For those with an interest in the culture and atmospheric appeal of the UK, one of the most fascinating things can be to look at how many great works of literature, film, and even television were inspired by the land. The semi-mystical elements of the UK's appeal are often exaggerated and turned to fantasy by folks abroad who know history and fiction better than modern culture. But at the same time, the sheer amount of wonderful fiction that's come out of the country has resulted in a few destinations taking on an almost-surreal quality.
BIRMINGHAM & MOSELEY BOG
Birmingham is a city large enough for someone to spend time there and never find it particularly remarkable in demonstrating some of the fantasy-like appeal of England. But those motivated to seek out the pockets of the country that inspired renowned fiction might dig a little deeper and discover the seeds of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. Said Tolkien in a quote recorded on this list of literary inspiration locations, "I lived, for my early years, in the Shire... in a pre-mechanical age." The quote refers to Birmingham in general, and more specifically a place called Moseley Bog that led him to imagine the Old Forest and the Sarehole Mill, the latter which led to the saga's Great Mill. It's all less picturesque in person of course, but it's hard not to feel a bit of wonder exploring these areas.
Out of so many real locations that were used in filming the Harry Potter films, none other is so majestic all on its own as Alnwick Castle. Really it's one of the more impressive ancient castles still standing in England, so it's almost a bonus that it was used as a foundation for Hogwarts in select scenes from these blockbuster films. Indeed, one of the first truly iconic scenes—the flying lesson with Madam Hooch—is the one Alnwick is best known for, as it was filmed right outside the castle's high walls. It's one of the truly lasting scenes from the first film (it ought to be, being the first time we saw Harry fly!), and this game even included the flying lesson as a mission, meaning the castle is even featured in gaming now!
If you remember reading the Chronicles of Narnia as a child (or perhaps re-reading it as an adult), you'll certainly recall the famous scene in which the lion-god Aslan is put to death on the "Stone Table," only to be resurrected as a representation of Jesus Christ. Reading it, there's no reason to believe it's anything but fiction, as a stone table makes for a fairly unremarkable concept for a ritualistic murder. And yet, the theory is put forth here that the Legananny Dolmen tomb in Northern Ireland actually served as the inspiration for the idea. And if you're a fan of the series, visiting the spot where Aslan died and rose could qualify as something near a religious experience!
Old Granada Studios
Not all of the UK's brilliant history of fiction has been attached to the fantasy genre. Coronation Street is one of the longest-running TV shows of any kind in the world, and though some view it as being somewhat-old fashioned, it's still quite a big deal today. The show is still running, constantly updated with new cast members, and its signature locations remain unchanged. Indeed, even for those who may never have seen or heard of the show, the Coronation Street setting has become the foundation for a popular game among this site's bingo offering. It's based on the TV show directly, though in a way it's simply an idyllic English street, complete with cobblestones, lanterns, and the like. And while there's no real Coronation Street, fans can visit pretty much the entirety of the set at the Old Granada Studios in Manchester.
Despite the fact that Charles Dickens is better known for the likes of Great Expectations and A Tale Of Two Cities, a lot of literary experts believe his best work may have been Bleak House, a serial novel about a legal case that served as a satire of English law. And all these years later, there are actually two relevant, real-world Bleak House locations that fans of Dickens' work can visit. One is a country house in Kent that Dickens stayed at frequently (called Fort House in his time), and another is in St. Albans, believed to have been the inspiration for the house in the book.
Visiting any of these locations can give you a fascinating look at how relatively ordinary places can inspire worlds of fiction and fantasy. It's just a small sample, but it helps to understand why much of the world looks at the UK and sees a world of adventure!