From J. R. R. Tolkien to Lewis Carroll, many literary figures have drawn from the Welsh landscape in the creation of their famous novels. Wales itself has a rich tradition of literary accomplishments and appreciation, with the annual Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye being one of the most famous literary festivals in the United Kingdom. North Wales too, with its rich landscape and coastal vistas, has attracted and fostered many literary greats in the production of British classics. When staying in North Wales, why not try venturing out into this literary landscape with one of the following trails and walks.
1. Llandudno’s Alice in Wonderland Trail
The charming seaside town of Llandudno may or may not have figures in Carroll’s famed Alice stories. After all, many towns, cities and villages claim their inspiration. Nevertheless, Llandudno has embraced the mythology of Carroll’s connection with the town, drawing connections between Alice Liddell’s real holiday home in the town and Carroll’s imagination. What better way to enjoy this beautiful town than to follow an Alice in Wonderland trail, with sculptures and readings dotted throughout the town, and a wealth of historical locations — such as the Liddell owned St Tudno hotel — associated with Carroll and Alice.
2. Beatrix Potter’s Inspiration
Potter’s uncle owned a cute cottage and lush garden in Gwaenynog near Denbigh, forming the flowery inspiration for the setting of Beatrix Potter’s first book, The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. Many historians have noted the similarities between Potter’s uncle’s gardens and the illustrations found in her work. If you are looking for a slice of literary inspiration in a tranquil landscape, the gardens and cottage are open to visit by appointment.
3. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The medieval classic makes mention of Saint Winefride’s Well in Holywell, Flintshire. Aside from offering a unique leap into Britain’s literary locations of the past, the well setting is a must-see at only 80p per entry, with the chapel and church being one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in all of the UK.
4. Aberystwyth and Welsh Noir
Many of Malcom Pryce’s famous Welsh noir crime and mystery novels took place in an alternative version of the north Wales town of Aberystwyth. If you are a fan of Pryce’s novels, this sleepy Welsh town is well worth a visit where, although you won’t find any of the sinister and tongue-in-cheek creations of Pryce, you’ll be able to indulge in seaside traditions of fudge and donkey rides.
5. R. S. Thomas and Snowdonia’s mountains
The famed Welsh poet retired in a cottage called Sarn-y-Plas near the Plas-yn-Rhiw estate in Y Rhiw, Gwynedd. The cottage was so small that Thomas was unable to house his book collections. Nevertheless, the Gwynedd landscape figured much in Thomas’ late writing and poems. Although Thomas’ cottage is not open to the public, you can visit the nearby Plas-yn-Rhiw estate which is operated by the National Trust, to get a taste of the ancient history of the cottages of the Llŷn Peninsula.