Get lost in the colourful images evoked by the stories from these celebrated writers across Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire in Wales, and Wicklow, Waterford and Wexford in Ireland.
Make yourself a cup of tea, get cosy and experience the Celtic Routes via the wistful words of these special authors from the comfort of your own home…
It’s almost impossible to mention the town of Laugharne without referencing ‘Dylan Thomas’ in the next breath. He is synonymous with the place – he lived here, loved here, drank in many of its pubs and is buried in the graveyard of St Martin’s Church. The Boathouse is where Dylan lived with his wife and family in the last years of his life. On the path to it lies the writing shed overlooking the Taf Estuary, where Thomas wrote his famous radio drama, ‘Under Milk Wood’. It’s been left just as though Thomas had popped out for a breath of fresh air.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path twists and turns for 186 miles from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south. It covers almost every kind of coastal landscape, from volcanic rock headlands, limestone arches, blowholes and sea stacks, to narrow glacial inlets. Lines of red and grey sandstone cliffs are broken by sandy beaches. The Path reveals an abundance of coastal flowers and bird life, as well as evidence of human activity from Neolithic times to the present.
It's easy to see why the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a popular place for visitors of all kinds, including one of Britain’s most loved writers. Every Easter, Roald's family used to visit a house they later bought called The Cabin, in Tenby, which remains in the family's possession today. ‘My Year’, published in 1991, shortly after his death, is based on a diary Dahl wrote during the final year of his life, in which he fondly remembers Easter holidays in Tenby.
Welsh poet and Anglican priest, R.S. Thomas (1913-2000), focused his work around the natural landscape and the people of Wales. One of his most famous poems, ‘Welsh Landscape’, is said to be inspired by the beauty of Ceredigion, from the mountains to the churches. Get lost in Thomas’ poems and be transported to the Strata Florida Abbey, the ‘Westminster Abbey of Wales’.
The abbey of Strata Florida, Latin for ‘Vale of Flowers’, or ‘Ystrad Fflur’, as the locals call it, has stood in monastic tranquillity on the banks of the River Teifi since 1201. Established by Cistercian monks, it soon became the most famous church in Wales after St Davids Cathedral and a keystone of Welsh Culture. The ruins give clues as to the former wealth of the abbey, like the Romanesque carved doorway that once would have connected the nave to the high altar. The resting place of the 11 princes of Dinefwr and the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym.
The source of the River Teifi, one of the longest rivers in Wales, is found in the north of Ceredigion. Tranquil Llyn Teifi and the other Teifi Pools - Llyn Hir, Llyn Gorlan and Llyn Egnant – lie hidden in the hills, on the remote Monks’ Trod from Strata Florida Abbey. This enchanting group of deep, glacial lakes are the perfect place to shrug off the bustle of daily life.
It’s not difficult to understand why this beauty spot is the inspiration for Welsh poet, Caroline Clark. Out at the Bright Edge, a collection of poems affectionately known as ‘love songs to the landscape’ of north Ceredigion, are inspired by history, stories and life of the area between the rivers Dyfi and Teifi.
Colm Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy, Country Wexford. Known for his poetic prose, Tóibín uses his home county to evoke a strong sense of local place in his works dubbed the "Wexford" novels - ‘The Heather Blazing’, ‘The Blackwater Lightship’, ‘Nora Webster’ and most notably, ‘Brooklyn’.
Through these novels, get a picture of Enniscorthy Castle, iconic and steeped in a turbulent history.
The castle was originally built in 1190 by the Norman de Prendergast family, who lived there relatively peacefully for around 200 years. After this, the issue of who owned the castle became very contentious and was often settled with violence. It was claimed by the Irish in 1375, retaken by the English in 1536, burned down by the Irish in 1569, gifted by Queen Elizabeth in 1589, besieged by Orwellian forces in 1649 and then used as a prison during the 1798 Rising. It’s now home to the Wexford County Museum.
Irish born Cecelia Ahern is the author of worldwide best-selling novel ‘PS, I Love You’, which was inspired by (and features) many spectacular Wicklow locations including Blessington Lakes, Lacken, and the Wicklow Mountains.
Delve into Ahern’s beautifully crafted and moving love story, as you follow the lead character’s steps as she travels through her late husband’s home county of Wicklow. One of those locations, Lough Tay is unsurprisingly one of the most iconic – and most photographed – locations in Ireland. Located in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, at the bottom of a spectacular glacial valley, the lake curiously resembles Ireland’s greatest export - its dark, peaty water, combined with an oval shape and white-sand beach makes Lough Tay look rather like a giant pint of Guinness! The lake is part of the Luggala estate, owned for many years by – you’ve guessed it – the Guinness family. They had the white sand imported to give the lake its distinctive look. So Lough Tay is also known as the ‘Guinness Lake’.
In the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, Blessington Lakes is a 5,000-acre reservoir formed over 70 years ago by the building of the Poulaphouca dam and hydroelectric power station. As well as being the main source of drinking water for Dublin, it’s a popular base for water-based activities like fishing, boating and kayaking. You can walk or cycle the 6.5km Blessington Greenway along the lakeshore and into natural woodland, or drive the 26km route around the valley where the Kings River once met the Liffey. Novelist and poet Brendan Behan described his trip to the area as a ‘journey to the jewel of Wicklow’, in the Irish press in October 1952.
Seán Dunne, born in Waterford, is a celebrated Irish poet. So celebrated in fact, that the Waterford Literary Festival used to be named after him. His collection of poems, "In My Father's House" is a memoir of what life was like growing up in Waterford. Also notable are "Time and The Island", "The Sheltered Nest" and "Against The Storm". Through his poems, gain a strong sense of local place, and learn about the history of life in Waterford city, the ancient seat of County Waterford’s rich culture and heritage.