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The best cities for book lovers in the British Isles

Home to the UK’s National Centre of Writing, Norwich is renowned as a city of firsts. Revelations of Divine Love, written by Julian of Norwich in 1395, was the first book written by a woman in English. The first poem in blank verse was written here by Henry Howard in the 16th century. The first English provincial library opened in 1608 and Norwich was the first to implement the Public Library Act of 1850. 

In 1970, the first Creative Writing MA was founded by Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson at the University of East Anglia (UEA), of which Ian McEwan was the first graduate. Writers who have called Norwich home include Thomas Browne, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Emma Healey and Sarah Perry. 

Don’t miss The Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library, housed in the Forum, or a visit to the Cathedral Library, home to more than 20,000 books (some dating back to the 15th century). Also notable is The John Innes Centre with its collection of natural history and rare books. Norwich Crime Writing Festival attracts the world’s top crime writers. 

Stay

The Assembly House has doubles from £196, including breakfast.  

Nottingham

Nottingham’s commitment to improving literacy, paired with a rich literary history and diverse writing community, won it a City of Literature accolade. Known for its rebels and trailblazers, this is a city that gave the world William Langland’s Robin Hood and J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan. Other literary heroes include D.H Lawrence, Lord Byron and Alan Sillitoe. A third of the city’s population is under 24 and its vibrant literature scene with a thriving poet’s community reflects this. 

Spoken word and slam poetry events run throughout the year, culminating in the Nottingham Poetry Festival in April/May. Georgina Wilding is the current Young Poet Laureate, and contemporary writers include playwright Amanda Whittington, screenwriter Shane Meadows and novelist and poet John Harvey. Catch a performance at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, Nottingham Playhouse, or any one of its eighteen public libraries. 

Stay

Hart’s Nottingham has doubles from £199, including breakfast. 

Dublin