Literary Beaumaris


One of the pleasures of a short holiday is discovering literary associations connected with the place we are visiting. Beaumaris is full of literary connections and I very much enjoyed our recent visit. 

We stayed at The Old Bull's Head in one of the Dickens themed bedrooms. Ours was Mr Stiggins, also called the Reverend Stiggins, a character in The Pickwick Papers, and the nemesis of Mr Weller and his son, Samuel Weller. Charles Dickens stayed at the Inn in 1859 and described his stay in the fictionalised The Uncommercial Traveller. His review of the Bull's Head is definitely worthy of a current day scathing Tripadvisor review!

“Take the old-established Bull’s Head with its old-established knife-boxes on its old-established sideboards, its old-established flue under its old-established four-post bedsteads in its old-established airless rooms, its old-established frouziness up-stairs and down-stairs, its old-established cookery, and its old-established principles of plunder.....Well for you if you have yet forgotten the old-established Bull’s Head fruity port: whose reputation was gained solely by the old-established price the Bull’s Head put upon it, and by the old-established air with which the Bull’s Head set the glasses and D’Oyleys on, and held that Liquid Gout to the three-and-sixpenny wax-candle, as if its old-established colour hadn’t come from the dyer’s.”

Happily our experience was extremely pleasant and our review will be very complimentary!

Dr Samuel Johnson also visited Beaumaris, in the company of Hester Thrale, and stayed at the Old Bull's Head. Together they undertook a tour of North Wales in 1774. Johnson wasn't overly impressed with North Wales and told Boswell that "Wales is so little different from England that it offers nothing to the speculation of the traveller". He later wrote to John Taylor "Wales has nothing that can excite or gratify curiosity. The mode of life is entirely English. I am glad I have seen it, though I have seen nothing because I now know that there is nothing to be seen". 

Johnson did, however, appreciate Beaumaris Castle, writing "this castle corresponds with all the representations of romancing narratives. Here is not wanting the private passage, the dark cavity, the deep dungeon or the lofty tower. We did not discover the well. This is the most complete view that I have yet had of an old castle. It had a moat. The towers."


John Betjeman wrote the beautiful poem A Bay in Anglesey. The poet believed that he was descended from the Merrick family which owned Bodorgan Hall, in south east Anglesey.

The sleepy sound of a tea-time tide
Slaps at the rocks the sun has dried,
Too lazy, almost, to sink and lift
Round low peninsulas pink with thrift.
The water, enlarging shells and sand,
Grows greener emerald out from land
And brown over shadowy shelves below
The waving forests of seaweed show.
Here at my feet in the short cliff grass
Are shells, dried bladderwrack, broken glass,
Pale blue squills and yellow rock roses.
The next low ridge that we climb discloses
One more field for the sheep to graze
While, scarcely seen on this hottest of days,
Far to the eastward, over there,
Snowdon rises in pearl-grey air.
Multiple lark-song, whispering bents,
The thymy, turfy and salty scents
And filling in, brimming in, sparkling and free
The sweet susurration of incoming sea. 

Finally, I have discovered the poetry of Richard Llwyd, or the Bard of Snowdon. Llwyd was born in Beaumaris, and became one of the foremost experts on Welsh heraldry and genealogy. In 1800 he published Beaumaris Bay, his most famous poem.

....We hie where Baron-Hill attracts the Muse,
The sunny glades, the brow, the varying views —
Isles, towns, the rising hills, the spreading bay,
The Muse, delighted, owns the grand display;
Here Flora smiles and flowers of every hue
Their glowing petals spread and drink the dew,
Luxuriant rise beneath her fostering care
And shed their fragrance on the ambient air;
Here warblers carol on the bending spray,
The Dryads gambol and the Satyrs play
Through wilds of foliage and the peaceful groves,
Haunts of the Muse, the leisure hour she loves:
For Art and Nature here their beauties blend,
And Taste and Bulkeley for the palm contend.

The landscape's various charms the Muse explores,
The druid haunts and Mona's hallowed shores,
High Arfon soaring o'er the humbler isle,
The winding Menai, Daniel's mitred pile;
Thy towers Caernarfon, triple summits Llyn,
That distant close the vast and varied scene.
Below, amphibious man, as whim prevails,
Trims up his little bark and spreads his sails;
Or led by florid Health, descends to lave
And skims the surface of the bracing wave,
Or frets the liquid azure as he floats
Where sister nations crowd the busy boats. 

So, all in all an excellent literary haul for such a short break.