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Literary Itineraries by Literature Wales

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Prepared for Visit Wales by Literature Wales

Prepared for Visit Wales by Literature Wales.

 

Literature Wales is the National Company for literature and acts as the national literary tourism agency of Wales.
 

They offer:
- Free information and advice for those planning their own literary adventures
- Bespoke literary tour curation for tour operators or private groups
- Support, guidance and partnership for others’ literary tourism projects

 

Please get in touch for further information about their services, including to commission bespoke versions of the following tours.

 

All suggested itineraries are based on a five-night stay and would be led by knowledgeable, personable guides with contributions from many of Wales’ contemporary artists. Many of the sites mentioned are run by National Trust Wales, Cadw and Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons or Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authorities.

Cardiff and South East Wales Tour

©John Briggs / Literature Wales

 

Day 1

 

Visit Roald Dahl’s childhood city of Cardiff, including Mrs Pratchett’s sweet shop (the scene of the infamous ‘Great Mouse Plot’), his infant school and the family church in vibrant Cardiff Bay. Savour a drinks reception aboard the Waverley Paddle Steamer as you travel across the Severn Estuary towards Weston Super Mare – the same journey Roald Dahl made on his way to secondary school – before dinner in one of the city’s grand Victorian hotels.

 

Day 2

 

Embark on the quest from The Shire in the Powys borderlands, to Mordor in The Black Mountains, stopping en route at places which inspired JRR Tolkien’s landscapes, place names and languages in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. After lunch in Hay, world-renowned literary centre, skip into the alternate reality of Owen Sheers’ novel and feature film Resistance, set in the remote Olchon Valley after a 1944 Nazi invasion, before stopping at William Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey on the way back to Cardiff.

 

Day 3

 

Explore the cult underbelly of Cardiff with some of the city’s contemporary writers such as Ifor Thomas, Tessa Hadley, Trezza Azzopardi, Peter Finch, Llwyd Owen, Deborah Kay Davies and John Williams. From the broken Maltese family living in Azzopardi’s Tiger Bay, to the criminal webs in Williams’ Cardiff Trilogy, to the Roath-set marital affair from Hadley’s The London Train, 21st century Cardiff offers much to the urban adventurer. Followed by dinner at the award-winning The Clink Restaurant at HMP Cardiff.


Day 4

 

Travel through the South Wales valley landscapes which fuelled the industrial revolution and inspired generations of social activists and artists. Passionate works of social commentary by Idris Davies (‘The Bells of Rhymney’), Lewis Jones and Alun Lewis will be framed against the coal pits, tips and mine owner’s mansions. Followed by dinner and a show at the Wales Millennium Centre.

 

Day 5

 

Delve into the Celtic world of myth and legends in this part of Wales. From King Arthur’s camp in the ruins of Roman Caerleon, to the hiding place of the Mabinogion’s magical wild boar (Twrch) at Llyn Lliwan near the Severn Estuary, to the lady of the lake at Llyn y Fan Fach in the Black Mountains.

 

 

Swansea and South West Wales Tour

 

©Hannah Lawson

 

Day 1

 

Visit Dylan Thomas’ childhood city of Swansea, including his family home at Cwmdonkin Drive, his school, park and favourite pubs. Enjoy the finest Welsh cuisine in the company of one of Dylan’s childhood friends whilst gazing across Swansea Bay, before a guided tour around the newly refurbished exhibition at The Dylan Thomas Centre.

 

Day 2

 

Travel to rural Pembrokeshire, exploring the rugged hills, cliffs and hidden beaches of Wales’ ancient myths and legends. Follow the hoofs of legendary queen Rhiannon from the Mabinogion in stunning Newport, and the holy centres of Nevern and Cwm yr Eglwys, before tracing the alignments of ceremonial prehistoric stones which have inspired generations of artists, from Iolo Morganwg to John Ormond, Niall Griffiths and Gillian Clarke. Dine and stay overnight at one of the many boutique hotels of the area.


Day 3

 

Tread the streets of picturesque seaside Tenby: a favourite holiday destination for 19th and early 20th century writers such as George Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Beatrix Potter, Roald Dahl, David Jones and Laurie Lee, as well as Horatio Nelson and Augustus John. Includes a boat ride to the monastic Caldey Island, home to some of the earliest known writing in Wales (ogham script). Enjoy a pub meal and overnight stay at Manorbier Castle.

 

Day 4

 

Indulge in the literary centre of Laugharne, including the castle, the newly refurbished Browns Hotel and the boat house; where Dylan Thomas lived in the last few years of his life and where he wrote much of Under Milk Wood. Then drift across the Taf Estuary until you reach the remote villages of Llanybri and Llansteffan. Search for cockles in the sands as you uncover the remarkable lives of several of Wales’ other 20th century writers who made their homes here, including Lynette Roberts, Glyn Jones and Raymond Garlick. Travel back to Swansea to enjoy dinner and a show at the Taliesin Arts Centre.


Day 5

 

Explore the urban literary grit of contemporary Swansea with cult writer Joe Dunthorne (author of the novel and feature film Submarine). From the satirical caricatures of Martin Amis, to the dark haiku of Nigel Jenkins, to the fantastical worlds of Russell T. Davies, “this ugly, lovely town” has nurtured many of Wales’ strongest postmodern writers.

 

 

 

Aberystwyth and Mid Wales Tour

 

 

© Janet Baxter

 

DAY 1

 

Experience uniquely Welsh Aberystwyth through its wealth of resident and diasporic writers, from the ‘Aberystwyth Noir’ detective novelist Malcolm Pryce, to the Liverpudlian Welsh writer Niall Griffiths, to the Canadian expat writer Tyler Keevil. In the afternoon, journey to The National Library of Wales for a talk about Y Llyfrgell (‘The Library’) by novelist Fflur Dafydd, followed by a screening of the recent film adaptation. Enjoy dinner at one of Aberystwyth’s speciality seafood restaurants.

 

DAY 2

 

Travel south down the sandy coastal path to the picturesque seaside towns of Aberaeron and New Quay, where contemporary local writers Cynan Jones and Samantha Rhydderch will walk you through their perspectives on these places and communities. After a slight deviation to take in Dylan Thomas’ former home and writing shed, as well as the New Quay of Llareggub in Under Milk Wood, we’ll journey to Talgarreg for afternoon tea and Welsh cakes with the former National Poet of Wales Gillian Clarke. Dine and stay overnight at one of the many boutique hotels of the area.

 

DAY 3

 

Explore the legendary tales of the Mabinogion in the castle town of Cardigan, the location of the first National Eisteddfod, and the Tironian abbey ruins at St. Dogmaels. Return north for a pub lunch and walk along the pretty beach at Llangrannog, before a trip to the Grade I listed Llanerchaeron Mansion in the beautiful Dyffryn Aeron – a place of inspiration for both Dylan Thomas and TS Eliot.

 

DAY 4

 

Uncover medieval Ceredigion through the words of the great medieval poet Dafydd ap Gwilym with a visit to 12th century Strata Florida Abbey and 6th century Llanbadarn. Return to Aberystwyth via the castle ruins (which may feature in another of his poems) for a talk by Eurig Salisbury on Welsh language poetry. The day will end with a behind-the-scenes guided tour of the exquisite medieval manuscripts held by the National Library of Wales. Followed by dinner and a show at Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

DAY 5

 

Journey north east into the heartlands of the Cambrian Mountains to the RSPB reserve at Eglwys Fach, combining the evocative poetry of RS Thomas with his favourite past-time of bird watching. Followed by lunch at The Brigands pub, where you’ll trace the steps of the legendary Red Bandits of Mawddwy.

 

 

North Wales Tour

 

©Geraint Edwards

 

DAY 1

 

Lose yourself in the Italianate village of Portmeirion, inspiration for many writers including Noel Coward, Robin Llywelyn, Daphne du Maurier and Kingsley Martin. Then journey into the prehistoric ruins, sand dunes, mountains and moors of Ardudwy, including Harlech Castle and Dyffryn Ardudwy tomb. These places and their myths informed the world-renowned stories of His Dark Materials writer Philip Pullman, who grew up locally. After dinner at Dylan’s on the Cricieth seafront, spend the night at Grade II* listed Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, former prime minister David Lloyd George’s final home.


DAY 2

 

Trace the sandy coastline of the Llŷn Peninsula, walking Y Lôn Goed (Wood Lane) - an ancient trackway which features in the poetry of R Williams Parry – before a trip past RS Thomas’ former home to Aberdaron. This village on the tip of the Llŷn was his final parish and, according to locals, RS burned his cassock on Aberdaron beach upon retirement. After lunch at Oriel Plas Glyn y Weddw (a stunning visual art gallery), you’ll travel to the medieval castle town of Caernarfon for a literary walk with Dewi Prysor, exploring the significance of Welsh language writing to the people of Gwynedd, including the legend of Hedd Wyn.

 

DAY 3

 

Travel to the special island of Ynys Môn, renowned for its prehistoric monuments and ancient myths. Starting at the Grade I listed Plas Newydd, you’ll visit several places with local stories associated, from Santes Dwynwen (Wales’ patron saint of lovers) at her hermitage on Llanddwyn Island, to Queen Branwen who is reputedly buried near Holyhead, to the witches of Llanddona. Followed by dinner and a show at the newly opened Pontio in Bangor.

 

DAY 4

 

No visit to North Wales is complete without taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway, tracing the battle path of the horn-locked red and white dragons. Followed by a visit to the National Slate Museum for a behind-the-scenes tour of their collections, focusing on the literature of Kate Roberts. Stop at Llansanffraid Glan Conwy, where Gwen ferch Elis (the first woman hanged for witchcraft in Wales) was trialled, before returning to the beautiful walled medieval town of Conwy for dinner at one of the local seafood restaurants overlooking the Menai Straits.


DAY 5

 

Journey to the sacred monastic site of Saint Winefride’s Well in Holywell with National Poet of Wales Ifor ap Glyn for an immersive experience in the healing waters, visiting the reliquary in the shrine and the 16th century chapel. This place has inspired a millennium of literature, from the 14th century poem ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, to Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem ‘St. Winefride’s Well’, to Daniel Defoe. Travel on to Flint for lunch and a performance of scenes from Shakespeare’s Richard II and Henry IV (Part I), which are set at Flint Castle.

 

Writing Retreat

 

©Emyr Young / Literature Wales


Stay at Grade II* listed Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre for a writing retreat in one of Wales’ most stunning locations, overlooking Cardigan Bay and the mountains of Meirionydd.

 

Our week-long retreats offer the perfect creative escape. Find tranquillity on woodland or beach walks, or meet the locals at the village inn. Take inspiration from the spectacular sea views, share ideas over dinner, or simply sit back and relax in the cosy library.

 

Everyone will have a room of their own, and homemade meals made with local ingredients will be prepared for you. Wherever you are on your writing journey, we will provide you with a calm creative environment where you have the space and freedom to fulfil your goals.

 

Every retreat includes one of Wales’ best writers as resident tutor, for example Gillian Clarke, Menna Elfyn or Gwyneth Lewis.

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