It is 125 years since the publication of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson to readers of The Strand Magazine in 1891, but the publication of these twelve short stories, on 14 October 1892, brought the detective and the doctor to the masses.
VisitEngland’s Year of Literary Heroes survey showed that Sherlock and Watson’s escapades tap into the nation’s love of suspense, with crime (38%), thrillers (38%) and mysteries (37%) revealed as the most popular genres to read; everything from recent runaway success The Girl on the Train to classics by Agatha Christie keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Holiday-makers who prise themselves from their page-turners can follow in the footsteps of the Sherlock Holmes books, film adaptations and TV series, play detective at Sherlock-inspired attractions, from code-breaking bars to themed escape games, and delve into the real-life locations associated with the fictional worlds of crimes and mysteries from And Then There Were None to Dracula.
SHERLOCK-ATIONS – ON THE TRAIL OF THE BOOKS, FILMS AND TV SERIES
PORTSMOUTH: Where it all began…
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle moved to Portsmouth with his wife in 1882 to set up his medical practice, and it was there that he first wrote the world’s greatest detective into creation. Head to Portsmouth City Museum and explore permanent exhibition ‘A Study in Sherlock’, the largest collection pertaining to Doyle and his creation in the world. The gallery explores Doyle’s life and career, Sherlock Holmes as depicted in film, theatre, advertising and more, and includes a Sherlock Holmes mystery and narration by the collection’s patron, Stephen Fry. Doyle’s home, which was destroyed in the Second World War, is commemorated by a blue plaque.
Admission to the museum is free. www.portsmouthcitymuseums.co.uk/portsmouth-museum
LONDON: Home of Holmes
221B Baker Street is Holmes’ base in the books – however this address doesn’t actually exist! Head to 237-41 Baker Street to find the Sherlock Holmes Museum, which features a recreation of the detective’s disorderly study. Baker Street underground station has a statue of Holmes, and a short walk away takes you to Madame Tussauds, home to waxworks of both Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch as the detective, plus interactive theatrical challenge the Sherlock Holmes Experience. The BBC adaptation used a townhouse at 187 North Gower Street to play the role of 221B Baker Street, and many scenes were filmed at next-door Speedy’s Sandwich Bar & Café, where you can get a Sherlock Breakfast of eggs, avocado and salmon. The Criterion in Piccadilly Circus (now Savini at The Criterion) was where Dr Watson first heard about Sherlock Holmes, sowing the seeds of their relationship; a plaque commemorates the literary claim to fame. Brit Movie Tours runs a Sherlock Holmes Walking tour of London.
Entry to the Sherlock Holmes Museum costs £15 per adult and £10 per child www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk; Madame Tussauds entry from £29; Sherlock Holmes Experience costs an additional £5 www.madametussauds.com/london; www.saviniatcriterion.co.uk; Brit Movie Tours walking tour costs £12 per adult and £10 per child britmovietours.com/bookings/sherlock-holmes-london-tour.
DARTMOOR: Baskerville country
Dartmoor was the setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous Sherlock adventure, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Doyle visited Dartmoor in 1901 after hearing his friend Bertram Fletcher Robinson’s tales of demonic hounds and escaped convicts, and walked 16-18 miles a day in the hills and moors, scouting for locations for his book. He wrote it at The Duchy Hotel in Princetown, now the Highland Moorland Visitor Centre, and incorporated real locals, places and legends into his chilling tale. Unique Devon Tours runs a comprehensive Hound of the Baskervilles tour that takes in churches associated with black magic and Bronze Age villages, Moorland mires and tranquil village graveyards; the tour is run by a descendant of one of the people involved in the creation of the plot. Sink your teeth into a Baskerville Burger at The Hound of the Baskervilles pub in Dartmoor, which is adorned in Sherlock history and is, of course, hound-friendly.
Unique Devon Tours’ Hound of the Baskervilles tour costs £330 for up to 2 people, £360 for 3-6 people. The company also runs Agatha Christie tours. www.uniquedevontours.com. The Hound of the Baskervilles pub thehoundofthebaskervillesroyaloak.co.uk.
NORFOLK: Inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s personal third favourite Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Dancing Men, came about following his visits to Norfolk. During a sabbatical at The Hill House Inn in Happisburgh, Doyle was inspired by the landlord’s son, who had created a code to communicate with his parents using stick man illustrations; sinister stick men images feature in the tale. The pub has a commemorative plaque highlighting the literary link and its own Dancing Men Brewery on-site. Cromer Hall in North Norfolk is thought by many to have inspired Baskerville Hall in The Hound of the Baskervilles; Doyle was invited there for dinner in 1901 and his fictional Hall closely resembles the Gothic Revival version found in Norfolk. It’s also suspected that during his stays, Doyle heard about the ghostly hound Black Shuck who, according to legend, prowled the county and was an omen of death. Could Black Shuck have been transported to Dartmoor from Norfolk by Doyle’s words?
BRISTOL: Benedict and co were here…
Bristol has starred in the BBC adaptation of Sherlock on several occasions from Holmes and Moriarty’s memorable swimming pool encounter in The Great Game to the bonfire scene in The Empty Hearse, and Watson and Mary’s wedding in The Sign of Three. The Bristol Film Office have put together a trail map for fans, which takes in fantastic attractions and public spaces across the city and its surrounds, including Colston Hall Vaults, Tyntesfield and Ashton Court.
SHERLOCK-OMMODATION AND WATSON-WORTHY BARS
SOLVE THE RIDDLE (AND STAY THE NIGHT), Dartmoor
The Riddle is a luxury thatched cottage in Dartmoor – land of Hound of the Baskervilles – with oak beams, a roll-top bath and a bright red Aga – plus a mystery to solve. A scroll tied with a silk bow sits atop a table, containing clues to opening a hidden floorboard chamber in a Sherlock-themed bedroom, with a prize if you crack it. Just a hint – don’t handcuff yourself to a radiator, as one guest did…
£250 for two people, £350 for up to four people. www.uniquehomestays.com/self-catering/uk/devon/north-bovey/the-riddle
DRINK LIKE A DETECTIVE, across England
The Bletchley in London’s Chelsea opened earlier this year to the delight of wannabe Sherlocks and Alan Turings. Inspired by both the famous fictional detective and the incredible real-life code-breaker, The Bletchley’s location is divulged only once you book your tickets. The mystery doesn’t stop there, as guests are required to crack tasks on replica Enigma machines (while sipping a welcome cocktail), before being presented with a cocktail concocted specifically for you – no two drinks are made the same here. www.thebletchley.co.uk
It’s all very cryptic at the Evans and Peel Detective Agency, a bar in London’s Earl’s Court with a secret entrance. The guise of detective agency is taken very seriously – guests are required to present their ‘case’ to the detective on the door, before being led into the drinking den via a door concealed in a bookshelf. www.evansandpeel.com
Madam Simza Heron, in the movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, is first introduced reading tarot cards so it’s a fitting tribute to visit a speakeasy concealed as a pawn shop in a former fortune teller’s den when in Manchester. Dusk Til Pawn is cleverly hidden from the outside, but once inside it’s obvious this is a bar – and a very well-stocked one at that. www.dusktilpawn.co.uk
ESCAPE A SHERLOCK-IN – IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES FOR BUDDING DETECTIVES
Escape Hull presents the 221B Baker Street live escape room challenge. Participants find themselves enlisted by Moriarty to break into 221B Baker Street and retrieve an item of historic importance by defeating Sherlock’s failsafes. Use your code-breaking skills, decipher symbolism and solve association problems to work it out before Sherlock and Watson arrive…
Prices vary depending on the number of participants, from £14pp for groups to five to £24pp for groups of two. www.escape-hull.co.uk
At Inside Out Escape in London, the aim is to find Sherlock Holmes, who has mysteriously disappeared – kidnapped by master villain Moriarty. Dr Watson and his team have received a letter containing clues and riddles that will lead to his discovery, which ‘only the sharpest minds’ will be able to decode…
Prices start at £23.50pp for five players off-peak, to £32.50pp for two players at peak times. insideoutescape.co.uk
With machines to operate, hidden switches and codes to crack, Sherlock would be a fan of Escapologic Nottingham’s Cryptic room where, in the pale light of a lantern, participants discover abandoned skeletons. Could this be all that remains of legendary explorer Crispin Sheppard, who mysteriously vanished years ago? It’s a Sherlock-worthy case.
Prices range from £16pp for five players off-peak to £25pp for two players at peak times. www.escapologic.com
The Hound of the Baskervilles is about the apparent curse of the Baskervilles, with plenty of spooky, supernatural-seeming goings-on featuring spectral beasts and other-worldly beings. For those who relish a shiver up their spine and sense of unease, nothing beats a Zombie Experience. The Sheffield version takes place in a disused factory once bustling with industrial activity and now apparently riddled with a zombie infection… Meanwhile The Last Survivors in Essex takes place in a real ex-government nuclear bunker 100ft underground and features terrifying zombie combat.
Sheffield’s Zombie Experience costs £65 per person; there are venues across England with similar experiences zombieexperiences.co.uk; The Last Survivors costs £90 thelastsurvivors.co.uk.
For more literary holiday inspiration check out www.visitengland.com/literaryheroes