The writing shed in which Dylan Thomas worked
The writing shed in which Dylan Thomas worked

Dylan Thomas: Five ways to follow in his footsteps

Mark the centenary of one of Wales's greatest poets at events, exhibitions and several pubs

Sarah Baxter
Thursday 23 October 2014 10:50
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If Dylan Thomas hadn't already gone not so gently into that good night, 27 October would have marked his 100th birthday. As it is, he died in 1953, aged just 39. But Thomas remains arguably Wales's greatest poet, and the centenary sees the ingenious, oft-inebriated icon and his enduring works being celebrated across South Wales and beyond (see dylanthomas100.org). Attend a Thomas festival, take a stroll in his footsteps or just raise a glass at one of his favourite boozers.

Start at the beginning

Dylan Thomas was born at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea (01792 472555; dylanthomasbirthplace.com), an inconspicuous semi that's been restored to its 1914 glory and is open for daily tours (11am, 1pm, 3pm; £8); you can enjoy a home-cooked dinner in the dining room (fortnightly) or even sleep in the poet's bedroom (£150 per night for up to two people; £50 extra for each additional adult after this).

Swansea is also home to the Dylan Thomas Centre (01792 463980; dylanthomas.com; free), ground zero for those interested in the poet. Next Monday, the centre will reopen its permanent Thomas exhibition, refurbished and expanded for the centenary.

Skip to the end

Thomas was born in Swansea but spent his final four years in the Carmarthenshire town of Laugharne. It was here, in his writing shed by the Taf estuary, that he wrote Under Milk Wood. His former home, the nearby Boathouse, is now a heritage centre (01994 427420; dylanthomasboathouse.com; £4.20). It hosts frequent events; next Monday, Thomas biographer Andrew Lycett will give a talk.

Thomas is buried in Laugharne; for a more unusual way to visit his simple grave and explore the countryside he so loved, hop on a horse and join a two-hour Centenary Ride with Hills Farm Stables (01994 427375; hillsfarmridingholidays.co.uk; £40).

Take a walk

Thomas loved wandering the Welsh countryside. Laugharne's Birthday Walk (dylanthomas birthdaywalk.co.uk) follows the 1.9-mile route that Dylan immortalised in "Poem in October"; it leads around Laugharne harbour to Sir John's Hill.

For a longer stroll, try Ceredigion's 24-mile Dylan Thomas Trail. It connects Llanon's Central Hotel (where the poet sank a few) to New Quay, which may have provided the inspiration for Under Milk Wood's Llareggub. The route goes via several old Thomas haunts, including Plas Gelli in Talsarn and the tiny bungalow of Majoda.

Have a drink

Dylan Thomas is almost more famed for his drinking than for his writing. He certainly accrued several locals. The Wheatsheaf in London's Fitzrovia (Rathbone Place; 020 7580 1585) is where Thomas met his future wife, Caitlin; it remains a proper old pub with stained glass, real ale and continuing literary connections. After marrying Caitlin in Penzance, The Ship Inn in Mousehole became their honeymoon hangout (01736 731234; shipinnmousehole.co.uk); you can still sit in "Dylan's Corner" here. Brown's Hotel in Laugharne (01994 427688; browns-hotel.co.uk) was perhaps his favourite, however. Built in 1752, and fresh from refurbishment in 2013, it offers literary-luxe rooms and sells Penderyn's new "Icons of Wales: Dylan" single malt in the bar.

Join a celebration

Centenary events peak over the next week. Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia (20-26 October; dylantho masfitzrovia.com) is London's commemoration. A mobile recreation of his writing shed will set up residence; Thomas's granddaughter will discuss Dylan on women; and there's a jazz version of Under Milk Wood.

Swansea's Grand Theatre will host a Dylathon (26-27 October; dylathon100.com), a continuous 36-hour reading of his works; tickets are available for three- and 12-hour slots (£25 or £75 respectively) or for the whole event (£150). Or tune in to BBC Radio Wales at 7pm on 26 October: Under Milk Wood, starring Michael Sheen, is being performed at New York's Kaufmann Concert Hall and will be broadcast live.

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