George Lipscomb

“Cardigan East” Newell, Robert Hasell, 1821. Letters on the scenery of Wales

“Cardigan East” Newell, Robert Hasell, 1821. Letters on the scenery of Wales

Not all travellers came back with reports of bathing beauties or sublime scenery; George Lipscomb (1773-1846) was a militia man, surgeon, antiquarian and author who wrote three novels, numerous medical works on subjects including asthma, hydrophobia, and vaccination (of which he was a staunch opponent) and five topographical works, including the Journey into South Wales (1802). Lipscomb was keen that his writings should not “buoy up the mind with false hopes, and sanguine expectations of pleasure, that incapacitate us for making proper use of those reflections which the fair face of nature plentifully supplies” and in contrast to some of the rose-tinted writings of the period, Lipscomb included the realities of his journey, including descriptions of wretched huts and dung heaps on the outskirts of Hereford and the stink of fresh veal carcasses being flayed on the streets of Cardigan.

In this extract, Lipscomb vividly describes the travellers’ worst nightmare - getting lost in the mist, at night, in unfamiliar, inhospitable territory:

“We had now arrived at a dirty common; but being deceived by the semblance of a hedge, which was in fact nothing more than the shade occasioned by a thick fog resting on the edge of a lofty hill;in making up to it, we suddenly found ourselves on the brink of a precipice, with a river at its foot… We wandered through the dreary waste, just as chance, or accident directed us; for the points of the compass were forgotten; there was not a star to be seen, and we were, on every side, surrounded with an impenetrable mist. All our care and caution did not prevent us from falling into miry ditches, up to the horses girths… The screams of the night owl were the only sounds which reached the ear; and in this gloomy solitude we were compelled to spend the remainder of the night”.

From: Lipscomb, George, 1802. Journey into South Wales: through the counties of Oxford, Warwick, Worcester, Hereford, Salop, Stafford, Buckingham, and Hertford; in the year 1799. London: T. N. Longman & O. Rees (BUR 02215)

Even with modern maps, official routemarkers, and GPS, it is still very much possible to get lost while walking Offa’s Dyke and the Wales Coast Path and some of Alan’s blog entries read almost as miserably as Lipscomb’s. If you wish to empathise, read Alan’s entry for 5th June 2013, Day 49, Aberdaron to Abersoch, which is summarised as:

“a goat, a bull and a dead calf, a subterranean landscape populated by the Cornish, brought to tears twice, and lost four times, and end in the land of private…”

Or the blog for 13th June 2013, Day 57, Fairbourne to Aberdyfi, introduced as:

“station incognito, I get to Aberdyfi twice and pass through Tywyn four times, rain, getting lost, more rain, getting lost again, a glorious beach and an inglorious diet…”

Alan, like many of those in whose footsteps he trod was also inspired to write poetry along the journey…


  • Two million steps 
  • Two feet 
  • Feel each 
  • Harder than the last 
  • Spirit and soles both 
  • Worn thin Joints move slow 
  • Like an old man 
  • And tears flow easy 
  • As a child