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A driving tour of South Wales: in search of Dylan Thomas

A driving tour of South Wales in search of Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas is the favourite literary son of Wales, born in Swansea and much celebrated before his untimely death at the age of 39. Even if you don’t know his poetry, my driving tour of the places he lived and loved will show you some of the most beautiful scenery in South Wales and give you a fascinating insight into the times that Dylan lived through.

A driving tour of South Wales in search of Dylan Thomas

Let’s start in Swansea

Let’s start our driving tour in Swansea, where Dylan Thomas was born, the place he spoke of as “an ugly, lovely town” since it was heavily bombed in the blitz and lost much of the charm of its pre-war Victorian architecture. If arriving in Wales by public transport, you can easily pick up a hire car in Cardiff, Swansea or Newport as the places on our tour are most easily visited by car. (Check out Alamo Rent A Car if you need a rental car)

In recent years Swansea has undergone a regeneration and in the Maritime Quarter surrounded by new apartments and restaurants, you’ll find a statue of the city’s most famous son, in front of the Dylan Thomas Theatre.

Dylan was a member of the local amateur dramatics society, the Swansea Little Theatre, who met in Mumbles and the theatre now provides a permanent home for the theatre group. All kinds of productions are put on here but it’s worth checking in advance whether there are any preformances related to Dylan Thomas. If not, you can still enjoy the murals on the walls of the theatre, depicting many of the characters that Dylan wrote about in his famous radio play, Under Milkwood. Dylan Thomas Theatre Website

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Dylan Thomas theatre in Swansea Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dylan Thomas theatre in Swansea

The Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea

Nearby is the Dylan Thomas Centre, which provides a permanent exhibition about Dylan’s life and work. On the walls are large photo murals of Dylan, his friends from the Swansea literary scene and a portrait of his wife Caitlin painted by Augustus John. You can hear the voice of Dylan himself, from the radio broadcasts he made to read his poetry and radio plays.

What comes through above all else is Dylan’s love of words which he used like colours in a paint box to create each scene, making lists of the words he might use on scraps of paper to keep by his desk.  He wrote; “I wanted to write poetry in the beginning because I had fallen in love with words, I cared for the colours the words cast on my eyes”.

Read my article about Swansea – an ugly, lovely town

Dylan Thomas Centre, Somerset Place, Swansea, SA1 1RR

Dylan Thomas centre in Swansea Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dylan Thomas centre in Swansea

Let’s visit the Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea

Dylan was born in 1914 into an upper middle class family and inherited a love of literature from his father, DJ Thomas, who was Head of English at Swansea Grammar School. The house at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive where Dylan was born and where he grew up has been restored in the same character as when the family lived there and is open to the public, as well as being available to rent as a place to stay. It’s just a short drive from the Maritime Quarter in the residential neighbourhood of Uplands.

The dark green and red colour scheme of the sitting room is just as Dylan described in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” when aunts and uncles gather in front of the fire after Christmas lunch. Owner Geoff Haden restored and furnished the house from auctions and car boot sales, using information in family letters and Dylan’s own descriptions to recreate the house as it might have looked when Dylan was growing up, right down to the old gramophone player.

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Birthplace of Dylan Thomas, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Birthplace of Dylan Thomas, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea

Upstairs Dylan’s tiny bedroom has been left just as if he had been living there now, with a messy desk covered with books, a packet of woodbines and a bottle of Hancock’s local ale, posters of Shakespeare next to Greta Garbo. At this tiny, crowded desk, Dylan would write poetry until he left home at the age of 20, doted on by his mother Florence who would bring him breakfast in bed.

Read my article about the Dylan Thomas birthplace

Visit the Dylan Thomas Birthplace at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Uplands, Swansea for a guided tour – check the website for times, events or to book an overnight stay.

Dylan's bedroom at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dylan’s bedroom at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea

Cwmdonkin Park – where the young Dylan played

The Dylan Thomas birthplace looks out to Cwmdonkin Park where Dylan would play as a boy. In Dylan’s day there was a reservoir with swans which has now been filled in for a children’s playground, but the bowling green and pavilion look much as they did in Dylan’s childhood. The pavilion is open as a tea room with a pleasingly retro feel, serving ice creams, tea and welsh cakes on 1950s style china.

Cwmdonkin Park in Swansea Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cwmdonkin Park in Swansea

Where to stay in Swansea

Morgans Hotel was once the Harbour Trust Office, a grand Edwardian building from the era when Swansea was a major port and industrial city known as “Copperopolis” due to the large amount of copper smelted there.

The bedrooms, with mahogany doors, high ceilings and plaster mouldings, are individually named after the Swansea ships of the period. Downstairs is a stylish bar for evening drinks and breakfast is taken in the former banking hall of the Harbour Port Office, with original murals and copper globe lamps recalling Swansea’s industrial heyday. Morgans Hotel makes a luxurious base for exploring Swansea and the Dylan Thomas trail.

Morgans Hotel, Somerset Place, Swansea, SA1 1RR.

Morgans Hotel in Swansea Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Morgans Hotel in Swansea

Mumbles and the Gower beaches where Dylan loved to walk

Let’s take a short drive to the seaside village of Mumbles, just outside Swansea, a place Dylan came to regularly to rehearse with the local amateur dramatics group, the Swansea Little Theatre. Afterwards the group would go for a drink at the Antelope pub where Dylan was known to enjoy a few pints.

Pennard cliffs on the Gower Peninsula Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Pennard cliffs on the Gower Peninsula

From his home in Uplands Dylan could take the bus with friends to Mumbles and the beaches of the Gower peninsula, where they would go walking and camp overnight. Caswell beach which can be easily walked to from Mumbles, still has a retro air with the green painted beach huts and the cafe on the promenade.

Langland Bay on the Gower Peninsula Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Langland Bay on the Gower Peninsula

A couple of his short stories were set on Rhossili beach and Dylan enjoyed long walks along the cliff path. Read my article about walking the coastal paths of the Gower.

Caswell Beach on the Gower Peninsula Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Caswell Beach on the Gower Peninsula

Mumbles is a good place to base yourself for a night or two to explore some of these same beaches, either walking direct from Mumbles along the cliff path or driving to the stunning beaches of Caswell, Langland and Rhossilli.

Three cliffs bay on the Gower Peninsula Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Three cliffs bay on the Gower Peninsula

Where to stay in Mumbles

Promenade View is a stylish 3 bedroom holiday home set right on the promende at Mumbles and an ideal place to base yourself to explore Mumbles, the Gower peninsula and be within easy reach of Swansea. The house has 3 en suite bedrooms with views over Swansea bay and the cyclists, walkers and sailing boats on their stands along the promenade, as well as being a short stroll from plenty of pubs, restaurants and the Mumbles pier where the coastal path begins. Read my review of Promenade View here.

Promenade View Holiday House in Mumbles Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Promenade View Holiday House in Mumbles

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The Boathouse at Laugharne in Carmarthenshire

From Mumbles you can drive to Laugharne, the village in Carmarthenshire that Dylan made his family home in the final years of his life. The Boathouse is set just below the cliff path with striking views across the Taf Estuary from the windows and was described by Dylan as “my sea shaken house on a breakneck of rocks“.

Dylan Thomas boathouse in Laugherne Photo Heatheronhertravels.com

Dylan Thomas boathouse in Laugherne

Here Dylan lived with his wife Cailin and children until his untimely death in 1953 and it’s furnished partly as it was when he lived there, partly as a museum in the attic room that would have been their bedroom.

Dylan Thomas writing shed in Laugherne Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Dylan Thomas writing shed in Laugherne

A little further along the path is Dylan’s writing shed where he worked, with desk with cigarette stubs, as if he had just popped out for a walk. The window looks over the Taf estuary, where the sandbanks are exposed at low tide and wading seabirds pick their way through the shallows, described by Dylan as “the mussel pooled and the heron priested shore.”

Read my article about Lovely Laugharne – on the Dylan Thomas trail

View over the Laugherne estuary Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View over the Laugherne estuary

When he lived here, Dylan would walk along to Browns bar to read the papers, or drop in to see his parents who lived opposite, before working in his writing shed in the afternoon and returning in the evening to Browns with his wife Caitlin for a few more beers.

The Dylan Thomas Boathouse, Dylan’s Walk, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, SA33 4SD

Laugharne Castle

Overlooking the estuary is Laugharne Castle, which was built in the 13th century and came under siege in the English Civil War after which it was partly dismantled. When Dylan first came to Laugharne, the castle and house next door were owned by his friends the writers Richard and Frances Hughes. Dylan was allowed the use of the gazebo in the garden which overlooks the estuary and it was here that he wrote the short stories “Portrait of the artist as a Young Dog”.

Laugherne Castle Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Laugherne Castle

The castle is now open to the public and there’s a writing desk and old typewriter within the summerhouse to recreate how it would have looked when Dylan worked there. Laugharne Castle website. 

Where to stay in Laugharne

Brown’s Hotel where Dylan went for a drink is now a stylish pub with rooms that have a retro feel with stripy carpets and modern oak furniture. They only serve snacks in the evenings but there are several places to eat when you are staying there including the Three Mariners pub next door. Brown’s Hotel, King Street, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire.

A tour of South Wales taking in the places associated with Dylan Thomas is easily done in 2-4 days but of course there are plenty more things to enjoy in Wales if you’d like to extend your stay. If you are planning a driving holiday in Wales, check out Alamo Rent A Car for your car rental.

Brown's Hotel in Laugherne Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Brown’s Hotel in Laugherne

Useful information for visiting Wales

For more information on everything to see and do in Wales check the official website at Visit Wales

For more information about Dylan Thomas on the official Dylan Thomas Website

For more information about things to do in and around Swansea including the Dylan Thomas attractions visit the Visit Swansea Bay website

This article was brought to you in partnership with Alamo Rent A Car

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Read about this driving tour of South Wales on the trail of Dylan Thomas

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Hels
    July 22, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I didn’t love the writing shed at all, but the Literature Centre was a very clever way to repurpose an old building and the Swansea Museum is super.

    Nice memories, thanks!
    Hels´s last blog post ..Sarona: elegant German colony in the centre of Tel Aviv: guest post

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      July 28, 2016 at 10:52 am

      @Hels I found the Dylan Thomas centre fascinating – think they did a great job there

  • Reply
    Ana O
    July 26, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    I think I need a writing shed. Or one of those beach huts. Lovely tour!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      July 28, 2016 at 10:51 am

      @Ana Thanks, pleased you enjoyed it – not sure I would get much work done in such a messy environment as that writing shed

  • Reply
    devesh
    July 27, 2016 at 9:53 am

    thanks for writing this story, loved it.

  • Reply
    Maria Han
    August 1, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Lovely write. Dylan Thomas is my favorite poet and its been pleasure to read all about him and visiting his residence with you. I like to write my favorite couplet:
    Do not go gentle into that good night
    Rage rage against the dying of the light.

    Thank you very much for sharing such lovely accounts with us. 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 1, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      @Maria Glad you enjoyed the article – that was the poem he wrote about his father dying – very poignant

  • Reply
    Abhishek
    November 13, 2017 at 6:04 am

    I read your blog. ”SOUTH WALES” is very interesting tourist place to visit Now this place is also my dream place to visit.

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