This year is the 125th anniversary of the classic thriller, and although many people mostly associate the novel with rural Transylvania in Romania, the Irish author never once visited the Carpathians, Brasov, or Bran Castle, now commonly known as Dracula’s Castle. (Or, indeed, Sighisoara, the skyline-spiked city where Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Stoker’s toothy anti-hero, was born in 1431.) Instead, Dublin-born Stoker holidayed in the Scottish village of Cruden Bay on the Bay of Cruden more than a dozen times in the late 19th century, taking inspiration from the Aberdeenshire coast’s almost supernatural geography and using its castle, cliffs, and characters to help blur fact and fiction.
To mark the anniversary of the book’s debut in 1897, Dacre Stoker, the author’s great-grandnephew, has mapped out a new literary trail across the United Kingdom for the Bram Stoker Estate (the custodian of the author’s life and work), using redacted notes, transcripts, family journals, letters, and circumstantial evidence to pinpoint the locations that were far more of an influence on the novel than many people realise. In the making since Dacre Stoker published Dracula the Un-Dead, the 2009 sequel to his great-grandfather’s original, the trail covers 20-odd locations that inspired Stoker’s vision and is a haunting tribute to his forebear’s influence and art.
The tour begins in England’s metropolitan capital—perhaps no surprise to some who know the city’s penchant for literary lore. And while Stoker’s masterpiece does reference London locations—both realistically and fictitiously—much of the tale was influenced much more significantly by other tour stops. However, even though Dracula wasn’t entirely borne from the streets of London à la Dickens, the author did live and work here for a time, serving as the manager for the Lyceum Theatre through the early 1900s. A literary city through and through, London is an ideal first stop on this exciting walking tour, and there are plenty of Stoker-Esque spots to explore. Such as, London’s famed Lyceum theatre, where Stoker worked while living in London—it’s been said that Henry Irving, the theatre’s iconic actor, was an inspiration for Count Dracula himself. Golders Green Crematorium is home to an urn containing Stoker’s—as well as his son Noel’s—ashes. A real-life location and possible setting for Lucy’s tomb in the novel.
The “official” start of the Stoker literary trail begins in the coastal Yorkshire town of Whitby. Stoker famously vacationed here in 1890 and was inspired by the village’s influence that can be seen throughout many of Dracula’s early chapters— Whitby Abbey’s haunted ruins and the barren clifftop graveyard of St. Mary’s Church.
Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh is a historic city in its own right, and there’s no doubt that its more macabre stories most likely influenced Stoker during his time as a theatre director overseeing the production of Much Ado About Nothing. One only needs to visit the eerie Edinburgh Castle or the famous Witches’ Well fountain to get distinctly Stoker-ish vibes. But Edinburgh is not the only Scottish setting said to inspire the author’s epistolary work. Just a few hours north along the coast lies the atmospheric fishing village Cruden Bay, where Stoker spent numerous vacations—he even wrote parts of Dracula while summering here..
Lodge at the Kilmarnock Arms, the village hotel where Stoker famously stayed. Visitors will be similarly inspired by the dramatically bleak (yet beautiful) clifftop setting—including secluded spots like St. Olaf’s Well and the nearby coastal inlet scene that inspired the Stoker novella The Watter’s Mou’. Experience the strange beauty of Slains Castle and its epic ruins, said to have influenced one of Stoker’s most famous settings—the home of Dracula himself.
Follow in Stoker’s footsteps—literally—by strolling the stretch of beach between Cruden Bay and nearby Whinnyfold, where Stoker once rented a cottage and reportedly spent time walking solo (plotting Dracula chapters, perhaps?) or alongside his wife Florence.