When it comes to fantasy, whether historical, contemporary or urban, set in the UK, the two settings I come across most are London and Edinburgh. They’re both great cities (although admittedly I’m more familiar with London than Edinburgh) and it’s understandable why they’re such common settings – an awful lot of writers live in these places, which makes inspiration and research easier, and they’re also cities that people inside and outside of the UK are familiar with – but there are so many other places in the UK that I don’t think are utilised in the ways they should be.
(Plus, as a proud northerner, I’m rather bored of London as a setting.)
So today I thought I’d share some places that I think would be a great setting for a fantasy novel – and the kind of fantasy novels they’d suit!
I love York, it’s such a beautiful city and it’s brimming with history. It’s also considered the most haunted city in Europe, so I’m very surprised I don’t encounter more horror and dark fantasy novels featuring ghosts and hauntings set in York. What about a Victorian era historical fantasy series that follows a family of exorcists? Or a contemporary MG fantasy about a child who can see ghosts? There’s so much potential in York.
Glastonbury isn’t a city, but it’s a very old town with a lot of history and a real link to the fantastical. The best way to describe Glastonbury is kooky, it’s full of independent shops selling the queer and quirky, but it has deep roots in Britain’s Pagan history; it’s believed that there’s a hidden cave beneath the Tor that leads to the faerie realm, where the lord of the Celtic Underworld dwells. It’s also believed that King Arthur and Guinevere are buried in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey – people still visit there today to leave flowers on their grave – so there’s plenty in Glastonbury for authors to play with. Any chance I can have a historical fantasy novel starring faeries in medieval Glastonbury?
If London and Edinburgh are popular choices, then can the capital of Wales get some love too? Wales has amazing folklore and mythology – not to mention the bonkers tales from The Mabinogion – and Cardiff was even the setting for the Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood. Sadly it can be fairly difficult to read books set in Wales because it’s a setting that some of the big publishers in London don’t think will sell; I worked in Welsh publishing for several years, and met one author who published her novel with a Welsh publisher because she was told ‘no one’s interested in Wales’ when she approached the London-based publishers. Considering there’s a dragon on the Welsh flag, though, is there any chance a Welsh author wants to write me an urban fantasy series about dragons in Cardiff?