Writerly Inspiration From Across the Pond

Oxford_DragonflyEarlier this month, I spent a week traveling through England and Scotland. While there, I filled up on tea and biscuits, saw the English countryside by train, and looked both ways at least three times before crossing any street.
And I discovered that Britain is a language nerd’s dream land. Castles and cathedrals are cool—but I also came across a number of unexpected landmarks that I thought my fellow writers and editors might be interested in.
First stop was Edinburgh, Scotland. The city has been home to writers and editors for centuries and in 2004 was named the first UNESCO City of Literature. Authors like Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle lived there in years past. And more recently, J.K. Rowling famously penned the first two books in the Harry Potter series at The Elephant House, a downtown café.
I stopped in Greyfriars Kirkyard, a cemetery where William Smellie, the first editor of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, is buried. (Another piece of trivia for Potter fans: several tombstones were the inspiration for characters at Hogwarts, including McGonagall and—gasp!—Tom Riddle.)
I ended a day of sightseeing with a visit to the fortuitously named Dragonfly Cocktail Bar. Then, after stops in Glasgow (where I rode a train into the Scottish Highlands), London (and 221B Baker Street, the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes), I made it to Oxford, a delightful college town whose alumni roster is a veritable who’s who of British poetry and literature.
My travel companions and I shared a pint at The Eagle and Child, onetime hangout of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their literary pals, and I nerded out in front of the Oxford University Press.
Just before hopping on the bus to head to the airport, I spent the morning at an absolutely picturesque café, under a willow tree, in a meadow, with a sidewalk paved with—you guessed it—dragonflies.
Turns out even on vacation, those little bugs are hard to shake.


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