types of tourist and travellers

From the middle of the 18th century many thousands of people who had spare time and money travelled abroad as part of the Grand Tour and some began to travel around Britain.

It has often been assumed that the war with France (1792-1815) restricted the number of people who toured the continent (even though it would have been possible to visit Italy and Greece, or Switzerland without passing through France), and it is also assumed that many of those who had toured the continent were either Oxford or Cambridge students with their tutors or other adults to complete their education, or the very rich.

The Home Tour might have attracted a quite different type of tourist to those who went on the Grand Tour. As part of the 18th century enlightenment, educated people with time and money to spare chose to explore the more remote parts of Britain and Ireland, not as an alternative to the Grand Tour, but as a new experience in search of the  Picturesque, the Sublime and the Romantic landscapes. The added advantage of coming to Wales is that it was relatively cheap and many of the inhabitants spoke a different language, giving the impression of being in a foreign country without having to travel by sea. This alternative reason for coming to Wales was put forward by Charles Heath in 1795 (see below).

There is another twist to the contrast between the Grand Tour and the Home Tour: it might be true that the Grand Tour had been ‘written out’ i.e. everything that could be said about it had been published. This appeared to be the case with tours of Wales by the late 1840s – but evidence is beginning to show that the number of tourists to Wales was rapidly increasing from the 1850s, brought on short trips by train and good roads and attracted by many articles about tours of Wales which were published in newspapers and magazines – now so much more accessible because they have been digitised.

Tourists to Wales may be classified as:

  • Antiquarians (which included those interested in language, folk lore, customs and traditions)
  • Geologists
  • Botanists
  • Artists
  • Tourists

Tourists included those in search of:

  • the picturesque, the sublime, the beautiful and the romantic
  • different cultures
  • pleasure
  • solitude
  • the simple life (and escape from modern life)

Some tours were by honeymoon couples (and, indeed, there is some evidence that Devil’s Bridge Inn was used occasionally by unmarried couples on secret assignations).

Many people travelled around Wales in the form of a tour, but didn’t come just to experience the landscape. All of the following kept a record of their tour,  and many were subsequently published :

Missionary  / Religious

  • Quakers
  • Non-conformist preachers
  • Anglican bishops and their staff


  • Abolition of Slavery  (Thomas Clarkson, 1824)


A few judges and occasionally their clerks kept a record of their tours around Wales as part of the Great Sessions

  • Temple, R. G. 1820s


Several people who travelled from to and from Ireland via Wales (normally along the north coast), kept accounts of their journey.

Sampson Sandys classified the different types of travellers in his introduction to his tour of Wales. 
‘Never probably was the passion for touring so prevalent as it is now … {people travel to distant lands to add to our stock of useful knowledge} while the tour of Europe, formerly the Ultimatum of travellers has now become the summer excursion of a mere party of pleasure … So great is the facility with which all ranks may now travel in foreign countries, that our own is nearly neglected, tho in many parts of the United Kingdoms are exquisite scenes of nature, and art … 

Travellers may be divided into

  • those who travel in aid of science,
  • those who travel in search of the picturesque,
  • those who travel to spend money and dissipate ennui,
  • those who travel to save money,
  • and those who travel for amusement.

The first and second classes naturally chose those parts which are least known, or have been only slightly described, the extent of their journeys being limited by circumstances, and even if compelled to travel on beaten tracks, will discover new beauties or fresh subjects for scientific investigation.
We may here observe that in the second class, we only include those with minds sufficiently enlightened to instruct others by their remarks on the grand scenery of nature, or the ruins of art, and who should join the information of the historian to the eye of the artist, we do not include the dilettanti who think a place or a ruin is pretty because they have been told so, and immediately out with their brush and dab down something on a sheet of paper they call a sketch.
In the third class are those who would travel to Siberia if fashion directed, but fashion generally decrees that they shall go where there is plenty to eat and drink, and plenty of people to ease them of their superfluous cash.
Next follow those who run out their fortunes, here, and go abroad to live cheap, though probably many retired spots might be found in our own country that would suit as well.
The last class (in which we include ourselves) generally composed of persons who for ten or eleven months in the year are tied down to some profession, or employment, but being possessed with a spirit for travelling, and having a warm admiration of whatever is grand in nature, or art, eagerly seize on the small time allowed them to gratify their wishes.
To this list may be added those who travel for purposes of commerce, among whom have been some very intelligent men. The motives for writing tours are full as various as the reasons for travelling.
Some write to add what lays in their power to our stock of knowledge, some write for celebrity alone, some, for money, some because their friends wish them, some, because they wish themselves, some, because it’s the fashion, and others to enable them when returned from their travels to retrace those scenes where so many happy and eventful hours of their life have been spent, but these are principally confined to MS tours.
Sandys, William, and Sandys, Sampson, (brothers), ‘Walk through South Wales in October, 1819’, NLW Cwrt Mawr MS393 C, Preface.

Whether it was owing to the unsettled state of affairs on the Continent, which rendered travelling, if not unsafe, at least disagreeable; or to that well founded curiosity which excites the Man of Observation to survey its attractions, certain it is that Monmouthshire has, since these collections were first published, been honoured with a very large share of public notice.
Heath, Charles, The Excursion down the Wye from Ross to Monmouth … (1795), preface (and subsequent editions)

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