It’s great to get away: even though I love my house and I have so many jobs lined up – electrics, oiling floors, fixing holes in ceilings, so much gardening (sighs!!) – it’s so lovely to take a break. It was Big G‘s birthday, and although I have several ideas for new books in the pipeline, Wales is so inspirational that it seemed like the ideal place to combine research and fun. Besides, it’s just down the road, over the bridge and suddenly we’re in a magical place of ancient buildings, hills, valleys, fascinating tales and the most wonderful welcoming people.
I have a big soft spot for Wales. One of my bezzie friends is Welsh and he was a great help to me when I was writing The Golden Girls’ Getaway. He’s a musician, a very talented one, and Gwen, one of my central characters in the book is an ex-opera singer, so I had the perfect source to ask about Eisteddfodau, Cerdd Dant, operas, bards and poetry. In the novel, Gwen and her friends spend some time in South Wales, her home as a youngster, so I had the opportunity to take some photos of the amazing scenery. I visited the Brecons and went on to Rhossili beach. We walked for miles and miles, across the headland, over to Worms Head and onto the beach itself, which is so beautiful. However, after a nine-mile hike, climbing back up from the beach is not for the faint-hearted as it’s quite steep, but totally worth it for the views.
We stayed over in Burry Port, which was wonderful and welcoming. Everything about our stay was special: food, people, scenery. It made me wonder why I don’t go there more often.
I always set my novels in places where I know the location is magical: I’ve written books set in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Liverpool, Scotland, France, Belgium, Amsterdam, Mexico, Spain, Canada. Location is so important. The Golden Girls’ Getaway moves from London, where I always enjoy the culture and the buzz, and moves across the country to the south west, up to Wales and then on to beautiful North Yorkshire. The journey and the location go hand in hand: inspiring countryside enables the golden girls, Vivienne, Mary and Gwen, to consider their lives and re-evaluate what is really important. Three very different women in their golden years, the friends enjoy living in the moment and love and laughter are central. And my experience of a weekend in Wales was exactly the same: beautiful scenery and warm people make magic happen.
I’m a huge fan of Wales and I love the poetry of Dylan Thomas. On this visit, I didn’t find the time to go to Laugharne, the Carmarthenshire estuary town where he lived for the last four years of his life. That’s my next trip, which is planned for early in 2022. The scenery was conducive to Dylan Thomas creating wonderful poems and his play, Under Milk Wood. As a writer, I’d really enjoy going to see his writing shed and the view he looked at from the cliffs.
I’ve already written one novel set in Scotland, which is a location that equally inspires writing, and I’m about to do some research there for a different type of book. Writing is my passion but, I have to admit, it’s a bonus to be able to visit stunning locations that make new ideas leap into the mind.
My last visit to Wales absolutely did that: I came back buzzing and planning my next visit. And with views like the ones in the photos above, who wouldn’t feel that way? Wales is truly welcoming, beautiful and special. A massive Diolch yn fawr iawn to all the lovely people I met while I was there. There truly is a wonderful warm welcome in the valleys!