Websites & More


Online Books & Extracts

Thomas PENNANT, The Journey to Snowdon – the National Library of Wales (NLW) offers the multi-volumes of Pennant’s A Tour of Wales; volume 2 features his A Journey to Snowdon.  Beautiful.  At Gathering the Jewels, page images of an illustrated version of this 1781 book.
National Library of Wales has this wonderfully informative Thomas Pennant exhibition and John Engleby watercolors.

George BORROW, Wild Wales  [Project Gutenberg;] – along with Pennant, one of the writers most associated with travel in Wales. References to the Ladies of Llangollen crop up several times.

Jenny JENKS, Miss Jenks’s Tour, or Journal through Wales in 1772 – this is a 60-page handwritten journal of a late-18th century journey through North Wales.  The original is at the NLW, but Gathering the Jewels offers a handy page-by-page transcription, as well as all the page images.

Richard M. JACKSON, A Weekend Excursion in North Wales (July 1820) – an 18-page handwritten journal that has a slight synopsis of each page, but no transcription.  Very tidy handwriting though…

Not a “book,” but William FOWLER’s evocative watercolor sketches (of North and South Wales) come from the same website as the two manuscripts above: Gathering the Jewels.

In a similar category is Thomas McLEAN’s 1823 Views in North Wales; only the plates are displayed (thanks to Gathering the Jewels!), but the accompanying text has been transcribed.

A slim, but absorbing little study in drawing and caricature is the Rough Notes of a Few Days’ Walk in Wales; an anonymous work, the author is identified as “One of the Walkers.” From GTJ.

Diaries of a Lady of Quality – is an online blog that reproduces this book (published in 1864) of memories and stories by Miss Frances Williams Wynn (of Wynnstay) in individual entries.  Williams Wynn relates two stories she got from the Ladies of Llangollen: the Tyrone Ghost Story (part 2); the Execution of Charles I.

For further reading. . . .

UNTHINKABLE for an avid reader not to recommend books. Some may be in print, others you can find only through second-hand dealers.  Books on Wales — especially if you want books in Welsh (they sell English titles as well), can be mail ordered from (in Welsh & English).

June KNOX-MAWER, A Ram in the Well  (2001) – You can’t get closer to Llangollen than in this memoir of living at Haford, a hill cottage on the outskirts of town.  Readers also get a peek into the life of the last owner of Erddig, before its sale to the National Trust [see below].

Judy CORBETT, Castles in the Air (2004) – this is one of the best books written about house (a 500-year-old castle!) renovation.  Especially poignant is the section where Corbett and her husband try to buy back an entire room that had been packed up and sold abroad (to William Randolph Hearst) — and ultimately found languishing in storage at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Now offering bed & breakfast (as well as the self-catering ‘Gatehouse’ option), Gwydir Castle has its own website. See also their page on the estate’s History.

BLOOM and BLOOM, eds., The Piozzi Letters, 1784-1821, in six volumes (1988-2002) – As Mrs. Henry Thrale she befriended Dr. Samuel Johnson – and incurred the slight enmity of James Boswell.  Two years after Henry’s death, she remarried: only in her early 40s, Hester Thrale fell in love with the man hired as music master to her children, the Italian (and Catholic) Gabriel Piozzi.  A lengthy honeymoon would spawn her travelogue, Reflections and Observations [vol. 1; vol. 2].  Her children – and Dr. Johnson, never forgave her actions.  In these six volumes, chronicling her life from just before her marriage up until just before her death, we get a picture not only of Hester, but of life in late-18th, early-19th century North Wales.  Extracts of her letters to and comments about the Ladies of Llangollen will be collected on this website.

Joseph HUCKS, A Pedestrian Tour Through North Wales, in a Series of Letters, Alun R. Jones and William Tydeman, eds. (Cardiff: University of Wales Press) 1979; Hucks’ tour of 1793, originally published in 1795.  His companion: Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

A.M. BROADLEY, Doctor Johnson and Mrs Thrale: Including Mrs Thrales unpublished Journal of the Welsh Tour made in 1774 and much hitherto unpublished correspondence of the Streatham Coterie (London/NY: John Lane; 1910).  Excerpt: Mrs. Thrale’s journal (chapter begins pg 155).
Johnson’s journal of the same journey (also included in Broadley) can be found in Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (many editions; online: Project Gutenberg).  Two newer books deal with the twin diaries: Adrian Bristow, ed., Dr Johnson and Mrs Thrale’s Tour in North Wales in 1774 (Bridge Books, 1995) and Meurig Owen, A Grand Tour of North Wales (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2003).

Merlin WATERSON, The Servants’ Hall: A ‘Downstairs’ History of a British Country House (1980) – pictures and text trace the history of Erddig Hall (National Trust property; near Wrexham), the estate belonging to the Yorke family (a distant relative was the General Yorke who purchased, and expanded, Plas Newydd late in the 19th century).  Meet the last owner of Erddig, Philip Yorke, in A Ram in the Well [see above].

Cornelia Stratton PARKER, English Summer (1931) – this has been mentioned in the bibliography, though the section containing reference to the Ladies of Llangollen is quite small (excerpt).  Of interest in that she and her daughter drive through England, Wales and Scotland in 1930.  She also published several pre-World War II looks at Germany, Austria and Switzerland; especially engaging: her companion book to this one, German Summer (NY: Horace Liveright; 1932), where she and daughter June faltboat several waterways.

Emily KIMBROUGH, And A Right Good Crew (1958) – this has also been mentioned in the bibliography for its portrayal of the Ladies of Llangollen (excerpt).  Kimbrough wrote many, many travel books; her early Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (co-authored with Cornelia Otis Skinner) had recently come back in print.  This book covers two canal trips in the U.K, including the route today known as the Llangollen Canal.

Anthony BAILEY, A Walk Through Wales (1992) – a tour from south (Cardiff) to north (Bangor).  The travails of being on foot, mixed with a little local color and a bit of history.

Jan MORRIS – The Matter of Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country (1984) (revised and reprinted as Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country); also the memoir: A Writer’s House in Wales.

Edward HALL (ed.), Miss Weeton’s Journal of a Governess (vol. 1: 1807-1811; vol.2: 1811-1825) – a short chapter in volume two features the trip to Wales that 48-year-old Nelley Stock née Weeton took in the Spring/Summer of 1825.  On average, she walked from 11 to 18 miles per day!  Her feet were her only mode of transportation between Bangor, Carnarvon, Conwy and Snowdonia.  Published in the 1930s under the title Miss Weeton: Journal of a Governess, the reprints from 1969 include some updated information in the introduction and epilogue.

SOMERVILLE and ROSS, Beggars on Horseback (1895) – using a novelistic approach, this travelogue is a slice of the wicked-tongued Somerville and Ross style rather than a straight-up journey through North Wales.  The best descriptions come with the ascent of Snowdon.  With illustrations by Somerville.  Evidently back in print.  Excerpt: Plas Newydd and the Ladies of Llangollen.

Paul THEROUX, The Kingdom by the Sea (1983) – Theroux walks (and takes the train) along the coast of Britain.  As the cover declares: It was 1982, the summer of the Falklands War and the royal baby, and the ideal time, he found, to surprise the British into talking about themselves.  Annoying in his habit of picking names for people, Theroux writes engagingly enough to make reading this, even twenty years after its publication, a pleasurable experience.

H.V. MORTON – of the many books Morton wrote after the smash hit In Search of England, he dedicated one exclusively to Wales: In Search of Wales (1932); antiquarian copies have lovely period photographs.  Excerpt: Llangollen.

Chas GRIFFIN, Scenes from a Smallholding (2005) – if you ever wanted to pick up sticks and move to a small, self-sufficient farm read the likes of Chas Griffin first.  You might just change your mind.  The Griffins moved to West Wales.  This book is published in the U.K.

Of the same ilk, only long, long out of print: Elizabeth WEST, Hovel in the Hills – this first came out in 1977, soon after the TV show Good Neighbors [The Good Life, in the UK] first hit the air.  Self-sufficiency had found its author, though favorite chapters deal with their struggles to find temporary jobs to pay the bills.  1980 saw the sequel, Garden in the Hills.

And a Welsh farmyard full of animals is what readers get in Jeanine McMULLEN, My Small Country Living (1984).  Not quite the James Herriot of Wales (as the cover would have it), but a pleasant enough read.


Gathering the Jewels has to top this list.  They bill themselves The Website for Welsh Cultural History – and live up to that billing.  Downing Hall, former seat of the Pennant family, is one of Gathering the Jewels’ many “themes”.  Click on explore this theme for photos.  You can also find Thomas Pennant’s History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell here.  Of course, our favorite theme has to be The Ladies of Llangollen….

VWales {broken link} hosts a number of e-books, an image gallery (which includes pictures of Plas Newydd! {broken link}), and even an introductory course in Welsh.

Llangollen has a lovely website: local history, a virtual tour; photographs of places the Ladies visited (Valle Crucis Abbey; Castell Dinas Bran; St. Collen’s Church), information on its museums, eateries and hostelries.

 Llangollen Canal

For further reading…

L.T.C. ROLT wrote several books; two touch on the Llangollen Canal: his famed Narrow Boat (1944; 2nd revised edition 1957; later reprintings) and his three volume autobiography, The Landscape Trilogy (2001) [an omnibus edition that includes (text intact, but different photographs) Landscape with Machines (1971); Landscape with Canals (1977); and the posthumously-published Landscape with Figures (1992)].

Half of Kimbrough’s And a Right Good Crew covers the Llangollen canal; Emily and Crew could not reach Llangollen itself by narrowboat: too little water in the canal that year!

There are several boater-guides to the Llangollen Canal; these are fine for hikers, too.  We loved our Pearson Guide: Welsh Waters Canal Companion.  Nice graphics, easy to read.  Write-ups on the towns gave indication of sites to see, as well as lift bridges, locks, water points, and the all-important where to shop for groceries. Pearson tries to indicate the quality of canalside paths – but watch those springtime mud patches! (We speak from experience….)  Published in the U.K.


Oh, so many sites, some with photographs, put up by travelers on the Llangollen Canal.  Here is just a sample: A Narrowboat Journey in Wales (King Douglas); A Week on a Canal Boat in North Wales (photos only; Maurice Stewart) {broken link}; The Jannock – 2002 trip {broken link}; Llangollen Easter 2005.

BBC news article (July 2005) on Telford’s Pontcysyllte Aqueduct: World Heritage Hopes for Aqueduct.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Gray
    Sep 27, 2011 @ 17:51:43

    That certainly is a good web-site you have going here. The challenge is extremely informative and straight to the point. Ecstatic to see another recommendation of your site next occasion.


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