Head to the Bath Children’s Literature Festival

Child reading cr Julian Foxon Photography

© Julian Foxon Photography

Hungry for writing inspiration, or simply got young book-worms to entertain? Bath Children’s Literature Festival offers up a fantastic, imagination-stirring line-up of events.

The festival runs from Friday 29 September – Sunday 8 October 2017, with events for all ages, including inspiring and entertaining conversations with Julia Donaldson, Cressida Cowell, Jacqueline Wilson and Miranda Hart, as well as Michael Rosen, Eoin Colfer, Harry Hill, Ade Edmonson, David Baddiel, Kate DiCamillo, Ellen Anderson, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Ben Faulks, Christian O’Connell, and Gemma Cairney.

Learn to write picture books with Tessa Strickland or get to grips with writing for TV, take a drawing workshop, try your hand at animation or simply find out how to become a witch with author Kaye Umansky.

Find details and book tickets at bathfestivals.org.uk/childrens-literature.

Find out more about Bath, including places to stay, at visitbath.co.uk.

Escape to Port Eliot

Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

All photographs used in this post are taken by Michael Bowles

Describing itself rather eloquently as “an annual celebration of words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration and fun”, Port Eliot Festival brings together some of the best creative talents around and plonks them in the middle of a magical sprawling garden party.

It all kicks off on 27th July, running till 30th July, at St Germans, West Cornwall.

This year’s speakers, performers, mixologists and events include poet Hollie McNish, Geoff Dyer, Three Cane Whale, Salena Godden, Tim Smit, Las Cafeteras, and Martha Tilston, “with a voice like spiderwebbed hollows.” And so many others

There are also exhibitions to be inspired by: In The Round Room, you’ll find Adrift, a combination of art and science, which throws light on the 27,000 individual pieces of debris currently orbiting above us.

Each of the stages have names that seem plucked straight from fairytales: Caught by the River, Walled Garden, Flower and Fodder, The Idler Academy and The Black Cow Saloon being just a few.

Port Eliot woodland cr Michael Bowles

It helps, of course, that the surroundings are some of the finest SW England has to offer, with historical attractions including the oldest church in Cornwall – St Germans Priory Norman church. Natural delights range from the Grade 1 listed park and garden, to the estuary – an irresistible spot for a dusk-glow lantern parade.

Port Eliot estuary cr Michael Bowles

That’s not all though, not by a long short. Look out for the Hush Starry Garden, Philosophy and Psychology Walks, life classes with owls, Survival Wisdom Masterclasses and much more. Once the grounds open, anything can happen – in the word’s of the organisers, “at Port Eliot, as twilight turns to darkness, you may still feel the menacing frisson of the unknown coming night…”

Now, that’s my kind of party.

Night at Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

Music of the Faroe Islands

Múlafossur waterfall, Faroe Islands cr Kate Chapman

Múlafossur waterfall, Faroe Islands cr Kate Chapman

There’s something about small islands and their proximity to the hungry sea that ensures they are awash with creative talent. Gather some inspiration and experience their wild energy for yourself with a season of extraordinary musical events on a remote archipelago situated in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Norway. The 18 Faroe Islands have inspired countless musicians and composers, and the locals love nothing better than to immerse themselves in festivals, cultural evenings and cosy concerts.

From the living rooms of locals to sandy beaches, sea caves and sweeping valleys, there is a music event to suit every sensibility this year in the Faroe Islands. Here’s my pick.

Norðlýsið, Concerto Grotto

Norðlýsið, Concerto Grotto

Until 20th August: Concerto Grotto

As part of Summartónar, a series of concerts in traditional and unusual venues across the Faroe Islands, Concerto Grotto take place in natural grottos hidden in the huge sea cliffs on the island of Hestur in the Klæminstgjógv gorge or on Nólsoy, depending on the weather.

Depart from Vágsbotnur aboard a beautiful Faroese schooner, the Norðlýsið (the Northern Light) and sail into the seas around the islands before transferring into a smaller vessel to enter an enormous cliff cavern. Here, musicians almost invisible I the darkness make the very most of the natural acoustics.

An ethereal and unique event, these grotto concerts are sure to evoke a sense of wonderment and awe at both the music itself and their natural surroundings, as well as provoking some story ideas.
www.visitfaroeislands.com/event/summartonar-grotto-concerts

G! Festival cr Ólavur Frederiksen

G! Festival cr Ólavur Frederiksen

13th-15th July G! Festival

The internationally-acclaimed G! Festival takes place in the village of Syðrugøta – population 400 – on the island of Eysturoy. The village has a population of just 400, and lies within a natural amphitheatre set between grass-carpeted peaks and the ocean, in a break between the cliffs skirting the coastline. Stages are built on the beach and the football pitch for the unique three-day event.

Understandably, the five stages have previously attracted world-class music and well-known names such as The Guillemots and Travis, and this year will welcome British band Desert Mountain Tribe, amongst many others.

Bring your own tent or stay with a Faroese family for the full experience. gfestival.fo

10th-12th August Summarfestivalur

This pop-centric festival attracts the largest crowd for any event in the Faroe Islands. It’s a family-friendly festival, with activities for children, a funfair and entertainers, alongside well-known international and Faroese artists performing popular music.

Over three stages in the centre of Klaksvik, the second largest town in the Faroes, on the island of Borðoy, Roxette and Westlife have previously performed. The 2017 festival will feature Danish sensation Lukas Graham and American classic rock band, Toto

Stay overnight in caravans, tents or even boats. www.summarfestivalur.com

HOYMA4th November HOYMA

This gorgeous anti-festival creation will suit anyone who likes things a bit cosier and more intimate. HOYMA, is a series of concerts performed in locals’ living rooms: 1 evening, 20 concerts, and 10 artists in 10 homes.

The village of Gøta on the island of Eysturoy provides the backdrop for this innovative event, where people walk from door to door, popping in to listen to live music performed  in the living rooms of locals. All the music is unplugged and performed acoustically.

HOYMA harks back to the Faroese tradition of going from house to house and gathering around the fireplace in the living room – the way that people living on these isolated and stormy islands have socialised for centuries, sharing stories and songs.
www.facebook.com/hoymafestival.

Daily flights to the Faroe Islands (London to Vágar Island, via Copenhagen) operate year-round and cost from £368 pp return. Seasonal twice-weekly direct flights to the Faroe Islands (Edinburgh to Vágar Islandoperate from March to December and cost from £199 pp return. Visit www.atlantic.fo for further information.

For more information about the Faroe Islands, see www.visitfaroeislands.com

Literary Heroes of Thanet

Botany Bay, Broadstairs - credit Thanet Tourism

Botany Bay, Broadstairs © Thanet Tourism

Ever noticed how certain places seem to attract more than their share of writers and artists? The eastern corner of England encompassed by Thanet has been pleasing inspiration-seekers for hundreds of years, making it a key location in VisitEngland’s year of Literary Heroes.

You might more readily associate Jane Austen with Bath, but actually Georgian Ramsgate captured the author’s imagination, moving her to write the poem Post Haste From Thanet, and providing a backdrop for flirtations between Mr Wickham and Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, and between Tom Bertram and the younger Miss Sneyd “who was not out” in Mansfield Park. Scandal!

From JMW Turner to Tracey Emin, with George Morland and Vincent Van Gogh falling somewhere in between, artists too, have flocked here.

Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge loved to “Ramsgatize”, as he called it, seeking relief from his chronic ailments during a series of holidays between 1819 and 1833 – you’ll find a blue plaque where he stayed in Wellington Crescent.

Charles Dickens described Broadstairs as “the freshest, freest place.” TS Eliot came to Margate in 1921 to recuperate from a nervous breakdown, catching the tram each day to sit in the Victorian Nayland Rock promenade shelter, where he wrote lines that became part of The Waste Land.

Shell Grotto, Margate - credit Thanet Tourism

Shell Grotto, Margate © Thanet Tourism

And that’s not even the half of it. John Betjeman, Arthur Ransome, Wilkie Collins, Charles Lamb, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll (who visited Margate’s Shell Grotto in 1870, describing it as “a marvellous subterranean chamber” – see above), Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, and Scarlet Pimpernel author Baroness Orczy, were all fans of Thanet and its seaside charms.

Literary Events 2017

Dickens Festival, Broadstairs, 17–23 June. From a Grande Parade featuring Queen Victoria in a horse-drawn carriage to Dickensian feasting and revelry, the festival is celebrating its 80th anniversary in style.

Ramsgate Festival, 22–30 July. Explore the town’s creative side, including theatre, music, talks and a writing competition and running alongside Ramsgate Week sailing regatta from 24–28 July. Throughout the summer, regular Ramsgate Costumed Walks offer a sense of the Regency town as Jane Austen knew it.

Margate Bookie, August 2017. Interactive sessions, workshops, talks and author readings aim to inspire you to read more and get involved in all levels of writing.

For more on Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate go to www.visitthanet.co.uk
Twitter and Instagram @VisitThanet. VisitThanet on Facebook.

Witches of Scotland

Agnes Finnie and Witch Pricker at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, characters in the Edinburgh Dungeon Witch Hunt tour_Nick Mailer Photography

Agnes Finnie and Witch Pricker, characters in the Edinburgh Dungeon Witch Hunt tour © Nick Mailer Photography

Few things beat a good ghost story for making your skin crawl, and a dead witch has to be among the spookier ideas.

This year marks the 420th anniversary of Scotland’s Great Witch Hunt, and the country is going all out to seriously send chills down our spines with a series of events marking this dastardly episode.

The Great Witch Hunt of Scotland took place between March and October 1597, instigated by James VI. According to the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, more than 3,800 people, both men and women, were accused of witchcraft in Scotland during the period 1563 to 1736, which is when the Witchcraft Act was enforced in Scotland*. It’s believed that two-thirds of those accused were executed.

Discover this shady period and source inspiration for your own dark tales by visiting some of the key locations.

From the Witches Well at Castlehill in Edinburgh to monuments and rock formations attributed to witchcraft, there’s plenty to fire you up.

I’m intrigued by the revelation that the seaside town North Berwick was the setting for Scotland’s first mass witch trial, on 31 October 1590. Used to get rid of anyone who made the crown uneasy, accused witches from across Edinburgh and the Lothians were accused of attempting to prevent James VI bring his prospective bride home from Denmark through rituals such as throwing a cat into the sea. Almost all of the accused were tortured into confessing witchcraft, with the ‘Devil’s mark’ apparently found on their necks.

Then there’s the sculpture of Helen Duncan at Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum. Helen Duncan was the last person in Britain to be prosecuted as a witch, but this was far more recent than seems palatable. Born in Callander in 1897, was eventually tried at the Old Bailey in London in 1944, after scaring folks at the séances she held through Britain. On the night of 19th January 1944, one of Helen’s séances in Portsmouth was raided by police. Disturbingly, officers failed to stop the ectoplasm issuing from Helen’s mouth! After some order had been restored, Helen was formally arrested, and eventually brought to trial at the Old Bailey in London.

Equally unsettling is the memorial at Maxwellton Cross in Paisley, where a circle of cobblestones surrounds a steel horseshoe centered within a modest bronze plaque. Located in the middle of a busy intersection, it may not seem like much at first glance, but actually marks the final resting place of seven people put to death on charges of witchcraft. All seven bodies were burned, and the ashes buried at Maxwellton Cross, where the intersection of Maxwellton Street and George Street now stands.

Finally, don’t miss the Witch Hunt tours at Edinburgh Dungeon.

According to records, Agnes Finnie was one of Edinburgh’s most infamous witches. She reportedly lived in the Potterrow Port area of the city and was convicted of Witchcraft in 1644 with a total of 20 charges made against her.

Evidence of her dark magic include a retaliation to a young boy calling her names. Agnes publically cursed him, and within 24 hours he had completely lost the use of his left side and became bedridden with “so incurable a disease” that one week later, he was dead.

You can find out all about Agnes at the Edinburgh Dungeon Witch Hunt’s interactive tour, and even discover if you would be accused of being a witch yourself! If you happen to be a creative writer or artist, then I’m thinking the answer is probably yes.

Learn travel writing

Manukan beach, BorneoIf, like me, you’re prone to keeping travelogues whenever you skip out of town, why not have a go at turning your holidays into magazine features?

Tina Walsh is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years’ experience of writing about travel for publications such as TIME, the Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Express and many more.

She’s leading a five-week online travel course, providing an insight into what travel editors are looking for from freelance journalists and offering tips on how to sell your stories.

What does it cover?

* How to find engaging story ideas
* How to write a pitch
* How to structure your story
* How to get invited on press trips and organise your own trips

The course is suitable for beginners and more experienced travel writers looking to brush up their skills.

Start dates are ongoing, so you can sign up whenever you’re ready and complete the course in your own time.

Taking part costs £250 (inc VAT) for five individual one-hour sessions. It could be the start of a brand new career, or at least add a new string to your writing bow.

Find full details at tina-walsh.com.

Reykjavik 10 Top Experiences

Reykjavik waterfront photo by Judy DarleyWhen better to visit Iceland than in January? Limited daylight hours, freezing conditions and plenty of snow make for an otherworldly adventure. The city is full of hipster cafes, galleries, bookstores and record shops (including the famous 12 Tónar), while the surrounding countryside is elemental like nowhere else I’ve encountered.

Here are my top ten recommendations for Reykjavik.

1 Seek out some culture

The Culture House Reykjavik photo by Judy Darley

Capital city Reykjavik is a cultural hotspot, with museums and galleries galore, including philosophically enriching and aptly named The Culture House, (shown above) where we spent a morning exploring some of the elements that make up the Icelandic outlook.

The elegant building at Hverfisgata 15, 101 Reykjavík was built between 1906 and 1908 to house the national library and archives and still has a decidedly academic air.

Fishes of the Sea and me photo by Judy DarleyThe exhibition Points of View covers a breadth of aspects of local culture and history, with artwork and artefacts, including a room dedicated to the extinction of the Great Auk, and including a taxidermy of the bird purchased at auction in London using public fundraising at the same cost as a three-bedroom apartment.

I particularly liked the probing questions for children (but equally engaging for adults), inviting you to consider your responses to different things. And this painting, Fishes of the Sea by Helgi Þorgils Friðjónsson, made me smile.

Entry costs 1.200 ISK but is free for under 18s or with the Reykjavik City Card.

2 Head to the penis museum

The Icelandic Phallological Museum photo by Judy Darley

The Icelandic Phallological Museum contains an abundance of willies, mostly harvested from sea creatures such as whales, walruses and dolphins, plus a fine selection from birds and land mammals including a growing number of human specimens. Look out for the one from “a rogue polar bear” (guess that showed him!) and 23 intriguing folklore specimens. There are also lovingly shaped sculptures and homewares such as lamps and “artistic oddments”, plus jewellery made using teeny delicate penis bones that were truly exquisite. Good for a giggle as well as, um, eye-opening.

Find the Icelandic Philological Museum at Laugavegur 116, 105 Reykjavik. Entry costs 1500 ISK for adults. Children under 13 years old in company of parents are free.

3 Gaze on the crater

Kerid Crater, Iceland photo by Judy Darley

There are plenty of trips heading out of the city to take in Iceland’s dramatic countryside. Our first stop on the Golden Circle Tour was Kerið, a 55m-deep volcanic crater about 3,000 years old. In summer it is filled with topaz-blue water; in winter, when we were there, it is iced over and filled with the sense of ghosts. Or maybe that was just the snow-storm weaving about us.

4 Sample skyr and whey

Skyr and whey photo by Judy Darley

You’ll see skyr advertised all over Reykjavik. A protein-rich, calcium-packed yoghurt, it’s a tart, healthy snack that the Icelanders are crazy about. It was a staple long before ice cream made it to these shores, and is best served with a shot of whey.

We were served ours at a farm where the owner was lamenting her children’s preference for pizza over boiled sheep’s head, and our group’s feelings about skyr and whey was equally conflicted. Personally I found it invigoratingly sharp in flavour. I’m pretty sure that this is what Miss Muffet was really tucking into when that big ol’ spider sat down beside her, but at the time we were in Iceland there were no arachnids to be found, scared off by the chilly weather.

5 Respect the supernatural

Iceland National Park photo by Judy Darley

There’s a strong belief in elves, trolls and other creatures in Iceland – as our guide to the Golden Circle says, “10% believe, 10% don’t believe and 80% haven’t made their minds up either way but don’t want to risk upsetting them.”

The road we were on weaved rather more than necessary to avoid destroying three elven churches, while one field on the farm we visited is left unploughed so as not to upset the little folk. The rocks shown above are in the National Park and at certain angles in certain lights you can see the faces of trolls unlucky enough to still be outside when the sun rose and turned them to stone.

6 Feed carniverous horses

Icelandic horses photo by Judy Darley

These hardy little horses (don’t you dare call them ponies in front of an Icelander!) spend all winter outside and have long hairy coats to keep them from freezing. Legend has it that they’re extra small just like the local sheep because the vikings who brought them needed as much space as possible on their ships for wine.

Our tour guide had brought bread for us to feed them, and the moment they saw us their noses began waggling. Things got a bit rowdy as one made a lunge forwards and took my shoulder, then my wrist, in its jaws in search of treats. It’s possible he was ravenous rather than carnivorous, but I’m just glad I was wearing so much clothing! The horse on the left was the leader for this particular herd, hence his prime feeding position. They put up with a bit of petting, but really it’s all about the food, and with temperatures so low and no fresh grass to munch on, who can blame them?

7 Witness the geyser

Strokkur geyser, Iceland photo by Judy Darley

This was one of my favourite stops on our Golden Circle tour. Geysir, the famous phenomenon from which every geyser worldwide takes its name, is somewhat sleepy these days, erupting only every eight hours or so, and instead we visited his sibling, the far more active Strokkur.

From the carpark we strolled along paths surrounded by snow and geothermal springs, with vegetation flourishing in an abundance of vivid colours around boiling mud pools. Ahead we could see people gathering, and we upped our pace to join them as the geyser bubbled thoughtfully for a moment or two before leaping skywards and subsiding.

We were told that it would erupt every five to eight minutes, but the reality was more like three, so we stayed to watch it happen once more – in truth I could have remained for half an hour watching this spectacle! The best moment is when the water begins to heave as though some huge creature is ascending from the depths, and you know the drama is about to uncoil.

8 Admire the waterfalls

Gullfoss Falls Iceland photo by Judy Darley

Fissures in Iceland’s landmass allow for rivers to pour down in immense crescendoes. The most renowned is Gullfoss, Golden Falls, on the glacial river Hvítá. The roar of them, coupled with the glory of all that water thrashing down a 32-metre deep crevice almost numbs the senses. To grasp the scale of it, notice the tiny figures on the left of the picture above.

9 Take a dip in a thermal pool

Judy in the thermal baths, Reykjavik Iceland 2017 photo by Kirsten Darley

Of course, there are the famous ones (which shall not be named here), but these are really pricey and the only patronised by tourists. Instead, I recommend making like a local and heading to the city’s many thermal pools, which are wonderful. We opted for Sundhöllin, which was just a few minute’s walk from Hallgrímskirkja church and features a large, very deep pool, a sauna and two open air hot pools, one at 39°C and one at 42°C.

My lovely cousin Kirsten took this pic of me at Sundhöllin. We swam, lounged and quietly cooked in the steaming waters as snowflakes drifting from above while the locals met for their daily dip and chat. Lovely. In fact, it suited us so well, we returned the very next afternoon.

10 Ascend the tower

Hallgrímskirkja church, Reykjavik photo by Judy Darley

You can’t miss Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish church, because at 73 metres high, it’s the tallest man-madestructure in the city. On the day we visited they’d closed the church for the morning to fit new carpets, making this one of the comfiest churches I’ve strolled through. The interior is all clean lines and glowing light, but the tower is the real attraction.

We were fortunate to ascend (via lift – so civilised) when not too many people were there, and had a pleasant time discovering the outstanding city views from little windows all around the top, just above the clock. Once we’d drunk in our fill of the sites, we travelled back down, and found a queue of people waiting to take our place.

And that’s the trick with Iceland – tourism is growing increasingly vital to their economy, but much of this wilderness is best experienced with as few people as possible. See out the pastimes the locals enjoy and, with care, tread away from the most beaten paths, and who knows what wonders you will discover?

Reykjavik from Hallgrimskirkja church photo by Judy Darley

Discover more about Reykjavik at www.visitreykjavik.is.

Find full details and buy the Reykjavik City Card.

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Reykjavik street art

Reykjavik street art_Elle with Ulfur Ulfur, photo by Judy DarleyResiding in Bristol, I’m an ardent admirer of street art, providing it’s done well. A recent visit to Reykjavik revealed the capital of Iceland to be riddled with the stuff – and rather fabulous it is too.

Much of the best of it appears on Laugavegur, one of the city’s oldest shopping streets. My favourite was the one above, of the wolf family, but this squiggly fellow below on another street took my fancy too.

Reykjavik street art photo by James Hainsworth

According to the excellent website www.iheartreykjavik.net, the artwork below is titled Caratoes and Ylja, inspired by the song Óður til móður by Ylja. Much of it seems to be inspired by local folklore – well worth a gander!

Reykjavik street art Caratoes and Ylja photo by Judy Darley

If you happen upon this beautiful city, I recommend you wind your way through the central network of roads, looking out for the exceptional street art for a taste of the locals’ wild side.

I’ll be posting a full travel feature about this amazing trip on Thursday. In the meantime, find out more at www.visitreykjavik.is

Jaipur Literary Festival

Jaipur Literary Elephant

Image © Steppes Travel www.steppestravel.co.uk

What better way to begin 2017 than with a trip to one of the world’s hottest literary festivals?

Founded by William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale, Jaipur Literature Festival is celebrating its ten-year anniversary in 2017, and takes place from 19-23rd January. From Nobel Laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, the annual event brings together over 250 authors, thinkers, politicians, journalists and popular culture icons from India and from around the globe, and expects audience numbers to surpass last year’s figure of 330,000.

Writers announced so far include the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple Alice Walker, 2016 Emerging Voices Award winner Eka Kurniawan, 2015 Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan, award winning lyricist Swanand Kirkire, cultural critic Margo Jefferson, The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, British-Bangladeshi author Tahmima Anam, NoViolet Bulawayo, the first black African woman to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize and Hyeonseo Lee a North Korean defector living in Seoul, among many other writers from all cultures and creeds. Oh, and Jeremy Paxman.

Bespoke holiday specialists Steppes Travel offer tailor-made visits to Jaipur Literature Festival. Find full details here: www.steppestravel.co.uk/india-group-tour-jaipur-literature-festival/overview

Find full details of Jaipur Literature Festival here. It could be a fabulous start to your literary year.

A retreat in Laugharne

Taf Etsuary, Laugharne cr Judy DarleyWhile others seek winter sun (and yes, I’m tempted), I often find myself drawn to the more secluded places, the out-of-season contemplative corners where mist and moss hang from the trees and the only sound may be the distant waterfall of a curlew’s call.

Laugharne in Carmarthenshire, Wales, on the estuary of the River Taf, is one such place. I had the chance to spend four foggy, magical days there in Spring 2012, and returned there this November.

Laugharne signpost cr Judy Darley

Home to poet Dylan Thomas for the last four years of his life (he died in 1953), Laugharne is the perfect spot to squirrel yourself away for plenty of thinking space and glorious views.

With my family, I stayed at the Season’s resort situated on the hill there, in a self-catering cottage with views over the Taf Estuary and the village rumoured to have been the starting point for the fictional Llareggub in Dylan’s Under Milk Wood. Although the invented name looks genuine enough for that area of Wales, if you reverse it you’ll discover the words bugger all, which tells you everything you need to know about this peaceful retreat.

Milk Wood, Laugharne cr Judy Darley

Ironically, Dylan’s time there has resulted in a number of attractions to visit and influxes of literary minded tourists in high summer, but at this time of year the majority of the visitors are wading birds, searching the estuary’s shallows for molluscs.

Dylan's Walk cr Judy Darley

Just along a little forest track from the resort, called Dylan’s Walk (and decorated lavishly with the afore-mention mist and moss hung trees), you’ll find Dylan’s writing shed, where you can peer in through the glass-panelled door and see it just as he left it, with a jacket hung over the back of his chair and bottles, books, paper and other ephemera littering the desk and shelves. I think it looks as though he’s nipped out for a moment’s think, and is standing somewhere nearby staring out at the Taf and swilling words around his mouth.

Dylan Thomas writing shed cr Judy Darley

A short way beyond this, you’ll find the Dylan Thomas Boathouse where he lived with his family, and now a museum. It’s a lovely building, with a cute café so you can pause for a coffee and a ponder. The Boathouse is also a great place for a spot of word bombing, as I did in 2012!

Boathouse word bomb cr Judy Darley

Boathouse word bomb cr Judy Darley1

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few minutes walk in the other direction leads to the village past the dramatic ruined Laugharne castle, which apparently boasts a summerhouse where Dylan used to write – presumably when he needed a very slight change of view. He described the castle as “Brown as owls” in his Poem in October.

Laugharne Castle cr Judy Darley

He was also known for frequenting Brown’s Hotel, which still thrives today – apparently his routine was to write at his shed in the mornings and then head to Brown’s in the afternoons, where he could drink beer as he wrote. According to the hotel’s website, he said he liked to “moulder” in the corner facing the entrance as he worked. Back then it was known simply as a bar with room, but now it’s a luxury boutique hotel – ideal for a romantic hideaway.

Dylan Thomas grave cr Judy Darley

If you head inland from Dylan’s writing shed, you’ll eventually reach St. Martin’s Church, where Dylan Thomas’ grave is marked by a plain white cross with exquisitely curly lettering. The name of his wife, Caitlin, adorns the other side as she’s buried with him. It looks like they’re finally achieving the marital harmony in death that eluded them in life!

Tenby cr Judy Darley

Further afield there are plenty of diversions. On our previous visit, we spent a pleasant day visiting the pretty harbour town of Tenby (above), and this time we went to Carmarthen and Pendine Beach, and called in at the excellent National Botanical Garden of Wales – another perfectly tranquil spot – on our way back to England.

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