George Borrow’s Wild Wales

June 20th, 2018

Even today, George Borrow’s journeys and rambles through Wales in the 1850’s are some of the most famous tales of Welsh travels, culture and history. He chronicled them all in his book Wild Wales, so join us as we travel in Borrow’s footsteps.

“Wales is one of the most picturesque countries in the world, a country in which Nature displays herself in her wildest, boldest, and occasionally loveliest forms…” said writer and traveller George Borrow, in his book Wild Wales which was published in 1862.

George Borrow was one of the most ubiquitous travellers, and walkers, of the nineteenth century. Aside from his ambles across Wales, he wrote books about Russia, Spain and the Romany Gypsies. Borrow was born in Norfolk, but as the son of a British Army recruiting officer he travelled widely. He was also an enthusiastic linguist, fascinated by the languages, lifestyles and cultures of other countries. It is thought he could speak or write about 100 different languages; a remarkable feat at a time when foreign travel was not easy or accessible.

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Wild Wales is an account of George Borrow’s travels across Wales in the 1850s, from North to South. It wasn’t a huge success when it was first published but after Borrow’s death in 1881 it gained popularity as a genuine historical account of Wales in an era that was fast becoming lost. Throughout the book Borrow’s detailed descriptions and opinions of the places he visits are combined with lengthy narrations about the characters and people he meets along the way.

 

As well as Snowdonia, Anglesey, Bangor and Bala, Borrow visitied the Vale of Ffestiniog and perhaps would even have visited the Oakeley Arms as he passed, continuing his journey south towards Machynlleth and the Dyfi Valley. Of course, the roads today will be busier, the houses bigger and many industries have changed since Borrow’s travels, but the landscape he admired and the spectacular views he sought out are equally as impressive today. Although he travelled all across Wales it was the rugged grandeur of the north that really appealed to him – by then, the valleys and towns of South Wales had begun their unstoppable journey into industrialisation.

There’s no doubt that Borrow inspired a generation of trampers, walkers and travellers with his tales of wild countries, remote landscapes and meandering footpaths; his legacy to the world of travel and history writing is still felt today. So why not be Borrow inspired and head off on a countryside adventure; after all, who knows who you might meet or what you might discover.