TE Lawrence in Wales 1907
In the Easter holidays of 1907, during his last year at school, TE Lawrence decided to make a cycle trip around Wales, to visit a number of castles. In January that year he had been offered a scholarship to study History at Jesus College in Oxford and his place had been awarded partially on the basis that he was born in Wales, in the small town of Tremadog in Gwynedd, in the north-west of the country. (Jesus College, founded in 1571 by Elizabeth I, had a long-standing association with Wales).
He spent a couple of weeks on the journey, travelling pretty much around the entire country. He presumably started at Oxford, from where he headed up to the north coast of Wales, via Dinas Bran Castle near Llangollen (and possibly to Conwy) to Carnarvon, after which he headed south, possibly via Tremadog, to Harlech. From there he headed to the south coast to stay with some friends in Tenby before visiting castles at Carmarthen, Kidwelly, Caerphilly and the Roman Legionary fortress at Caerleon. Then he rode to Chepstow and Tintern Abbey before visiting Monmouth and Raglan castles and heading home via Gloucester Cathedral. He sent a number letters which describe the trip and particularly, as always, the castles. He said that two weeks really ought to enable him to comment on the character and peculiarities of the Welsh…
In late April and early May 2019, I made a similar journey, starting at and returning to No 2 Polstead Road in Oxford and following the route above. I did not visit Tenby, but instead stayed near Pendine Sands, to which TE Lawrence was to return later in life, to race his motorcycle on the sands. The ride, approximately 600 miles, took eight days and I am amazed to say that I was rained on only once… (many of my previous visits to Wales have been rather wet…). A Journal of the trip will follow. As for what he thought of the Welsh… that will be revealed in the Journal…….