A list of books to read and movies to watch to inspire your travels to England & Scotland
I love to read a book or watch a movie that takes place somewhere before I go (or if I can’t go)! It gets me really excited to travel.
I also get really excited watching a movie after I’ve been somewhere and being able to shout out, “I’ve been there!”
So here is my list of books to read, and movies and TV shows to watch before (and after) traveling to England & Scotland.
It is not completely exhaustive, as there are literally SO many books and movies that take place in the UK. So this is really a list of my personal choices.
And it does not include Outlander. Because I watched the first two episodes and actually kind of hated it (I know, sorry). Maybe someday I’ll give it a try again and love it. But feel free to add it to your own personal watch list!
The Chronicles of Narnia
These classic tales were penned by Oxford professor C.S. Lewis. You can visit the college where he taught, see the animal statues in the cloisters that might have inspired the White Witch’s favorite form of punishment, and walk along Addison’s Walk, where Lewis often went for inspiration and solitude.
Look for the poem by Lewis posted at one of the gates along the walk.
I don’t believe this story really needs any introduction, but just in case you somehow missed it, this tale of the boy wizard takes place in England.
You can visit places mentioned in the book, hang out in cafes where it was written, stand in places where it was filmed, or, if that isn’t enough, there are literally countless Harry Potter themed activities to do across England.
Here is a whole list of Harry Potter Places to Visit in the UK.
Because this list is in alphabetical order, this story isn’t listed with its sequels The Lord of the Rings (and you have heard of LOTR, right?!).
Much like his pal Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien was a professor at Oxford, where he penned the famous (and best!) fantasy trilogy, along with The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, all of which I think are worth a read.
This old English classic is difficult to get into, but once you get past the dated language and the unnecessarily long description of the shepherd’s clothes, it is a thrilling story that gets you especially excited about castles!
I love a good Robert Louis Stevenson. This one takes place in the highlands of Scotland, and really stirs up your thirst for adventure. It’s a quick, easy read to get you excited for your trip to Scotland!
The Lord of the Rings
As mentioned above, The Lord of the Rings was penned by the brilliant J.R.R. Tolkien, and is the number one trilly of all time (books & movies!).
The Mary Poppins series
Did you know there are 8 Mary Poppins books?
So far I’ve read two of them, and they are fun and enjoyable. An easy bedtime read no matter what your age is. The first one is definitely a must before visiting London (and perhaps 17 Cherry Tree Lane).
The story by J.M. Barrie is another classic British tale. But you might be surprised when you read the book that the original Peter Pan is not quite how he’s portrayed in all the movies.
This sweet story with its iconic illustrations may not seem like the first choice if you’re over the age of 10. But really, are you ever too old for Peter Rabbit (Or Winnie the Pooh, or Peter Pan, or Mary Poppins, or anything British, really)?
Pride & Prejudice
And anything and everything Jane Austen. But especially Pride and Prejudice, the jewel in Austen’s crown.
Seriously, how exciting is it to read about Mr. Darcy and Pemberly, knowing that someday soon, you are going to see “Pemberly” in person?!
I’ll be honest, after a while you realize that every chapter of Robin Hood is Robin getting bested by someone bigger than him, and then the bigger man getting recruited to join the merry men.
But, it’s still a classic, and a great read (if you stop after a few chapters).
The Sherlock Holmes series
The classic mysteries offer plenty of options for your pre-England reading material, although may I suggest The Hound of the Baskervilles?
The original historical novel, by the same author of Ivanhoe. It has the same issues as Ivanhoe, as in, it takes forever to get into. But, like Ivanhoe, once it (finally) gets started, it’s so good!
This one takes place in Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellion, so I especially suggest reading it if you’re planning to visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which also has a monument to the rebellion. I also recently learned that Waverley Station in Edinburgh is actually named after this novel!! #funfact
Winnie the Pooh
& The House on Pooh Corner.
Winnie the Pooh stories are honestly some of my favorite things to read. They are so simple, yet so profound. And usually pretty funny.
And everyone knows you are never too old for Pooh.
I honestly found this story rather depressing (that’s the Bronte sisters for you, I guess), but my sister suggested it, so I added it to the list. Especially if you plan to visit the famous English moors!
I also have to add a selection from one of my favorite childhood series: The Boxcar Children: The Mystery of the Queen’s Jewels. Although as an adult you realize that most of the Boxcar Children books (written after Gertude Chandler Warner passed away) are pretty awful.
But, they’re still super nostalgic, so there you go.
(and TV shows)
Nothing gets you more in the mood to romp across the Scottish highlands than a rousing chorus of Julie Fowlis’ “Touch the Sky.”
You can visit the places that inspired Merida’s home in Brave, and pretend you work for Disney and get free trips to sketch cliff-side castles in Scotland.
Need I say more?
Just like the books it’s (sort of) based on, this movie is sweet, simple, and yet profound. The most important thing I learned watching this movie is that sometimes it can end up being tomorrow, even though usually it’s today…
The Chronicles of Narnia
Based on the famous (and better) books listed above. Get excited to visit England (or New Zealand, where they were filmed!) by watching The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe or Prince Caspian.
Just don’t watch The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which was needlessly terrible.
Maybe you love it, maybe you hate. I, for one, love it, since the boys in my college photography program raved about it (if they liked it, it had to be good).
Not only is it a show, they now have 6 seasons and TWO movies (take that, Community!).
Also, did you know you can visit Downton Abbey for youself?
You have a serious stack of choices here, so I’ll bet you can find at least one doctor in the sixty years since it first aired that you’ll like!
This movie gets me really excited to go to the theater in London! Of course, it made me want to dress in a sparkly, floor-length ballgown, but I opted for a knee-length sundress instead.
I found this movie on accident on Disney +. It’s a lot like Old Yellar, but less well-known. A classic Disney effort to tell the heart-warming story of the loyal dog who lay by his master’s grave every night until his own death.
There is now a statue of this sweet pup by the kirkyard (graveyard) in Edinburgh.
As mentioned above, the movies were filmed in England and Scotland, and there are so many Harry Potter filming locations you can visit!
The Hobbit trilogy
Now, I know that these movies… aren’t as good as LOTR. But if we just forget about how disappointing they are and have fun watching them, it’s really not so bad.
Plus Martin Freeman is the best Bilbo!
Jason made fun of me, because this movie was not on my list to watch, but after we ended up watching it with his family, naturally I added it to my list just so I could cross it off.
It is just such a great movie, and Robin Williams is always worth watching.
I do prefer the book version to the movie, but they were pretty true to the book (probably why the movie is sooooo long!). But if you carve out enough time for it, get excited about sieging castles with this old film adaptation of the classic book.
Again, another film adaptation, but this one I think is really good! It’s just a swashbuckling exciting ride through the highlands of Scotland.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
And once again I say, “Need I say more?”
But I will say more, because LOTR is the NUMBER ONE TRILLY!
That is all.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
There are lots of Pooh adaptations, but I’m talking the original 1977 masterpiece based on the beloved book.
Both the Julie Andrews and the Emily Blunt versions. Because they are absolute classics, whatever you may think of the Cockney accents!
This is the tale of the author of Peter Rabbit. And I’m a sucker for English period pieces.
You can visit the Beatrix Potter House in the charming Cotswolds villages of England!
North & South
North and South is my third favorite movie, behind LOTR (that still only counts as one!) and the 6-hour Pride and Prejudice (apparently I like really long movies).
This is a 4 episode mini series from BBC that chronicles the love story between Margaret from the south and Mr. Thornton from the north.
It’s actually a book too, which I haven’t read, but I picked up at a bookshop in Edinburgh, so… one day.
We watched this Netflix movie when Jason had his wisdom teeth out and just picked something random to watch. It’s no Braveheart (shorter though), but it picks up where Braveheart left off, and is really great to help you understand some of the history of the Scottish/English rivalry.
Paddington was not on my list of movies to ever watch… But when Paddington 2 was referenced in several different other movies that I actually was watching (and given rave reviews!), I decided I should give the franchise a chance.
Paddington is an adorably sweet movie with lots of famous actors in it. And if you’ve seen it you can get excited to see the Paddington Bear statues in both Paddington Station and Leicester Square!
The Parent Trap
The Lindsay Lohan version, where one twin lives in none other than London, England! Nothing can prepare you for a visit to the capital city quite like the movie’s montage of London’s most iconic sites.
There are multiple versions of Peter Pan out there, so there are a lot to choose from! I would suggest a quick viewing of the animated Disney classic, and the 2003 live action film starring Jason Isaacs and Jason Isaacs (as both Mr. Darling and the infamous captain).
Ok, when I say watch Peter Rabbit, I don’t mean the new movies they recently made. I mean the BBC animated stories of the ‘90’s, known as The Beatrix Potter Collection or The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends.
I myself have not actually watched them since the 90’s, but I have fond memories in the back of my head of Beatrix Potter drawings come to life on VHS.
Pride & Prejudice
EVERY VERSION EVER!
But really, there are SO many of them! Some are good, some are not. So let’s just play it safe and watch the Keira Knightley and the Colin Firth version. And before you argue with me, yes, the Colin Firth version is the best.
I visited Matthew Macfadyen’s version of Pemberly in England, but I wrote about where to visit both, as well as other Pride and Prejudice filming locations.
There are so many versions of Robin Hood (actually superior to the book, in my opinion).
I’ll just let you choose your favorite, but I’m partial to the Disney version. And the cheesy Netflix series…
Secrets of Great British Castles
I discovered this Netflix series after I returned from the UK, so this is a prime example of me pointing from my couch and proudly declaring, “I’ve been there!”
You will learn a lot about history (and probably forget it by the next day) and get excited for all of the different castles (like Warwick Castle) you’re going to visit on your trip!
The movies with RDJ and the show with Cumberbatch & Freeman.
Both are so good!
This fun fantasy movie was partly filmed in the fairy glen in Scotland (an apt place for filming about fairies and fallen stars).
Some people thought the film was ridiculous, but my personal opinion is that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, and that’s what makes it so fun! Either way, the scenery is incredible and the soundtrack is epic.
What a Girl Wants
I end my list here with this Amanda Bynes (and Colin Firth!) classic. It’s hilarious and heartwarming, and most importantly, taught me that British people only show affection to dogs and horses.
Have any other ideas?
So, of course, there are TONS more possibilities to add to this list.
Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments below!
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