Wild Wales: walking in the footsteps of George Borrow in Llangollen

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The writer George Borrow arrived in Chester in July 1854.

He walked the 20-odd miles to Llangollen and made his base there, starting the mammoth quest into the culture and language of Wales that would inspire his book Wild Wales (first published 1862).

According to a January 1936 edition of Cheshire Life magazine, available from the Cheshire Record Office in Chester:

“From there [Llangollen] he made those remarkably inquisitive excursions into unknown territory which enabled him to produce on work which will immortalise him — Wild Wales.”

I was in Llangollen last week, armed with an old copy of Wild Wales and a new Wild Wales iPad app, to retrace some of Borrow’s walks for a forthcoming article on Greentraveller.

I was staying at Geufron Hall [pictured above] and spent the first blue-skies evening hiking up to the summit of Castell Dinas Bran, a short yomp across country from the hillside B&B.

Borrow is not, in many ways, easy to like. His world view was very much of the times and his writing style is, at best, rather dense.

But, as the local walking guide Andrew Parish observed when he joined for one of the walks, “Wales was a tough old place at that time so we have to admire his gung-ho spirit.”

You can read my full story shortly but, meanwhile, here’s a sneak preview:

The most evocative walk for me was the energetic yomp up to Castell Dinas Bran, the ancient ruined castle set high above the town.

The view from the summit was spectacular: Llangollen below, Offa’s Dyke National Trail to the north, the Berwyn and Clwydian ranges meeting on the horizon.

We could almost touch the pristine-blue sky, dipping our fingertips into candyfloss clouds as the ancient spirits circled around us.

Have you read Wild Wales, or do you have walking tips around to Llangollen to share? Post below.

Liked this? Try also A Walk in the Shadow of Wild Wales.

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