Origins of tourism in North wales

I have recently come across two websites about the origins of tourism in North Wales. which details the results of a four year research project on previously unpublished tours of Wales and Scotland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The common factor is the journeys of Thomas Pennant of Whitford in Flintshire, who as a relatively wealthy gentleman of leisure, travelled extensively in both Wales and Scotland. These early tourists, of both sexes, were hardy individuals who sometimes travelled alone and on foot.

A spectacular example was William Hutton whose Wikipedia entry states “is generally held to be the first person in modern times to walk the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall, twice, producing an account of his 1801 journey in The History of the Roman Wall.[3] Walking 600 miles from his Birmingham home, along the wall, and back home again, he wrote in the preface, “I have given a short sketch of my approach to this famous Bulwark; have described it as it appears in the present day, and stated my return. Perhaps, I am the first man that ever traveled the whole length of this Wall, and probably the last that will ever attempt it” I’ve only glanced at the book, but looks as though he travelled solo, taking five weeks in the summer, walking an average of 20 miles a day. and spent 40 guineas, very roughly £3000 in today’s terms, on food and accommodation, often of a very primitive kind. He was 78! and lived to 91.

Another transcription is from the diary of Ann Lister. who featured in the TV series Gentleman Jack last year She and her aunt went on a tour of Wales, and after staying at what is now Plas y Brenin, on 15th July 1822 they climbed Snowdon with a guide in 3.75 hours  via the Miners track, met up with one or two others who drank copious amounts of brandy at the top, then came down by a “very difficult route” to Llanberis. Presumably therefore not the Llanberis path, which did exist at the time, the only other possibility is via Cwm Glas Mawr, which even now is considered difficult and little used. Especially if you are unwell and have had a few glasses of brandy…. is another extensive site, in which William Hutton appears again – there is a lengthy account by him of climbing Snowdon in 1799. His daughter also came to North Wales a few years later.

William Bingley is another writer who visited Wales on several occasions, a young cleric at Cambridge who took a coach to Chester and then walked around North Wales in the long vacation of 1798. His book Tours in North Wales can be viewed and downloaded from University of North Carolina. The painter JMW Turner also travelled to Llanberis and started the now very famous and popular tradition of painting and photography from the bridge (built in 1825) at the northern end of Llyn Padarn near Llanberis.

There are many other examples now accessible through these modern digitisation initiatives. It’s worth recalling that this flowering of tourism in Wales by people of leisure coincided with the Napoleonic Wars, which meant that the grand tour of Europe popular with an earlier generation had come to an end.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *