• Godrevy Lighthouse
  • Rosamunde Pilcher
  • Charlestown Harbour

Literary Landscapes: Authors inspired by Cornwall

Cornwall’s dramatic landscape and history have inspired many artists and writers over the years. Explore Cornwall’s literary heritage with us, as we take a look into the Cornish locations that feature in well-known novels and short stories. From the adventures of Ross Poldark to an unexpected connection with Haworth Parsonage, here’s our guide to literary Cornwall.

The Inspiration Behind To The Lighthouse

Writer Virginia Woolf was born and grew up in London; however her family spent every summer in St Ives and Cornwall was to become a refuge she retreated to occasionally throughout her life.To the Lighthouse isn’t based in Cornwall, but the eponymous lighthouse is inspired by Godrevy, which young Virginia would have been able to see clearly from St Ives. If you want to follow in Virginia’s footsteps on your holiday in Cornwall, walk up Trencrom Hill, explore the cliffs at Zennor, dine at the Badger Inn in Lelant and of course, head for Gwithian and its splendid views of Godrevy lighthouse.


The Bronte Cornish Connection

The Bronte sisters may be synonymous with Haworth and the bleak Yorkshire Moors, but did you know that they were half Cornish? Their mother Maria Branwell was born and raised on Chapel Street in Penzance and lived in the town until her 1812 marriage to the Reverend Patrick Bronte. If you visit Penzance on your Cornwall holiday, take time to walk down elegant Chapel Street, with many buildings dating back to the time of Maria’s childhood here.


D.H. Lawrence In Zennor

D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda lived in Zennor during the First World War. However, they were treated with suspicion by the villagers: the writer was a conscientious objector and Frieda was German, which was a pretty incendiary mix. The couple was expelled from Cornwall amid accusations that Frieda was signalling to enemy u-boats (she wasn’t). Find out more about this period in the novel Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore.

Daphne Du Maurier’s Cornish Locations 

The popular novelist spent a lot of her life in beautiful Fowey and her works are inspired by locations from all over Cornwall. Jamaica Inn and Frenchman’s Creek are real Cornish places, while Rebecca’s home Manderley is based on Menabilly. The House on The Strand is located near Tywardreath and her famous short story “The Birds” is also set in Cornwall (keep tight hold of that pasty…).


Rosamund Pilcher

Much-loved romantic writer Rosamund Pilcher was born in Lelant near St Ives. She was initially educated in Penzance before moving to a school in Wales. However, she clearly kept Cornwall in her heart, returning to St Uny for her marriage then setting many of her popular novels here. Her work has reached a wide audience through television adaptations as well as her bestselling books. She’s hugely popular in Germany, with many of her German fans travelling to Cornwall to explore her locations for themselves, such as St Michael’s Mount, Mousehole and the south west coast.

Locations From Winston Graham’s Poldark 

The combination of Winston Graham’s bestselling historical saga and two BBC TV adaptations has made Captain Ross Poldark a household name for over 60 years. The Manchester-born author lived in Perranporth and named many of his characters after local places: Demelza, Warleggan and Carne are all Cornish place names and Poldark himself is named after a mine near Helston. To get a feel for the books’ dramatic Cornish setting and to visit one of the most-used film locations, head west to Botallack Mine (National Trust).


John le Carre’s Coastal Home

John le Carre (real name David Cornwell) worked for the Secret Service in WWII then began writing his gripping thrillers during the Cold War. He moved to Cornwall for a change of scene and remained here for over forty years until his death in 2020. His house was on the coast in the far west of Cornwall and writer Derek Tangye (of The Minack Chronicles fame) was one of his few neighbours. A walk along the South West Coast Path between Lamorna and Treen will take you close to both writers’ residences.


Contemporary Cornwall Settings: Patrick Gale

The contemporary author lives on the family farm near St Just. He was born on the Isle of Wight and moved to Cornwall as an adult in 1986, initially living in Camelford. Many of his novels (such as Notes from an Exhibition, A Perfectly Good Man and Mother’s Boy) are set in West Cornwall and capture the sense of community as well as place. When not writing, farming or gardening, Patrick is artistic director of Penzance LitFest and the North Cornwall Book Festival. And speaking of those…


Literary Festivals In Cornwall

While you’re in Cornwall on holiday, you might coincide with one of the county’s literary festivals. There’s Penzance LitFest in early July and North Cornwall Book Festival in September, followed by Falmouth’s Book Festival in October. The best-known is the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature, which takes over the town for a week each May. If you don’t catch a festival, don’t worry. You’ll still be able to pick up some excellent holiday reading material from unique Cornish book shops like Edge of the World in Penzance, St Ives Bookseller and Beerwolf in Falmouth.


Find A Reading Nook In Your Cornwall Holiday Cottage

Whether you’re curled up by the wood burner or stretched out on a sunlounger, your Cornish holiday is the perfect opportunity to catch up with some reading. Whichever one of our lovely Cornwall holiday cottages you choose, we promise you’ll find the perfect comfy reading spot!

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