank you, and yes: Puzzlewood is wonderful on many levels. Definitely worthy of a post of its own. :-)

  12. I am sooo jealous! I had the opportunity to go to the Cotswolds in 2007 - I'll never forget it. We stayed in Broadway at a hotel called the Lygon Arms. It had sloping halls and beamed ceilings, I think it was about 600 years old! And you're right - it's very inspiring. Nice post!

  13. Beautiful pictures! I just found your blog and am excited...I found some inspiration reading it. Thank you!


  14. Very cool. It's funny, living in England I hardly ever get to see stuff like this, so much time is spent DOING, WORKING, etc. But there are lovely places to see everywhere. Glad you enjoyed your trip and gained loads mre inspiration for your WIP.

  15. Travel absolutely broadens the mind and opens it to so much inspiration, as you rightly say. Love all your photos. We've been travelling a bit too in the UK - son's wedding on Arran (in his kilt!) and then a few days to wonderful Northumberland. I came back armed with new material and inspiration, added to by a couple of days out nearer home. There is so much for writers to enjoy! Look forward to your further posts.

  16. Gwen: Ah, Broadway is so picturesque! The 2nd picture in this post was taken in Broadway. We passed the Lygon Arms a few times, next time I'll go in and have a look!

    Tracy Jo: thank you! I love your blog as well and you're inspiring to me!

    DUO: all that doing and working ... is it really good for you? :-) I agree that there are lovely places everywhere, and it often takes a fresh and unacquainted eye to see them. I bet I miss a lot of beauty that's right in front of my eyes.

    Rosemary: be careful when you mention kilts here, you'll get L.G. all worked up! (and me, I confess)
    I haven't been to Northumberland yet but I'll have to remedy that. Northumberland National Park looks breathtaking!

  17. These pictures blow me away. This is my dream trip...my ancestors were Scottish immigrants.

    All of this inspires! Thank you!

  18. Great to see you here, Marsha. :-) I love Scotland. What a wonderful heritage to have. :-)

  19. You have some beautiful pictures here. I'm so terribly jealous of your trip, you have no idea.

  20. OMG. Love, love, love the pics. Thank you So much for sharing!

  21. I love the forest picture. It conjures up so many images. I think we're at our most observant when we're away because the routine sights are rarely seen. It takes something new to open our eyes. Glad you enjoyed your holiday.

  22. Angela: I'm usually jealous of all the exotic places you all live in. It's a good feeling, it reminds me to keep on exploring. :-)

    Damyanti: you're very welcome! :-)

    Rosalind: that's so well put. By the way, I almost made it to Leicester. We drove close by, but didn't have time for a stopover. Hopefully next time. :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...