Date(s) - 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2020
2020 is the 250th anniversary of William Gilpin taking the Wye Tour in 1770 – a significant event as it heralded the birth of British tourism. Gilpin was a pioneer in the appreciation of landscape in Britain and his ideas led, much later, to the designation of protected landscapes, including Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (and National Parks) of which the Wye Valley is one.
What was the Wye Tour?
The Wye Tour was a two day boat trip down the Wye from Ross to Chepstow, with an overnight stop in Monmouth, to view the picturesque scenery and romantic ruins. Its heyday was from 1760 to the 1830s, but its popularity was renewed in the 1870s when the Wye Valley Railway opened, allowing many more people to enjoy the beauty of the Wye. In the 1880s thousands of people arrived at Tintern Station to walk to the Abbey and view the harvest moon rising through the rose window.
Who was William Gilpin?
The Reverend William Gilpin developed a set of rules for defining ‘the Picturesque’ creating an artistic movement which had a lasting effect on landscape appreciation. The popularity of the Wye Tour was greatly assisted by the publication of his guide book, Observations on the River Wye, which became a best-seller. This was the first tour guide to be published in Britain, helping travellers locate and enjoy the most Picturesque scenes in the Wye Valley. Tourists dined at specific locations, took walks to particular viewpoints and visited must see romantic ruins, making the Wye Tour one of the first ever package holidays. The Wye Valley, with its gorgeous river scenery, became the first of Britain’s great landscapes to be ‘discovered’ – and the birthplace of British tourism. The impact of Gilpin’s ideas can be seen in the designation of the Wye Valley as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1971.
During 2020 we will be celebrating William Gilpin and the Wye Tour through a series of events, exhibitions and excursions up and down the Wye Valley. Find out more here.