The Tourist Trail

In an age of combustion engines, tarmac, digital cameras, GPS, Google Maps and Twitter, it is difficult to imagine the nature of tourism in the age of the Grand Tour. Given a good enough signal, today’s travellers can instantly review and even book their accommodation from a windy hilltop; blog their exact location for the connected world to follow; and display snapshot reminders of their trip on infinite galleries in cyberspace. Go back a couple of centuries and the only information and advice on the pleasure and perils associated with travel had to be gleaned from the writings and illustrations of those hardy souls who had gone before.

The 18th and 19th century travel guides in the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives range from lavishly illustrated volumes, which could be pored over in drawing rooms, but which had no place on expeditions to the more rugged outposts that Wales had to offer, to more practical pocket-sized gazetteers, some of which were little more than lists of places to see and inns to frequent or, more importantly, avoid. Not unlike TripAdviser...

George Nicholson (1760–1825) came from a family of Yorkshire printers but spent his later years living and working first in Shropshire and then Worcestershire. Nicholson had an excellent reputation as a printer and for all of his books, even the pocket editions, he commissioned work from the finest illustrators and engravers. Nicholson was also a compiler and editor and his Cambrian Traveller's Guide and Pocket Companion is a compilation of works by “the most popular and authentic writers” of the day.

Full of useful detail, yet small enough to take on holiday, in The Cambrian Traveller's Guide, Nicholson gathers together the opinions of contemporary travellers such as Malkin, Warner and Pratt and adds to them his own reflections on the best way to travel, coming to the conclusion that:

“Walking can only be pleasing to those who have become accustomed to that exercise, and when not limited to time…The most independent way of travelling is certainly on foot;but as few have health or strength for an undertaking of this kind, the most pleasant and satisfactory way of making a tour is undoubtedly upon a safe and quiet horse…a sure-footed Welsh pony”.

However, for the benefit of those exploring on foot, Nicholson does go on to give advice on how best to prevent and deal with blisters:

“Walking becomes exceedingly painful when blisters upon the feet result from this exercise. But this inconvenience may be prevented by wearing pliant and easy shoes, or those that are made from two lasts to the shape of the feet, as described in No. 47 of “The Literary Miscellany”, by wearing fine soft flannel or woollen socks next to the skin, and, by washing the feet with water before going to bed. If, for want of such precaution, blisters should arise, let out the serum with a needle, without breaking the skin, bathe the part with equal quantities of vinegar and luke-warm water, and apply a thin liniment of wax and oil, with a little sugar of lead”.

Nicholson, George, 1808. The Cambrian traveller's guide, and pocket companion: containing information... relating to the principality of Wales, and parts of the adjoining counties... Stourport: Printed and sold by George Nicholson (1808) (BUR 02214)

Advice which may have helped Alan who describes:

“…feet twisting at each step, my little toes that constantly have small blisters, suffer each time my foot catches on a root or rock and somewhere along the way a small stone is under the ball of my foot…”