Thomas Pennant and the Welsh and Scottish Tour (1760-1820)

I had the hardiness to venture on a journey to the remotest part of North Britain, a country almost as little known to its southern brethren as Kamschatka. I brought home a favourable account of the land. Whether it will thank me or not I cannot say, but from the report I made, and shewing that it might be visited with safety, it has ever since been inondée with southern visitors.

Thomas Pennant, Literary Life (1793)

The Curious Travellers project explores travel and tourism in Britain and Ireland in the late C18th and early C19th. It does so through the writings of the Flintshire naturalist and antiquarian Thomas Pennant (1726-1798), and of others who followed in his footsteps.  Focused primarily on tours of Scotland and Wales, the project has been funded in two phases by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and is supported by numerous partners. It is a collaboration between The University of Wales Trinity St David, Glasgow University and the Natural History Museum: you can learn more about our project team here. Our website provides access to our digital editions and other resources, blogs and events.  Please do get in touch if you have questions or would like to contribute to the project in any way.

Curious Travellers 1 (2014-2018)

Phase 1 of the project produced digital editions of over 500 letters in Pennant’s correspondence, shedding new light on the extensive collaborations that underpinned his published Tours. In addition, editions of 25 previously unpublished tours by other writers (many of them women) demonstrate the lasting influence of Pennant’s travel writing on subsequent travellers.  We continue to add new texts to both the letters and the tours. A full statement of our editorial principles and methodology for Tours and Correspondence is available under the ‘Resources’ tab. Other CT1 outputs include monographs, articles, a PhD thesis and exhibitions of creative engagement with Pennant’s tours. We are currently developing our interactive maps of selected routes. Events based in national and local museums and libraries across Wales and Scotland highlighted the visual and material aspects of the tour, from landscape-painting to geology and natural history. Creative events have included artists and writers retracing Pennant’s itineraries (in all weathers) to create their own modern versions of the Tour: you can read their blogs here.

Curious Travellers 2: Digital Editions of Thomas Pennant’s Tours of Wales and Scotland (2022-2025).

Pennant’s Tour in Scotland 1769 and Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides 1772 (published 1771-76), and his Tours in Wales (1778-83) played a foundational role in in the birth of tourism in Scotland and Wales. Providing ‘national descriptions’ of the cultural, economic and environmental condition of both countries, they also represent the first extensively illustrated documentation of Scotland and Wales. The tours influenced many contemporary writers and travellers, and offer a major, and still largely untapped, resource for modern scholarship. Although reprinted over the years, they have never been properly edited. Curious Travellers 2 will provide free, searchable, digital editions of these texts.

Cader Idris.

A cluster of associated projects include work on Pennant’s specimen collections at the Natural History Museum; planned exhibitions at Greenfield Valley Heritage Site and the Gilbert White House Museum; a crowdsourcing project exploring the richly illustrated copies of Pennant’s tours at the National Library of Wales; research into Pennant’s extraordinary ‘imaginary tour’, the ‘Outlines of the Globe’ and his early tour of Ireland; two creative commissions involving schools and other forms of community engagement.   

Unless noted otherwise, the images on this website come from the Extra-Illustrated Tours of Wales and Scotland, most of them created by Moses Griffith for Thomas Pennant. They are reproduced by courtesy of the National Library of Wales. The website and editions database were built by Luca Guariento, with visual design by Martin Crampin and members of the CT team.

All images courtesy of the National Library of Wales, unless stated otherwise 2015.