Tag: Wales

Wales has a new Unesco World Heritage Site. Let’s use it wisely then.

Wales has a new Unesco World Heritage Site.

The industrial heritage of North Wales has just been named as the UK’s 33rd Unesco World Heritage Site.

The award reflects the international significance of Welsh slate in “roofing the 19th century world”.

It’s the fourth site in Wales alongside the castles of Edward I, the Blaenavon industrial landscape and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Llangollen.

The pockmarked, post-industrial landscape had been ‘slated’ for Unesco status since it was first nominated by the UK Government in 2018.

The bid focused on six disparate slate-mining areas, divided by mountain ranges.

These include the Penrhyn slate quarry at Bethesda, the Dinorwig quarry near Llanberis and Blaenau Ffestiniog’s slate mines [quarryman turned guide Brian Jones at Llechwedd pictured above].

Some of the attractions fall within the boundary of the Snowdonia National Park, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

Roland Evans of Gwynedd Council, which led the bid partnership, is keen to use the win to entice visitors away from the national-park honeypots:

“The bid champions the social and economic regeneration of our slate valleys, restoring pride to those communities, and documenting their social history through community tourism.”

Read the rest of my feature via Telegraph Travel, Move over Taj Mahal, these Welsh slate quarries are just as fascinating.

Join my Context Conversation about Dylan Thomas’ Wales on May 14

May 14 is International Dylan Thomas Day.

The date marks the anniversary of when Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at The Poetry Center, New York, in 1953.

His home town of Swansea, south Wales, will mark the day with live and virtual events while Dylan Thomas fans round the world will remember the impact of his work — now taught in Welsh schools as part of the literacy programme.

Thomas was a complex character but often misunderstood. Success came late for him with his critical plaudits constantly overshadowed by constant money worries and reports of his legendary drunkenness.

But, after his death, he became a cult figure, earning an inclusion on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and inspiring the lyrics of Bob Dylan.

It’s only by visiting the places in Wales associated with his childhood and later life that we can come to understand the man behind the mythology.

My latest travel talk for Context Travel is Dylan Thomas: a literary pilgrimage across Wales.

I’ll trace a journey across the country that inspired Dylan’s writing from his Swansea childhood to Laugharne, where he lived and worked prior to that fateful trip to New York.

It forms part the Context Conversations strand and will be hosted via Zoom on Friday, May 14 at 6pm UK time — International Dylan Thomas Day.

But what to expect?

  • The Swansea years as a young man
  • The Laugharne years and finding fame
  • New York and the final years
  • Readings and events for Thomas fans

Book your place here. It’s a one-hour talk, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A for Wales travel tips.

Thomas collapsed and died in New York in November 1953 aged 39. He was on a lecture tour of America, had been mixing with the Beat poets, and Under Milk Wood had been performed for the first time earlier that year to critical acclaim.

He is buried in the graveyard of St Martin’s Church in Laugharne — that’s me [above] pictured by Dylan’s grave.

In the cold-stone interior of the church itself, a plague to Thomas bears the inscription from one of his most evocative poems, Ferne Hill.

It reads: “Time held me green and dying. Though I sang in my chains like the sea.”

Walking Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail as it marks its 50-year anniversary

This year marks 50 years of the Offa’s Dyke Path National Trail.

There are local walking festivals to look out for and a revamped visitor centre in the Welsh border town of Knighton to open later this summer.

An ITV series about the Path, Wonders of the Border, will be shown over summer.

The 177-mile national trail, which runs from near Chepstow on the River Severn to Prestatyn on the North Wales coast, divides into 12 day sections.

As lockdown restrictions eased, I walked the trail for a day from Castle Mill [pictured above] near Chirk Castle in North Wales into the Shropshire Hills to get a taste of the path.

The earliest reference to Offa’s Dyke is attributed to Asser, King Alfred’s biographer, who wrote:

“A certain vigorous king called Offa … had a great dyke built between Wales and Mercia.”

Offa was the king of Mercia (the modern-day Midlands) and ordered the construction of the dyke around 785AD to mark a de-facto border between England and the rebellious Welsh tribes to the west.

National Trail Officer Rob Dingle says: “King Offa is something of a shadowy figure from history, but we do know that he was keen to expand his kingdom, and the design of the Dyke was quite deliberate, acting as a warning shot to the west.”

National Trails is encouraging walkers to share their memories of 50 years of Offa’s Dyke. Read more.

Read my feature via the i newspaper here

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A pilgrimage in the footsteps of the ancient saints for St Davids Day

Today is St David’s Day, so Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

I made a pre-lockdown pilgrimage to Bardsey Island [pictured] in North Wales to follow in the footsteps of the ancient saints.

Here’s an extract from my latest travel-writing feature, published today.

When Pope Callixtus II decreed three pilgrimages to Bardsey to be equivalent to one to Rome, it sparked a pilgrim scramble to the remote Llyn Peninsula that lasted until The Reformation.

The medieval writer Gerald of Wales first noted the large number of pilgrims blazing a sandal-clad trail to Bardsey in 1188, many of them believing to die on the island idyll would guarantee them a place in heaven.

That’s why Bardsey is still known as the isle of 20,000 saints.

“Bardsey comes at you with all the senses: the sound of nature, the view west across the sea with the mountains behind, and the sense of ancient spirituality,” says Peter Hewlett, who arranges walking trips around the Llyn.

“It feels defiantly lost in time.”

Read the full feature via Telegraph Travel here.