When you sign up for our River Valley tour, you might be surprised to discover you're actually following in the footsteps of Britain's first tourists. Not as easily accessible as it is today, with our small group tours departing regularly from central Cardiff, the intrepid travellers of the day made the journey to the Wye Valley from all over Britain nonetheless.
Back in the late 17th Century, a new trend in British travel was emerging. Unable to embark on the Grand European Tour because of the French Revolutionary Wars, the British gentry began looking closer to home. Parallel to how our travel decisions are influenced today by Instagram, Facebook and Vlogs; poetry, printed art and written guidebooks were the influencers of the time.
Leading this particular travel trend was Reverend John Egerton of Ross on Wye, who decided to start taking his many guests on boat trips down the River Wye. Before long, word spread about the scenic beauty of this part of the world, and for the first time people began to travel for scenery and landscape - whereas up until then travel had been purely focused on historical or cultural interest.
After the publication of William Gilpin's book 'Observations on the River Wye', a new art trend was created; following his very specific 'Picturesque' principles. Soon artists, poets and even royalty flocked to the famous 'Wye Tour'. The most famous visitors include William Wordsworth, whose prose 'Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey' remain amongst the most influential poetry in British history. Britain's most famous Romantic Artist, William Turner, made the area famous with his many works on Tintern Abbey.
The Wye Valley was not only Britain's first tourism destination; it was also the birthplace of the industrial revolution; a fact you would find difficult to believe on face value today. Today, the forest has reclaimed the river banks, shrouding the ruins of industrial buildings in tree roots and layers of thick moss and lichen which tells of the thick, fresh air today's visitor's breathe in deeply as they make their way through up the river banks in pursuit of the still-breathtaking and beyond picturesque views. Quiet hamlets lay hidden in the woods, and industrial trows have been replaced by canoes and paddleboards.
So, what to expect from today's River Valley tour? Departing from Cardiff you'll travel first to the Kymin; a spectacular viewpoint crucial to the Picturesque movement of the late 18th Century, and visited by Admiral Nelson at the height of his fame in the early 1800's.
We'll journey on to one of the most important centres of the industrial revolution, now a quiet but beautiful place to put your imagination skills to the test.
Next we follow in Wordsworth's footsteps, travelling to the very place he penned his famous poetry, and exploring the serenity of the area's woodland, with tantalising views of the River Wye far below.
No Wye Valley tour could be complete without visiting Tintern Abbey, a famous cistercian monestary ruin dating back to the 11th Century. The tour concludes in Chepstow Castle - a Norman castle - one of the oldest-surviving stone castles in Britain, perched spectacularly on a clifftop high above the River Wye.