guides

Introduction

In a society so aware of social status, it was unusual for classes to mix, except on a formal level, but many of the tourists were happy to spend a day in the informal company and care of a guide, most of whom were what many tourists would have considered to be common peasants. Some of these spoke little English:  the ability of a guide to speak English was probably reflected in the size of the tip they were offered. A few were experts in natural and local history; the most popular had developed attractive eccentricities which entertained the tourists and elicited a larger tip than might otherwise have been the case. These and others were familiar with guiding the nobility and members of the gentry classes into remote and dangerous places.

Tourists sometimes called their guides by the rather romantic term Cicerone which was originally applied to a person who showed antiquities to foreigners. Others referred to them as conductors, while John Morton, a guide to Snowdon, called himself the Snowdon Ranger.

Tourist’s guides may be classified under the following headings:

  • Guides for travellers on difficult and dangerous roads, and across the coastal sands near Harlech and Carmarthen. Such services date back to many centuries before the tourists arrived, but continued well into the 19th century. Some pedestrians employed guides on some roads mainly to carry their bags. Post boys or postillions who looked after hired horses also effectively acted as guides.
  • Semi-professional guides who advertised their services, mostly to Snowdon and Cader Idris. They offered bespoke trips to the mountains, depending on the number in a party, the weather and time of day (including night time ascents to enable tourists to view the sunrise). Some provided ponies to take tourists most of the way to the top and offered shelter and refreshments at the summit in addition to entertaining the tourists with stories on route. Some claimed to  climb their mountains several times a week (and occasionally several times a day) during the season. A sub-group of these were guides to Snowdon, often boys or young men, provided by the local inns and hotels who did little more than walk ahead of the tourists on the desired route.
  • Employees at inns (such as the Boots boy, harper, waiters, etc, and sometimes the inn keeper), who acted as guides to local attractions.
  • Guides to the ruins of castles and monasteries were often old women, who lived in or close to the sites. These carried out their duties with the acquiescence of the owner of the site, but it is not clear whether the owner paid (or supported the guides in some other way), or whether they were dependent on the tips given by the tourists. The latter might have been a significant source of income for some during the tourist season. When Anne Porter visited Raglan Castle in 1824 she suggested that the official guide there made £300 a year. If she was given a tip of 1 shilling per visitor, this would represent 6000 people which seems to be an enormous number. Even if she received half a crown per visit, £300 would represent 2400 tips, which is 20 paying visitors every single day during the 4 months of June to September. Porter, Anne, Journal of a tour down the Wye & through South Wales, August  17th to September 25th 1824. Worcestershire Record Office, BA 3940 Parcel 65 (ii) 705: 262, 23rd August.
  • Guides to industrial sites, especially slate quarries, the copper mines on Paris Mountain, Anglesey and some of the Merthry Tydfil iron works. This seems to have been organised on an ad hoc basis at some sites, but at others, waterproof costumes  and candles were available for tourists to explore pits and tunnels, and  occasionally, tourists were allowed to travel on tramways. Guides also ensured that tourists were able to view the explosions used to break up the rock at slate quarries from a safe place.
  • Guides to waterfalls and other remote attractions. These were often local women or boys, some of whom were monoglot Welsh speakers,  or, more often, bilingual young women. At or near some of these attractions, cottagers offered tourists refreshments and a place to shelter or rest. At very popular sites, such as the Devil’s Bridge, Cardiganshire, semi-professional guides were available.
  • Guides to occupied houses and grounds (such as Hafod, Piercefield and Plas Newydd gardens, Llangollen). These were normally the housekeeper and gardener. It is said that Mary Carryl, the housekeeper to Plas Newydd for the Ladies of Llangollen from 1780 until her death in 1809 was given tips by many of the visitors. She was not paid by the Ladies but received free board and lodging and some of her medical expences were paid by the Ladies. It is said that she saved enough to purchase the field of Aber Adda which they had been renting which she left in her will to Sarah Ponsonby.

Some guides had no idea when they might return home – especially if the weather was bad, or the hour late. This applied particularly to guides who were willing to take a tourist to the next inn late at night.

The person who mentions guides more than anyone else, partly because he noted how much he paid for them, is Sir James Bucknall Grimston, in his ‘A Tour in Wales, 1769’ (Report on the manuscripts of the Earl of Gorhambury, Historic Monuments Commission Report, (HMSO, 1906), pp. 242-283). This is one of the earliest detailed accounts of a tour of Wales and shows that even at that date, people were available to act as guides to attractions such as castles and waterfalls, as well as across difficult terrain (e.g. across the sands near Carmarthen and from the Devil’s Bridge to Machynlleth).

The people who looked after bathers in bathing huts at resorts such as Tenby and Aberystwyth were also known as guides.

This page contains references to guides under the following headings:

  • Early Guides
  • General comments on guides
  • Managing without a guide
  • Crossing the sands

On the road

  • Carmarthen to Newcastle [story of highwaymen]
  • Llandovery to Lampeter
  • Devil’s Bridge to Machynlleth
  • Rhayader to Pontrhydfendigaid
  • Tregaron to Llandovery

By boat

Types of attraction

  • waterfalls
  • industrial sites
  • mansions and estates
  • ivy clad ruins (castles, monasteries)

Specific places

  • Symond’s Yat
  • The Sugar Loaf
  • Llanberis
  • Llantwit
  • Dolgellau
  • St David’s
  • St Winifred’s well, Holywell

See also:

EARLY GUIDES

10.8.1652

Having hired a guide for I that knew neither the intricate ways nor could speake any of the language, was necessitated to have guides from place to place, and it being harvest time, I was forced to pay exceeding dear for guiding, so that some days I paid 2 shillings, sometimes 3s, besides bearing their charges of meat and drink, and lodging; for it is to be understood that those kind of labouring people rather reap hard all day for 6 pence than go 10 or 12 miles easily on foot for 2 shillings.

Taylor, John, (1580-1653) A short Relation of a Long Journey (1653)

1744 Journey to Llandrindod

Now Night had begun her Sway over this Part of the Globe, but we proceeded without any Guide, which my Readers may think something odd; but the following Reason I suppose will satisfy them. Employing a Guide here, and at this Time, might be attended with these bad Consequences ; they might have taken us wrong, and, as we were but a few, robb’d and murder’d us, by the Assistance of an Acquaintance or two; add to this, they might have made such an Agreement even before our Faces, speaking a Language we did not understand, therefore we thought it more proper to enquire than to be guarded, tho’ my Cousin continually begg’d to have a Guide, Another Reason was, that the Welsh have an universal Opinion that the English Travellers ask the Road though they know it quite well, which Notion answered our End extremely well. [but they got lost in the dark and had to seek help.]

Bradley, Sir Joseph,’A Journey to Llandrindod Wells in Radnorshire … Being a faithful Narrative of every Occurrence worth Notice, that happened in a Journey to and from those Wells … ‘, (1744), p. 24; (Second edition London, 1746) [and another edition, 1748?], NLW mss. 6708

GENERAL COMMENTS

1770 Chester

… we procured a guide who likewise served us in the capacity of an interpreter. [Did they retain him throughout the tour?]

Anon, [Cradock, Joseph? ] Letters from Snowdon, (London, 1770), pp. 21-22

1777 ‘Welsh guides’

Our present Cicerone from Tan y Bwlch, conducted us wrong, both to and from Harlech; and on our return, we were obliged to have guide upon guide, before we ventured to cross the sands, which are by no means difficult when known, but which, from their shifting and quickness, are intricate and dangerous to strangers. A Welsh guide will blunder through the country, and, least his knowledge should be suspected, will make no enquiry about the road, ’till he himself is really alarmed, at which time he becomes more terrified, than those he pretends to conduct. This was the precise situation of our Harlech attendant: The Welsh guides would not confess his mistakes, ’till he had led us to the very point of a precipice, from which it was impossible to advance a yard farther, without falling from it: Nor could we persuade him to proceed a single step before us, either over the sands, or through the waters of the Traeth Bychan, which is an arm of the sea, of considerable width, even at the lowest ebb. A circumstance that happened to us afterwards at Bala, may serve as another instance of uncommon timidity in this class of people. I had engaged a man to attend us, over the mountains, from Bala to Llanrhaeadr: who, according to agreement, appeared at the door of our inn, at the hour appointed: We were now mounted, and prepared for the journey; when we perceived his countenance change and betray evident marks of the greatest apprehension: at last he clandestinely dipt away from us. Astonished at this behaviour, we halted, and sent a person to enquire into the reason of it, who reported, that the guide, perceiving our troop to consist of five, was deterred from advancing with us, by the idea of our murdering him on the mountains. Nor could we persuade him, either by ridicule, or argument, to trust himself with us.

What temptation, this poor fellow could think, might induce us to act in so treacherous a manner, is not easily to be conceived. He was ragged, barefooted, and, probably, without a single penny in his pocket.

I shall now return to my Harlech companion: this was the fourth guide whom I had engaged; the first was from Caerphilly to the Pontypridd, for whom there was no necessity, if I had taken the most agreeable road: He happened to be very intelligent. I took another from St David’s to the Maen Sigl, of whom too there was no occasion, as the thing itself was not worth seeing. But though the distance did not exceed two miles from the fellow’s home, yet, he could not find the stone, ’till he had left me within 200 yards of it, while he enquired at a distant cottage after it. The third voluntarily offered to accompany my friend from St David’s to Fishguard, and this last mistook the track in such a manner, that I, though alone, arrived at Fishguard half an hour before them, notwithstanding the Maen Sigl seduced me three miles about. In my second journey, I took the chance of hiring conveniences to transport myself from one part of the country to the other. Necessity therefore compelled me to be regularly attended by guides, who were to return with the horses, and it would appear incredible, if I was to repeat, how, consequently, we were almost daily bewildered Welsh guides between stage and stage.

Wyndham, Henry Penruddocke. A gentleman’s tour through Monmouthshire and Wales, in the months of June and July, 1774 and in the months of June, July and August, 1777,  Second edition, E Easton, Salisbury, 1781, p. ?

1790s

Upon enquiry, when I had passed the great Lake [at Llanberis], I found but one man who could speak English, and he would have five shillings to conduct me to Beddgelert, which he said was fifteen miles. I altered my plan, and agreed to give a man, who could not speak English, half a crown to conduct me over the mountains into the road at the great Lake Quethlin, [Cwellin] from whence I knew the way home.

 Hutton, W., Remarks upon North Wales: being the Result of Sixteen Tours Through that part of the Principality (Birmingham, 1803), chapter 8; (another edition, 1815)

 1798 Harlech

It was now near evening, and prudence invited us to make this cheerless spot our residence for the night; but the inn offered no bed, nor anything better than a dirt floor, strewed with a few rushes, … so we altered our course for Tan y Bwlch. While inquiring for a guide, we observed a decent looking man at a cottage door, directly opposite. From his physiognomy, and his eyes being fixed upon us, I was induced to address him: he ingenuously owned the guide was absent, but as he understood every inch of ground, he would, if we pleased, conduct us safe to our destination. An air of frankness visible in his countenance, and a fluency in speaking English, (very unusual here) prejudiced us in his favour, and we instantly closed with his proposal: and to his credit, let it be recorded, we found in him a faithful and intelligent guide; and had not to regret, as some have done before us, that after employing a guide, they were obliged to give him information of the way. … our guide, with accents of joy, pronounced the inn of Tan y Bwlch! It was now about two hours past midnight, and the people had been long retired to sleep; but the landlord, when he had heard our story, with great alacrity arose, and furnished every comfort the house afforded.

Evans, John, Rev., (1768-1812), A tour through part of North Wales, in the year 1798, and at other times : principally undertaken with a view to botanical researches in that Alpine country: interspersed with observations on its scenery, agriculture, manufactures, customs, history, and antiquities, (London, 1800)

1798

Ingenuous and considerate, the present gentry contribute to the comfort and accommodation of the stranger; they dispense with a liberal hand the benefits derived from their exalted situation; and support the dignity of character derived from their princely ancestors, by a pointed attention to those who happen to visit in their vicinity. If a person travel without recommendation, or has not sufficient confidence to make one for himself, he may consider the Welsh as averse to strangers. But with it, it is only necessary to be known, that he is come to survey the beauties of the country, when he is conducted to everything worthy his observation, with the most zealous attention; and with an impressive welcome, in vain expected in more refined countries. Nor is this temper confined to large mansions, supported by extensive domains; it inhabits the lowly cottage; and often in the miserable habitations of penury have I witnessed its fascinating influence. The North-Wallian peasant will bring out his little stores, borrow of his neighbours, run with you miles to put you in the way; and so far from asking for remuneration, will feel offended if you offer any.

Evans, John, Rev., (1768-1812), A tour through part of North Wales, in the year 1798, and at other times : principally undertaken with a view to botanical researches in that Alpine country: interspersed with observations on its scenery, agriculture, manufactures, customs, history, and antiquities, (London, 1800), pp. 352-353

1819 Substantial reward for something lost.

‘had a guide to conduct us across the Fer[illegible] and Berwyn mountains to Bala …’ {but the guide got lost – there was no path and there was thick fog} … {They got completely lost and were cold and hungry}… {mist rose and they rode to Bala}

12th July 1819 Took some sketches before breakfast and on my return found my [illegible] {the writer seems to have lost something which the guide was able to return, and she gladly gave him half a guinea for his effort}

Anon, but probably E.C Campbell, [Eliza Constantia Campbell, nee Pryce], Journals of Tours in North Wales and the Isle of Wight, NLW Gunley Parcel XXX, pp. 5-9

1819 Between Beddgelert and Llanberis

{hired a pony, tried to take a short cut to Llanberis but} ‘the scientific mountaineers are the only safe conductors’ {his pony got stuck in a bog, and managed to drag him out.}

Parker, John, (1798-1860) 1819, September (as an Oxford student)‘Journal of a short tour through part of North Wales in 1819’, NLW MS 18256C Tours through Wales 1819-47, p. 7

1828 Across the Mountains to Capel Curig, and on a subsequent day to Dinas Emrys.

[This has been included to show the dangers to which some tourists were willing to put their guides.]

The dreary and wild aspect of the deep mountain enclosure is really awful. I had read that it was possible to reach Capel Curig from hence, going in a straight line over Trifaen … The passage was represented as very difficult, but surpassingly beautiful. At this moment I saw a shepherd descending from the mountain, and I felt the strongest inclination to attempt the expedition with the guide which chance thus so opportunely threw in my way. I got the postilion to act as interpreter of my wishes. The man thought it was too late, and that the descent on the other side by night would be hazardous. On my pressing him further, he said, however, that there would be a moon, and that if I could follow him at a brisk rate, he thought we might manage to cross the mountain in two hours, – but that there were some very awkward places to pass. … I look upon the repeated attentions paid me by birds of prey as a good omen. It was extremely inconvenient that I could no more speak with my guide than with the eagles, for he understood not a word of English. We could therefore only converse by signs. After we had for some time descended with comparative ease, he pointed to a place to which we must now turn our steps: – we had arrived at the ‘bad passage.’ This consisted of a perfectly perpendicular wall, certainly not less than six hundred feet in depth; and above it a scarcely less steep ascent of earth, washed over by the rain, and strewed with small loose stones. Across this we were to make our way – a distance of fifteen hundred paces. …

Dinas Emrys is doubly impressed on my memory: first, for its romantic beauty; secondly, because on it I literally hung between life and death. Although not above four or five hundred feet high, it is considered accessible only on one side. I had taken a little boy with me as guide, but when we reached the spot he seemed to know very little about the matter. The way which he took through an oak copse appeared to me from the first suspicious, from its uncommon steepness; but he tranquillized my fears in broken English, and I could do nothing but follow the little fellow, (who sprang before me like a chamois,) as well as I could. Merlin appeared to frown upon us: a violent wind had arisen, and the sun, which had shone upon us for a moment, imbedded himself behind black clouds; while the long wet grass which hung over the blocks of stone made climbing very dangerous. This did not much impede the barefooted little boy, but was a serious obstacle to my limbs, somewhat stiff from my yesterday’s exploits. … At length I observed that the boy himself was quite irresolute, and creeping on his belly looked anxiously around. We now wriggled right and left through some clefts, and suddenly found ourselves standing on the peak of a smooth and lofty wall, with scarcely room to set our feet, and above us a similar wall, out of which grew some tufts of grass. The summit of this appeared to overtop the whole.

The prospect was not encouraging: the child began to cry, and I considered not without some uneasy feelings what was to be done. … At length I observed that the boy himself was quite irresolute, and creeping on his belly looked anxiously around. We now wriggled right and left through some clefts, and suddenly found ourselves standing on the peak of a smooth and lofty wall, with scarcely room to set our feet, and above us a similar wall, out of which grew some tufts of grass. The summit of this appeared to overtop the whole. … As a compensation, the boy reappeared jumping gaily along, and boasting of the beauty of the way, which he had at length found.

Prince Puckler-Muskau, Tour in England, Ireland, and France in the years 1828, 1829, 1832, (1832); (Philadelphia 1833), 2th  July1828

 1839

There will be no difficulty in finding guides, and they are in general contented with a slight remuneration; the guides to Snowdon and Cader Idris, however, make regular charges for their personal services, and 5s for every pony furnished by them. The father of the Snowdon guides, Richard Edwards by name, lives at Beddgelert, and may be met with at the Goat Inn; and those persons who wish to ascent Cader Idris from Dolgellau would do well to select Richard Pugh, junior, to accompany them [guide] ; he may be heard of at the Golden Lion.

Bingley, W., Rev, (1774-1823), Excursions in North Wales including Aberystwith and the Devil’s Bridge, intended as a guide to Tourists by the late Rev W Bingley. Third edition with corrections and additions made during Excursions in the year 1838 by his son W.R. Bingley, (London, 1839), introduction.

1860

A lively tourist, Mr Baker, well observes,— “I like to visit castles, churches, and waterfalls by myself, when I can take my own time, and indulge my own thoughts, without having my fairy imaginings interrupted, as they were at the Swallow Falls, something after this manner:—’ This is the Swallow Fall, sir; very pretty, sir; another view above, sir;’ and then, after a repetition of the trot, to the utter confusion of one’s breathing apparatus—Sorry there is not much water, sir; weather too dry, sir; last week, sir, very grand, sir.’ This brief address terminated with a look that meant sixpence, if ever there could be a silvery look, as well as silvery words.”

Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard, Notes of family excursions in north Wales, taken Chiefly from Rhyl, Abergele, Llandudno and Bangor, 1860, p. 188 [his source for this quotation is uncertain.]

 

ACROSS SANDS AND RIVERS
5.9.1769 Laugharne

guide over the sand £0/0/6 (£0.03)

Grimston, James Bucknall, Sir, A Tour in Wales, 1769, Report on the manuscripts of the Earl of Gorhambury, Historic Monuments Commission Report, (HMSO, 1906), pp. 242-283

1796

The only person I met with in the place who could speak English was the guide that conducts travellers across the Traeths [Traeth specify place name = sands];

Hutton, Catherine, LETTER V, Barmouth; Aug.12, 1796

1798 Beddgelert to Harlech

The whole of the walk from Beddgelert to Harlech I found exceedingly pleasant. From the continual varying of the scenery, the attention was fully occupied during every part of the journey.—The road from Tanybwlch is scarcely passable for carriages, but there is another from Beddgelert, at the ebb of the tide, over the sands: a guide, however, must be taken who is acquainted with the track, as it is unsafe for strangers to venture alone.

Bingley, William, (1774-1823), A tour round North Wales, performed during the summer of 1798 … (London, 1800)

3.7.1799 To Harlech

{Had a guide to take him over the sands to Penmorfa}

Colt Hoare, Sir Richard, from Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 1983, pp. 104-116

1814 (and earlier?) To Harlech

It is practicable to go by the sands but we were given to understand that the turnpike was, if anything, shorter, the scenery more pleasing, and the guides necessary for crossing those dangerous sands, in general, most complete villains.

The Cambrian Tourist or the Post-Chaise Companion through Wales ; being a short but comprehensive description of every object most worthy of attention in the Welsh Territories. With a chart, showing at one view the most eligible route, the best inns distances and objects. (London, Chester and Wrexham, 1814)

1800? Aber

On leaving Bangor we proceeded to the pretty little village of Aber, which gives its name to the last of the ferries over the Menai. The walk from the village across the Lavan Sands to the ferry is about four miles. This walk it would be hazardous for a stranger to undertake without a guide, as the sands frequently shift. During foggy weather, the large bell of Aber, given for this purpose by Lord Bulkeley, is constantly rung, as a guide to direct those coming from the island.

The Cambrian Tourist or the Post-Chaise Companion through Wales ; being a short but comprehensive description of every object most worthy of attention in the Welsh Territories. With a chart, showing at one view the most eligible route, the best inns distances and objects. (London, Chester and Wrexham, 1814), p. 316

 1802

After dinner we set out on another ten miles stage to Maentwrog attended by a guide to conduct us across a stream only fordable at low tide. Arriving just in time we cross and land, if landing it might be called, in a black peat moss several miles in extent and skirted by bare lofty hills.

Anon (female) Diary of a Lady’s Tour in Wales Eighty Years Ago, Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, 26 September 1884, for 27th July,1802.

20.8.1823 Ffestiniog to Harlech

Paid 1/6d to a Welsh woman on horseback who guided them across the sands towards Barmouth.

Mary Holland (1792-1877), ‘1st Journal of an (intended) expedition to Barmouth’ starting 6.8.1823, Chapple, John, Elizabeth Gaskell, The Early Years (1997, 2009), pp. 288-310

 [1825] Harlech

The principle inn, the Blue Lion, a most excellent house, kept by Morgan Davies. A guide may be had at the inn who undertakes to conduct travellers over the sands of Traeth beach and overt the embankment to Tremadoc.

Anon, The Cambrian tourist guide and companion, containing a concise account and description of North Wales : chiefly in the counties of Merioneth and Caernarvon, with their various curiosities, antiquities, mountains, lakes, water falls, towns, principal inns, roads, distances, romantic sceneries, etc. (Dolgelley : [c.1825]), p. 34

1828 crossing westwards to Llanstephan

At high water, there is a ferry to the village on the opposite side : at low water, at particular periods, the sands may be crossed on horseback ; but strangers should not attempt this without a guide.

The Cambrian Tourist, Or, Post-chaise Companion Through Wales, (6th edition, 1828)

 

MANAGING WITHOUT A GUIDE

1776 Llanidloes

After dinner I set off to cross the mountains which lead to Aberystwyth without a guide which my landlord insisted upon it was not necessary. The prospect at first amused me exceedingly but afterwards I grew tired with that uniformity of wilderness. Perhaps I enjoyed myself less on account of my anxiety of mistaking the road, for it was with no little difficulty I picked it out among many dubious paths. The view reminded me of that line of Milton:
Just thou you dreary region .. wild
The Seat of Desolation
Mountain was piled upon mountain, in … confusion, nor was any trace of habitancy to be discovered except occasionally a miserable cot and the herds grazing on the green slopes. Now and then a solitary crow flew over me, or a large Hawk sailed along the mountains. Every hundred yards I heard the clashing of water among the rocks and often saw it trickling into the Severn which just glittered in the vale below …

Anon, Tour in the Summer 1776, through Wales, NLW MS2862A p. 36-37

 

ON THE ROAD
16.9.1769 Carmarthen to Newcastle

Guide from Carmarthen to Newcastle £0/1/6 (£0.08)

Grimston, James Bucknall, Sir, A Tour in Wales, 1769, Report on the manuscripts of the Earl of Gorhambury, Historic Monuments Commission Report, (HMSO, 1906), pp. 242-283

1812 Llandovery to Lampeter

One of the post boys informed John of a tremendous robbery which had lately been committed on one of the hills on which we had to pass. It appeared from his account that a gang of men infested the neighbouring mountains who had some days ago attacked an individual returning from the Cardigan bank and after robbing him of £600 [possibly £100] had nearly beaten him to death. … This account did not much increase the pleasure of our journey and we calculated at least upon the chance of loosing all our goods and chattels. As, however, we could muster five men amongst us [the author. Maximilian, their servant John and two post boys] we did not despair. However, we repented much of not having had the precaution to arm ourselves with pistols. Key? sword being the only means of defence.

[A search of newspapers for a report of the robbery was unsuccessful: perhaps this story was made up of exaggerated to increase the tip when they arrived safely at Lampeter.]

Hammond, William Osmund, Journal of a Tour in Wales and Ireland, 1812, NLW MS 24023A, ff. 56-58

21.9.1769 Devil’s Bridge to Machynlleth

We dined at a house called Spatty [Ysbyty Cynfyn], on bread and cheese, and afterwards, with the assistance of a guide, crossed the most dreary mountains that Wales has to boast of to Machynlleth. On the right hand we left the mountain called Plynlymmon [Pumlumon]

Grimston, James Bucknall, Sir, A Tour in Wales, 1769, Report on the manuscripts of the Earl of Gorhambury, Historic Monuments Commission Report, (HMSO, 1906), pp. 242-283

1797 Devil’s Bridge

Having engaged a guide to accompany us, we left the Hafod Arms about ten o’clock and pursued (what other Welsh affect to call) Turnpike to Llanidloes for Machynlleth.

Warner, Richard, Rev (1763-1857), A Walk through Wales in Aug, 1797, (Bath, 1798), p. 83

1797 Devil’s Bridge to Machynlleth

We found it would be impracticable to proceed this evening, on the mountain road to Machynlleth, as we had intended. The guide refused to take us, as it was, he said, a very difficult and dangerous road to pass. We were, of course forced to make a virtue of necessity, and stay with what patience we could till the next morning, although our carriages, servants etc were waiting for us at the other place. … Lord A Somerset and myself, determining to set [sic] up through the whole night. …This being arranged, we passed a long evening in this small house. We procured a guide for the next day, ordering him to be ready by half past five o’clock.’

4th September 1797

… the guide … at last sent up word, that a thick fog which had suddenly come on, rendered the way so difficult, that he would not undertake to conduct us safely along the bogs and marshes. … We applied to the landlord to conduct us; he would readily had not his horses been nearly 40 miles without rest. The ostler did not know the road, and we were just giving up when the master recollected a man, who lived about two miles and a half distant, and had promised to take any one over the mountains, who might be in want of a guide. Away, therefore, we started under the convoy of the landlord of this place. The fog now enveloped every object, and everything wore the most dreary aspect. We went a little way along the Llanidloes road, and then turned out amongst the mountains to the left. We applied at two or three cottages for a guide but the landlord not being able to speak Welsh we could only hold conversation as far as ‘dim Sarcenac’ and ‘ dim cum rag’ … at length we came to a village called Sputty [Ysbyty Cynfyn], which we passed and at a bridge called Ponterwyd we met with a man whom the landlord had mentioned. Several difficulties even now started. It was some time before the guide could procure a horse. At length a wretched woman came out of a wretched hut, and talked for some time with a man who was to conduct us, in Welch. We did not know what it was about, and were fearful she might be dissuading him from taking us, having before heard of the character of Welch guides. Everything however favoured us, the guide was a very civil man and soon got a horse from the mountains; we were to pay him half-a-crown for himself, and two shillings for the horse, so that his terms were not very high. Thus equipped, we commenced our journey over a tract of mountains that very few except the countrymen explore. … ‘Our guide we found to be a merry fellow, who had been at London and had seen the King … Now and then, the path was nothing but a ledge of rocks, and we were forced to dismount and lead our horses. At other times there was no path at all and we had no recourse but to yield implicit obedience to our Ciceroni. About midway we passed the remnants of a copper work … On a sudden, after proceeding about 13 miles in the ups and downs, over rocks and swamps, we found ourselves descending into a most enchanting little spot, called Grast House, rich in cultivation, verdue and wood. [to Machynlleth]

Manners, John Henry, (Fifth Duke of Rutland, 1778-1857), Journal of a tour through north and south Wales, the Isle of Man, [and a small part of Scotland] &c. &c. (1805), pp. 204-210

24.7.1819 Devil’s Bridge to Machynlleth

the waiter having assured us that we should easily find our way over the mountains to Machynlleth it not being more than 20 miles distant due north. Now this sounded very smooth and fair, but you will perceive that no account was taken of the following circumstances 1. No roads, 2 no houses, 3 no people, 4 rivers but no bridges, 5 plenty of mountains. However, we got out Nichol’s compass and water cup and trusted to chance fo the rest and as it happened chance served us very well. We followed the road for about 3 miles and then came to a turnpike as we expected we happened too, to find a woman in the toll house [Ysbyty Cynfyn] but she talked no English so that she was as bad as no woman to us. Taking our chances we struck off at a venture into what we supposed the mountain road, leaving the rest to happen as it might. We were not without our pleasures on this droll expedition. The view was beautiful in all directions being enlivened with wood and water and in crossing the river Rheidol one of these which runs to the Devil’s Bridge we stopped on its bridge [Ponterwyd] to admire a beautiful cascade made by its stream just before it.’ {Asked the right way to Machynlleth of several locals who could only say yes, so when we pointed in one the direction asking Machynlleth, they said yes, and when we pointed in the opposite direction, they also said yes. Found a guide who cost 2 shillings for 9 miles.}

‘Poor fellow, twas hard earned money but it was a little fortune to him, and it was all the silver we had, or could get in these places.’

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) Dafydd Tomos, Michael Faraday in Wales : including Faraday’s journal of his tour through Wales in 1819 [1972] pp. 95-6

 

1798 near Talybont, between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth

{Warner and his companion got lost on mountains. On asking at a solitary cottage for a guide or directions, the cottager’s wife thought that} We were either travelling robbers, or prisoners who had broken from gaol; that the packs at our backs were full of the plunder we had picked up, and without doubt we should rob and murder him, when we had seduced him from his dwelling. {They were given directions and had to use a map and compass to continue.}

Warner, Richard, Rev. (1763-1857), A Second Walk through Wales in August and September, 1798, (Bath, 1799), pp. 168-169

1805 Ponterwyd to Machynlleth

{Paid a guide half-a-crown for himself, and two shillings for the horse for a trip from Ponterwyd to Machynlleth.}

Manners, John Henry, (Fifth Duke of Rutland) 1778-1857, Journal of a tour through north and south Wales, the Isle of Man, [and a small part of Scotland] &c. &c. 1805, p. 207

1810 north Wales

I accidentally met with a countryman whom I engaged to conduct me to Dolwyddelan Castle, Penmachno and thence to Bettws y Coed … I hired a horse of him.

Hue, Corbet (1769 – 1837), Journal of Corbet Hue, Fellow and Bursar of Jesus College, Oxford / ‘Journal of a Tour through N W[ales], 17th July, 1810’ NLW MSS 23218B, p. 84

1793 Conwy

The mode of travelling through Wales has been entirely changed within thirty years. Travellers going between Chester and Holyhead, were then obliged to take a guide, to conduct them safely over almost trackless heaths and mountains in Flintshire and Denbighshire. The publicans now living, who remember those times, complain, that passengers now fly through the country, scarcely allowing themselves time to refresh; whereas formerly, they were used to drag heavily along the roads; continuing two or three nights on their journey.

Mavor, William Fordyce, The traveller’s companion, from Holyhead, to London. (London : 1793), letter 6, p. 51

1795 Rhayader to Pontrhydfendigaid

The direct way to here [Pontrhydfendigaid ] from Rhayader is by Pentre Brunant, and Rhos Ffair (20 miles). The road mountainous and often imperfect, therefore should never be attempted without a guide …

Baker, J., A Picturesque Guide through Wales and the Marches … p. 175

1794 Tregaron to Llandovery

Tregaron is a miserable hole, …  We took a guide from thence to Llandovery.

Hucks, Joseph, A Pedestrian Tour through north Wales in a series of letters, (London, 1795), p. 51 (accompanied by Coleridge?)

 1797 Between Welshpool and Llanrwst

Couldn’t get a guide for fear of meeting the Devil on the way back.

Wigstead, H., Remarks on a Tour to North and South Wales in the year 1797, with (London, 1800), p. 20

By boat

Other trips

Tourists occasionally paid for boat trips along rivers, or more commonly around the coast.

Thomas Letts planned to take a boat upstream along the Conwy, but his offer of 4 shillings for a 7 mile trip was not accepted: the boatmen wanted 8 shillings.

Letts, Thomas, Tour of North Wales (1832), NLW MS 21690B, f. 52

Waterfalls

Landowners also improved access to waterfalls and allowed locals, often boys (who spoke little English) or girls (who were often bilingual) to guide them to the sites.

 

1834

{5 miles from Dolgellau, found an inn. Had to walk 3 miles back to see the waterfalls – 3 shillings for a guide in torrential rain.}

Tomkins, William Graeme, Denbighshire Archives, DD/DM/365/1, p. 89

 

1843

Had a guide to Port yr Ogof and the Hepste falls.

‘In this neighbourhood there are several small freeholders who extort money from tourists for permission to pass through their ground, as there seems to be no public road up this glen. One of them had the conscience to demand 2/6d from Sir John Guest who had offered her 1s for the passage of himself and Lady Charlotte. I gave 1½d objecting to give more than I might have to pay for one horse at a common turnpike.’

John Parker, NLW MS 18255B (South Wales Tour, 1843), 7.9.1843

 

1886 Rhaeadr-y-Wennol

‘Like many other sights in Wales the falls are carefully kept under lock and key.’

Myrbach, [Felician] and P[aul] Villars. Sketches of England. (London: The “Art Journal” Office, 1891), pp. 145-146

 

Industrial Sites

A significant number of tourists, more often men, but occasionally women, took a great interest in the industrial sites and quarries that were to be found in many parts of Wales. The owners of some of these were pleased to show visitors their achievements, or to allow their employees to accompany tourists around the sites. At some quarries and mines arrangements were made for tourists to explore underground (and buy candles to light their way); to travel in horse-drawn waggons on railroads and on mechanically driven wagons on inclines, and suitable protective clothing was also provided, if required.

 

Mansions and estates

A few gentry houses and gardens were open to the public on certain days of the week, especially when the owner was away. The housekeeper took the tourists around and she expected a substantial tip for her services.

Hafod, near Aberystwyth, welcomed those who had applied for a ticket in advance at the Hafod Arms Inn at Devil’s Bridge. When J T Barber visited the site in 1802 he complained that the housekeeper and gardener both expected 5 shilling so he limited his visit to the garden. Two other tourists paid 5s to see the house, one of whom got away with giving the gardener only 2s 6d.

Nicholson in his Cambrian traveller’s guide of 1808 wrote:

There is something unworthy of a great character in allowing a servant to have unlimited expectations from strangers. This imperious tax on the curiosity of the public has been apologised for by the circumstance of its acting as a bar upon the lower ranks of society, who might incline to intrude.

Nicholson, G., (1760-1825), Nicholson’s Cambrian Traveller’s Guide, (1808) column 212

He goes on to say it would be better to have guide paid by the owners and this appears to be the case at Piercefield, near Chepstow where the grounds were extremely well known by the end of the 18th century and attracted many visits. Clark, in 1828 recorded that tips paid to the guides to the grounds went to the gardener and the guides earned only a shilling a day, however many trips they took. In 1803, Farington paid 2s to see the grounds; in 1847 the intrepid Ellen Hall paid 3 shillings.

Penrhyn Castle was visited by tourists even before it was completed in 1832.

In 1859 Samuel and Susannah Linder reported that tickets for Penrhyn Castle could be obtained from the hotel at 1s 9d each on Tuesdays at 2 pm. Half the ticket price goes to the servants and half to the infirmary. Visitors were formed into a group which only began the tour when it was large enough.

Linder, Samuel and Susannah, Tour of North Wales, 1859, NLW MS 23065C, p. 35

1847 Goodrich Court

Several paintings in the library … all visitors put their name and the number of them in a book and pay a shilling a piece – ! the castle is not included as it belongs to a Major Marriot.

Hall, Emily, Bromley Archives, 855/F2/5, p. 170

date unknown, Goodrich court (he visited it in 1798 and 1831 and possibly between these dates)

One shilling entrance fee. The Archaeological Association [not the Cambrian Archaeological Association] visited in 1847 when Welsh bards and minstrels entertained them.

The Auto-Biography of John Britton, F.S.A. etc. (1851), p. 154

Ivy clad ruins

A number of owners of old castle and monasteries improved tourists’ experience by making them more attractive and accessible. However, some of these, such as the manicured lawns at Tintern, displeased a few purists. In addition, there was often someone in attendance to show the ruins and tell stories (which might have been more mythical than historical). The guides at these sites were often old women who might have had an agreement with the owners to live in the ruins, and keep a garden on the site, so that they were often available at any time of the day and occasionally at night, enabling the sites to be visited in moonlight for greater effect.

1865, Caernarfon Castle

Went straight to the castle. Climbed up to the top of the Eagle tower (149 steps), rather an exertion, and in some places perilous, the steps being much worn. This castle is in better repair than others we have seen, the entrance money (4d) paid by each person going towards the repairs… [The castle was owned by the Crown]

Stratton, Gertrude J., NLW ms 21992A, 31.8.1865

 

SPECIFIC PLACES

1804 Symond’s Yat

{Landed a little beyond Coldwell rock. Had refreshments of bread, butter and cyder at the Ferry house, a miserable hovel called the Jolly Waterman. Mary Evans, the guide, took them over the isthmus.}

 Anon, ‘A Five Days tour to the Wye, August, 1842′,  NMW 190489, between pp. 24 and 35

 

11th July 1835 Ffestiniog

set off for a walk by myself at 10 o’clock broke my clog and returned to get it mended, when at the cobblers the woman offered me her boy as a guide across the stepping stones, I gladly accepted her offer for the river was much swelled by the late rain ; and by little companion, Edward Evans, a nice intelligent fellow who could speak pretty broken English, I consented that he should conduct me to a lake or pool, as he called it, on a high mountain –

Webber, Mary, & Webber, Charles, Bodleian Library, Top Gen, E59, p. 18

1798

Cwm Bychan, stone circle nearby with Richards as his guide

Bingley, William, (1774-1823), A tour round North Wales, performed during the summer of 1798 … (London, 1800), p. 421 Chapter 19

 

CAERNARFON

3.10.1769 Caernarfon

guide over the town £0/2/0 (£0.10)

Grimston, James Bucknall, Sir, A Tour in Wales, 1769, Report on the manuscripts of the Earl of Gorhambury, Historic Monuments Commission Report, (HMSO, 1906), pp. 242-283

 

1797 Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle is the finest I have seen. The guide, who shews it, assured us that it was the finest in Great Britain. Whether he was qualified to make the assertion, I doubt, but I have seen nothing to disprove it.

Hutton, Catherine, LETTER X, Caernarfon ; Aug. 27 [1797]

1798 Caernarfon Castle

Hear Mr C—, the barber, our cicerone, very learnedly refute the opinion of Mr Pennant, that Edward II. was born in a little dark shabby room in the tower, and establish his own,—that that event certainly took place in the large circular room on the first floor; acknowledging at the same time that the nurse might possibly retire occasionally with the child into Mr Pennant’s room.

Smith, Elizabeth, (1776-1806) [visit to northWales] Bowdler, HM., (editor), Fragments in Prose and Verse: by a Young Lady, with Some Account of her Life and Character, 1808.

1828 Caernarfon

A gentleman, who afterwards declared himself to be the surgeon of the town, very kindly showed me the way, and did the honours of the ruins with great politeness.

Prince Puckler-Muskau, Tour in England, Ireland, and France in the years 1828, 1829, 1832, (London, 1832); (Philadelphia 1833), p, 297, 21st July 1828

1824 Capel Curig

At tea we settled with the harper Evan Evans to be our guide tomorrow to Llanberis and if we have but a fine day I shall expect much from the pass [but didn’t go because the weather was bad].

Martineau, Margaret, Travel diary of Margaret Martineau – journey from St Albans into north and South Wales, Hampshire Record Office, 83M93/21, p. 9

 1799 Llantwit, near Cowbridge

Accompanied by the schoolmaster of the village, whose speculation upon the antiquities of Llantwit, and its former history, were not a little amusing, we visited the church.

Warner, Richard, Rev. (1763-1857), A Second Walk through Wales in August and September, 1798, (Bath, 1799), p. 67

1825, Dolgellau

After a very stormy night, rose to a frosty morning with snow upon all the higher mountains. Took the guide and again mounting our ponies, set out to look at a curious oak tree about a couple of miles from Dolgellau…we had a noble view of Cader Idris with its peaks covered with snow, & rising to a great height, & presenting a very grand outline, thus giving something of an Alpine effect to the picture…this part of north Wales is in truth rich almost to extravagance in every sort of picturesque scenery. The guide told us many stories of the loss of sheep in the snow & other winter sorrows in the mountains.

Atherton, Ann, Tour of North Wales and Cardiganshire, 1825, NLW, 20366B, 20th October 1825

1798 Llanberis

There are two houses in this village [Llanberis] at which the wearied traveller may take such poor refreshments as the place affords. … The other house is kept by the parish clerk who may be employed as a guide over any part of the adjacent country. … He does not speak English well but his civility and attention were a sufficient compensation for that defect.

Bingley, William, (1774-1823), A tour round North Wales, performed during the summer of 1798 … (London, 1800), p. 193

 

1857 St David’s Head

Supemis? [a servant?] proceed with the guide – they were a long time gone & Supemis looked so hot & tired when she returned that I was glad I had not attempted it though she said it was well worth the exertion. … Welsh is much spoken in St David’s our guide today scarcely understood a word of English so that it would not be possible to learn much from him.

Hibbert, Mary Ann, Diary for 1856, 1857, 1858, Gloucestershire Record Office, D1799/F337

[1776] St Winifred’s Well

{Guides are ready at the inn to take people to the well but they do little and charge a lot}

One presents you with a draught of water – another expiates on its virtues – … a third has papers explaining the origin etc of the spring and these they sell at sixpence (if possible) or three-pence (if you please).

Elstob, Mark, A trip to Kilkenny, from Durham, [1776], pp. 182-183

 

 

 

 

 

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