Posted 28th Feb 2018
With St David's Day approaching (1st March), it seems the ideal time to appreciate some of the world's greatest poets and writers who have been inspired by the wonderful Welsh countryside
Whether it's the labyrinth of mines beneath the mountains, the cloud-wrapped summits, or trickling valley streams, why not take the chance to follow in the footsteps of some of Wales' most celebrated Welsh writers and find the places that inspired them.
Roald Dahl was born on 13 September 1916 in Llandaff, in the north of Cardiff, and went to school there between 1923 and 1925. Recalling his childhood stomping ground is his autobiography, Boy, he said with a characteristic vividness: "The sweet shop in Llandaff in the year 1923 was the centre of our lives… Without it, there would have been little to live for. But it had one terrible drawback, this sweet shop. The woman who owned it was a horror... Her name was Mrs Pratchett."
Dahl and his school friends staged 'the great and daring Mouse Plot', where they placed a dead mouse in the gobstopper jar when Mrs Pratchett wasn't looking. The shop is now a Chinese take-away, bearing a blue plaque that marks the site's link with the author.
Dylan Thomas' most famous work, Under Milk Wood, colourfully depicted a fictional seaside town along with its quirky residents. Visit New Quay in Ceredigion (Mid Wales), where the poet started writing the work, Laugharne in Carmarthenshire (South West Wales), where he lived and is now buried, and Upland Swansea, where the writer was born. All three bring to life the bustling 'Llareggub' of the play, claiming to be the inspiration for the fictional village, and each also boasts pubs that the writer frequented.
The watering hole most associated with Thomas is Browns Hotel in Laughharne, whose phone number he used to give out as his own. Also in Laugharne is the Dylan Thomas Boathouse, where he lived; you can peer into the Writing Shed, left as if he had popped out quickly.
Growing up in North Wales, Philip Pullman is best known for His Dark Materials series. He has written over 20 books, winning multiple awards which include the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children's Fiction Award in 1995. He is also Patron of Literature Wales.
Self-taught poet Hedd Wyn was born Ellis Humphrey Evans in 1887 at Yr Ysgwrn near Trawsfynydd in North Wales. Starting work as a shepherd on his father's farm aged 14, he maintained a passion for writing. He regularly entered poetry competitions and eisteddfodau, winning his first chair (a prestigious award for poetry) in 1907. In 1910, he adopted the bardic name Hedd Wyn, meaning 'Blessed Peace'. In 1916, Hedd Wyn was one of 280,000 Welshmen conscripted to join the First World War, and was sent to the front in June 1917. That year, the winning poem at the National Eisteddfod was Yr Arwr (The Hero), which was signed under the pen-name 'Fleur-de-Lis'. When the writer's identity was revealed as Hedd Wyn, who had been killed at Passchendaele on 31 July 1917, the bard's chair was draped in black cloth before a sombre and tearful crowd.
Beatrix Potter was a regular visitor to Wales. Often staying with her uncle, Fred Burton, at his home, Gwaenynog Hall in Denbighshire, she would sit in the garden and sketch. Here, she created The Tale of the Flospy Bunnies. Fred's descendants will still own the house, and will open the garden each summer, while Peter Rabbit's extended family will get up to mischief among the lovely, Victorian-style borders.
C S Lewis
Born in Belfast in 1898, the Irish author CS Lewis was the grandson of a Welsh businessman, and great-grandson of a Flintshire farmer. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis wrote: "My father's people were true Welshmen, sentimental, passionate and rhetorical, easily moved both to anger and tenderness; men who laughed and cried a great deal". He is, of course, best-known for The Chronicles of Narnia.
R S Thomas
One of Wales' most commanding literary figures, R S Thomas has a writing career that spans five decades, producing over 20 volumes of poetry. Born in Cardiff, he went on to read Latin at Bangor University, later becoming a minister in the Church of Wales. In 1996, at the age of 83, Thomas was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, with his collection of poetry including The Stones of the Field, Song at the Year's Turning, Ingrowing Thoughts and Mass for Hard Times.
Owen Sheers has written plays, poems, fiction, non-fiction, screenplays and librettos, the majority of which are inspired by or set in Wales. Sheers grew up in Abergavenny, South Wales, and insisted that the film adaption of his bestselling novel Resistance (imagining if the D-Day landings failed and Wales is occupied by the Nazis) was filmed in and around the Black Mountains, near to where he comes from, while his latest novel, I Saw a Man, is also partly set in Wales. Few Welshmen are indifferent to the appeal of rugby, with Sheers particularly passionate - he was appointed the first writer in residence at the Welsh Rugby Union in 2011, with his subsequent work of nonfiction, Calon, looking at the cultural significance of the game.