Seven romantic landscapes for Valentine’s day and beyond
England is home to many beautiful, picturesque and historic landscapes that provide a rich backdrop to the stories we tell ourselves. Novelists have often used them as metaphors for the trials and tribulations of love and romance in our books and on our screens. Here are some of our favourite rural literary locations to get your heart beating on Valentine’s day.
Cornwall’s wild coasts
Author Daphne du Maurier lived in Cornwall as a young woman, and the coastal scenery had a lasting impact on her work.
Her home Menabilly, on Cornwall’s south coast, became Manderley in ‘Rebecca’. Manderley is a daunting, sprawling estate that symbolises the instability and lingering presence of the titular Rebecca. Both a mystery and a romance, Rebecca is a classic story for Valentine’s day.
Exmoor and Lorna Doone
If you like your romance more as melodrama, look no further than Lorna Doone and the landscape around Exmoor and its villages. With more plot turns than a soap, there’s kidnapping, violence and a criminal gang before she can finally settle down with her true love.
The novel uses the wild Exmoor landscape’s nooks and crannies for the notorious outlaw family’s activities, particularly the river valley of the East Lyn.
Yorkshire Moors and Wuthering Heights
It’s hard not to heavily feature the Brontë sisters in an article about rural romance! To start, there’s Emily Brontë’s classic, Wuthering Heights.
This gothic tragedy novel uses the wild, rugged Yorkshire Moor landscape to reflect the stormy and intense relationship between Cathy and Heathcliffe. It might give the impression that the Moors are uninviting, but they’re anything but! It’s awash with dramatic, vibrant views and is very characterful.
Box Hill, Surrey
If you fancy your romance less on the wild side but still with some windswept views, try Box Hill in Surrey, the site of the picnic in Jane Austen’s Emma.
This lush landscape attracts many visitors, who come to admire the sweep of green in front of them. The site is popular with cyclists and walkers, wildlife-lovers on the lookout for orchids and butterflies, as well as the literary-inclined. Although the picnic was difficult for Emma, at least it put her on the path to realising her true feelings for Mr Knightley!
Derbyshire Moors and Jane Eyre
Derbyshire is one of the many settings of Jane Eyre, one of England’s best-known romance stories.
A courageous heroine, Eyre’s journeys through the moors are one of the most iconic and memorable images of its book and film, with Charlotte Bronte using the landscape to represent the difficulties of her life and the wildness of romance.
You could even walk the Hathersage trail inspired by Jane Eyre. Interestingly, the trail includes Robin Hood’s cave, which takes us to another landscape.
Robin Hood and Maid Marian, Sherwood Forest
Sherwood Forest has become as famous as Robin Hood himself.
The folklore character of Maid Marian is revered by feminist interpreters – she’s courageous and good-hearted. Robin Hood is the famous folklore outlaw and legend considered to be Maid Marian’s husband or lover.
Hood and the Merry Men apparently resided in Sherwood Forest in Nottingham with the iconic oak tree Major Oak considered one of his hideouts. It’s said that Maid Marian lived with them and fell in love with Robin Hood there – under the greenwood tree.
Of course, some Yorkshire folks would tell you that Robin hailed from their county. So if you prefer some moors and dales to the forest for your trysts, do head north!
Given that we’ve stuck firmly with the romance of stories and legends, why not try a fictional landscape made real?
Opening in 1740, Stourhead is a remarkable landscape garden, our very own English Arcadia. Walking around the lake is supposed to replicate Aeneas’ journey to the underworld in Greek mythology.
The landscapes have been used in many romantic films, most famously Pride and Prejudice. The iconic temple of Apollo is the setting for Mr Darcy’s first proposal to Lizzie – in the film, if not the book.
The landscape also features in Stanley Kubrick’s epic, Barry Lyndon, and most recently the television adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love.
The artificially created lake was inspired by Italian Arcadian landscape paintings, an art style that presented a utopian view of nature, one that is unaffected by imperfection. Stourhead is the closest you can get to walking through the set of your own romantic film.
Oh, and as it is managed by our friends in the National Trust, it has a tea shop. And if your romancing goes particularly well, a pub within the gates for some celebratory bubbly!