Darwin in Wales

Immerse yourself in the life of Charles Darwin, seeing the areas of Wales he visited before embarking on his famous journey to the Galapagos Islands. Discover the fascinating geology of Wales on a small group tour with a Darwin expert.

Highlights

  • New Scientist Discovery Tour in partnership with GeoCultura.
  • Walk in the footsteps of famous scientist and geologist Charles Darwin and discover sites from his childhood and the places where he trained for his legendary voyage on HMS Beagle.
  • Witness the spectacular landscapes of north Wales, including the mountains of Snowdonia’s National Park, the tranquil Llyn Ogwen Lake, and the rugged coasts of Anglesey.
  • Relive the experience and evidence that Darwin used to unravel the origin of these landscapes in 1831 and 1842.
  • Learn the human history behind Darwin’s discoveries, as you travel on a small group tour of Wales with a Darwin expert and our Tour Leaders.
  • Stay in style at highly recommended hotels, including a Darwin-themed hotel in Shrewsbury, and a welcoming country house hotel in north Wales.
  • Savour Wales with a la carte dinners every night, and a range of delicious traditional meals to suit all tastes.

 

Overview

Discover the story behind Charles Darwin’s 1831 and 1842 tours of Wales, with a six-day, five-night small group journey to Shrewsbury and Snowdonia. See the dramatic Welsh landscapes and travel to key sites visited by Darwin.

Immerse yourself in the story of Darwin’s life with a local Darwin expert and our Tour Leaders, as you explore Darwin’s hometown of Shrewsbury, take short walks in Snowdonia and see incredible sights. Hear how Darwin trained in understanding the Welsh landscape and geology before his famous voyage of discovery on HMS Beagle, which led to the groundbreaking Theory of Evolution.

Uncover the best of Wales with a tour of the mountainous Eryri National Park (Snowdonia), and a day to beautiful Anglesey, with its rich geological treasures and impressive coastlines, where Darwin travelled with Cambridge Professor Adam Sedgwick.

Admire sites such as South Stack Lighthouse on Anglesey, scenic Llyn Ogwen and the incredible glacier-formed landscapes around Llanberis and Cwm Idwal. See signs of Welsh history and conflict around ruined forts and well-kept castles.

Enjoy comfortable accommodation throughout your tour, starting with a Darwin-themed Georgian townhouse in Shrewsbury that boasts a relaxing garden and well-appointed rooms. Travel on to a welcoming country house hotel and restaurant in north Wales, offering an exceptional menu of delicious Welsh dishes.

Take away a unique experience of travelling in Wales and Snowdonia, with a fascinating look at Darwin’s life and work, and enjoy walks to areas of incredible beauty and interest.

  • Activity level: Moderate with a few optional, longer walks across the Welsh landscape. The walks are generally less than 2 miles, and occasionally include a few rocky paths, coastal outcrops and beaches (see definitions here).
  • Transport: Getting around: Luxury small coach. Getting there: We can assist with booking taxis from a local airport or train station to Shrewsbury.
  • Accommodation: Two nights’ stay at Darwin’s Townhouse, Shrewsbury, a welcoming boutique townhouse named after the man himself, with cosy rooms and plenty of themed décor. Three nights’ stay at Ty’n Rhos, Caernarfon, a former farmstead which has evolved into a 19-bedroom country house hotel nestled in the Welsh countryside. A la carte dinner at the hotel each night of the trip.
  • Weather: May in north Wales is typically mild to warm. Rain is always possible, and guests should be prepared with warm and waterproof clothing, along with sturdy, waterproof footwear.

Further Tour Information

Now go to top of the page for Itinerary, Need to Know and Gallery tabs

Tour Map

Day 1 - Shrewsbury: Darwin’s Hometown

Start your tour of Wales in Darwin’s hometown of Shrewsbury, a picturesque market town on the Welsh border. Meet up with your Tour Leader and fellow travellers and check into Darwin’s Townhouse.

Darwin's Townhouse Exterior

Your journey begins in the welcoming town of Shrewsbury, with a check in to Darwin’s Townhouse, your hotel for the night. Named after and dedicated to the man himself, this boutique hotel is the perfect springboard for your journey into Wales.

You will meet your fellow explorers, along with Michael Roberts, your Darwin expert guide. Michael will set the scene for Charles Darwin’s tour of Wales with an engaging talk on the theories of the time, Darwin’s own beliefs and ideas, and the importance of the 1831 Wales expedition to Darwin’s landmark voyage on HMS Beagle, which departed later that year.

  • Darwin’s Townhouse, Shrewsbury, for one night.
  • Group dinner

Day 2: Into Wales: On Darwin’s Trail

Embark on Darwin’s trail by crossing the Welsh border and travelling through key geological sites and a chain of castles, before arriving at Ty’n Rhos Hotel.

Castell Dinas Bran

After a hearty breakfast in Shrewsbury, you’ll be heading over the border into Wales, and following Darwin’s route through the rolling foothills of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

On the way, we’ll stop off at a number of sites where Darwin was taught to ‘read the rocks and landscapes’ by Professor Adam Sedgewick. We will also see the impressive Chirk Aqueduct, 800-year-old Chirk Castle, and the hilltop ruin of Castle Dinas Bran.

Rounding off the day, we’ll travel through Gwydir Forest Park to reach your accommodation for the next few days, Ty’n Rhos. This comfortable, 19-bedroom country house hotel is the ideal place to unwind after the day’s expedition.

  • Ty’n Rhos Hotel, Caernarfon for three nights
  • Group dinner

Day 3: Cwm Idwal: Mountains, Valleys and Lakes

Spend the morning in Cwm Idwal, a spectacular glacial amphitheatre rich in Darwin’s history, and a place of captivating beauty and geological interest.

Llyn Idwal and the Devils Kitchen

Heading out from Ty’n Rhos, the morning’s drive will take you to the Cwm Idwal, the very first Welsh National Nature Reserve, and an important site in Charles Darwin’s scientific life.

With its own plant life and distinctive, fossil-filled boulders, Cwm Idwal and Llyn Ogwen Lake helped to spark Darwin’s understanding of rock movements and deep time. He also revisited the area in later years, and enhanced his knowledge on how glaciation created the extraordinary landscape.

Leaving the valley, we’ll take lunch at Plas y Brenin, an old coaching inn where Darwin stayed and dined. Plas y Brenin has stunning views of Wales’s tallest mountain, the towering Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa, in Welsh). Snowdonia is an uplifted, 400-million-year-old volcanic centre, and a product of a millennia of ice ages and glacial movement – all key inspirations for Darwin as he developed his understanding of landscapes.

We will spend the afternoon tracking Darwin’s journey across Snowdonia. Highlights include assessing the glacial landscapes of Nant Peris and a visit to the National Slate Museum at Llanberis, a site dedicated to one of Wales’ most famous and contested exports (the origin of slates was large scientific controversy in Darwin’s time). The Museum contains the largest working waterwheel in Britain, and exhibitions showing how slate workers lived and worked.

  • Return to Ty’n Rhos in the evening
  • Group dinner

Day 4: Anglesey: Into the Unknown

Explore the idyllic Isle of Anglesey, a land of rugged coasts, multicoloured mines and lonely lighthouses.

Lighthouse

Today we’ll be exploring what is now considered part of Darwin’s first tour. No official records show that Darwin visited the Isle of Anglesey, but Michael’s research has uncovered plenty of evidence to suggest that he accompanied Cambridge Professor Adam Sedgwick to the island.

Your Anglesey tour will take you to the north-west corner of the island and the dramatic coastal scenery and 1809 lighthouse at South Stack. Darwin and Sedgwick’s tour was guided by John Stevens Henslow and his pioneering new geological map of Anglesey. Also, a Cambridge Professor, Henslow became Darwin’s friend and mentor, a sounding board for his developing thoughts and ideas, and the man who ‘fixed’ Darwin’s place on board the Beagle.

Darwin’s finds on Anglesey, including small areas of rare serpentinite rocks holding fragments of ancient oceans, helped him propose a new hypothesis for the origin of the St Peter and St Paul Archipelago in the Atlantic, which he visited during his voyage on the Beagle.

We will also visit the fascinating Parys Mountain, a huge source of copper which has been mined for ~4,000 years, leaving vivid streaks of colour spattered across the landscape. On our way off the island, we’ll pick up some culture at the Oriel Môn, a gallery dedicated to Welsh art and artists, such as the famous landscape painter Sir Kyffin Williams.

  • Lunch near South Stack
  • Return to Ty’n Rhos in the evening
  • Group dinner

Day 5: Returning to Shrewsbury: Sights of Snowdonia

Take the scenic route back to Shrewsbury via a vineyard, the magnificent Snowdonia National Park, and more of the Darwin trail.

Cadair Idris Mountain

It’s time to bid farewell to Ty’n Rhos and head back to Shrewsbury, but don’t worry – the journey back is through the spectacular landscapes of southern Snowdonia.

After a pleasant morning stop in, yes, a Welsh vineyard, we’ll head south through Snowdonia, following part of the ‘long walk’ Darwin made in 1831 to meet his Cambridge friends in Barmouth. A few stops along the way will reveal some of the key geological wonders Darwin and other geological giants of the 1800’s visited. Like Darwin, we will lunch in Barmouth. From here, we will pass around the Cadair Idris mountain, with its shark-toothed profile, and hear the tales about earlier giants from Welsh folklore that have ‘inhabited’ this landscape.

  • Return to Darwin’s Townhouse in the evening
  • Group dinner

Day 6: Darwin’s Town & Journey’s End

It’s nearly the end of the Wales tour, but there’s time to explore the start of Darwin’s story, with visits to key locations from his early life.

Darwin Statue

After a restful night at Darwin’s Townhouse, you’ll have the morning to take a guided tour around Shrewsbury. Accompanied by your expert, take in the significant sites from Darwin’s childhood. Darwin was born in Shrewsbury in 1809 and the town still holds his historic home, The Mount, and the distinct rounded church of St Chad’s where he was baptised. We also plan to have a private visit to the famous Shrewsbury School to view some of Darwin’s letters and manuscripts, not normally accessible to the public.

Other places of interest are Darwin’s old school (now the town library), and the enigmatic ‘Bellstone’, a mysterious rock that was later demystified when Darwin returned to the town armed with geological knowledge. Famously, Darwin’s tour of Wales (which you have just retraced) concluded in Shrewsbury, where he received the coveted invitation to join the Beagle voyage and sailed into history.

The tour will conclude in the late morning, and you’ll be able to continue exploring the historic delights of Shrewsbury or begin the journey home.

Single Supplement

There is a charge of £234 / $293 in May and £335 / $419 in September for solo travellers

Activity Level and Transport

The activity level is rated as MODERATE, requiring an average level of fitness (see our definitions here). The tour will involve walking in generally easy terrain but will require good walking boots and a moderate level of fitness (please note, some paths may be uneven and loose underfoot). Walks and hikes are generally up to 2 miles long.

Transport will be by small luxury coach.

May in north Wales is typically mild to warm. Rain is always possible, so you should bring warm and waterproof clothing, along with sturdy, waterproof footwear.

If walking is an issue, alternative arrangements can be made during the scheduled longer walks, so please let GeoCultura know in advance. To enjoy the full experience, a good level of fitness is required – please call us to discuss this if you have any concerns.

Our itineraries are flexible, and we will always try to take advantage of good weather to visit outdoor locations in Wales. In the event of poor weather, alternative places to visit and eat will be arranged.

The Tour Includes/Excludes

The Tour Includes:

  • The services of your tour expert who will be with the group throughout the tour, staying at the same hotel
  • Local experts who will accompany the group and give talks on selected days
  • All transportation costs from the start to the end of the tour, including the services of a professional coach driver.
  • All accommodation costs for the nights stated, assuming two people sharing a double room. Single occupancy rooms are available for a surcharge. Please contact GeoCultura for details.
  • All breakfasts and lunches, and five dinners.
  • Entry fees, local guide fees and activity fees, where arranged as part of the tour.
  • All service charges and most gratuities

The Tour Excludes:

  • Travel insurance. Guests should carry their own health and travel insurance.
  • Alcoholic drinks with meals are not included.
  • Extra or optional activities not described in the itinerary.
  • Personal expenditures, including bar bills, and extras at hotels, such as laundry
  • Transportation to the start venue or from the end venue of the tour
  • Passport and visa fees.

Alternate Activities

Our tour leaders are happy to provide suggestions for alternative activities for guests who prefer not to participate in certain parts of the tour walks or visits, or group dinners.

Accommodation

Nights 1 & 5: Darwin’s Townhouse, Shrewsbury

Bedroom at Darwin's Townhouse

Tucked away in the heart of Shrewsbury, Darwin’s Townhouse is a Grade II* listed building, and offers a 19-bedroom boutique bed and breakfast experience, just steps away from the River Severn and the eclectic town. Outside the Townhouse, ‘there is a terrific lawned garden and a light-filled conservatory where locally sourced breakfast brings artisan jams [and] free-range eggs from Hollowdene’s happy hens’. Good Hotel Guide (46th edition)

 

Nights 2-4: Ty’n Rhos, Caernarfon

Ty'n Rhos Country House
A ‘beautifully situated’ country house hotel, the Ty’n Rhos has grown out of a former farmstead to include 19 bedrooms and a restaurant. Along with its ‘comfortable, well-equipped’ bedrooms, the Ty’n Rhos’ menu includes ‘marinated wild trout’, and ‘haddock with Welsh rarebit’ for breakfast. Good Hotel Guide (46th edition)

Note: If required for reasons beyond our control, GeoCultura reserves the right to substitute alternate accommodations of equal or higher quality.

Deposit and Payment Terms

Deposit: A deposit of 10% of the tour price is due upon registration for a tour.

Final payment: Full payment is due 60 days before a tour begins, or upon registration if within the 60-day window.

Cancellation by participant: A participant may cancel a registration after securing a confirmed place on a tour for any reason. The following refund terms will apply:

  • Greater than 60 days before tour begins: Any monies paid plus half of the deposit will be refunded
  • 30 to 59 days before tour begins: 35% of tour price will be refunded
  • 15 to 29 days before tour begins: 25% of tour price will be refunded
  • Within 14 days of tour or during the tour: No monies will be refunded

Cancellation by GeoCultura: GeoCultura reserves the right to cancel any tour due to low enrolment, inability to run the tour or concerns about the safety, health or welfare of participants. If a tour is cancelled before it begins, all monies paid will be refunded (including any deposit).

Please refer to our Terms and Conditions page for additional details.

Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts

Eminently qualified to tell the story of Charles Darwin and his discoveries, Michael Roberts has travelled the world as a geologist, but also practiced as a vicar in north Wales, bringing together the sometimes-opposing worlds of science and religion.

Michael’s travels as a geologist have taken him to Africa and closer to home, to the spectacular mountain ranges of Wales and Snowdonia, as he traces the footsteps of Darwin across the landscape.

For his work in bridging the gap between Darwin’s research and Christian teachings, Michael’s efforts have been recognised by a number of institutions, including the John Templeton Foundation which awarded him the Exemplary Paper in Science and Theology prize for “Darwin’s Doubts about Design”.

Michael remains an active scholar in studying Darwin, geology and the role religion has played in developing scientific theories and likes to remain physically active too by cycling and mountain climbing across Wales.

 

Rob Knipe

Rob Knipe

Rob has immersed himself in the Scottish Highlands for more than 40 years, during which time he has developed a passion for its geology and landscapes that almost rivals his passion for his native Wales!

Rob has won awards for his work, including the prestigious William Smith Medal from The Geological Society of London, and is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

Rob is currently involved in Energy Transition, and works with local and national groups promoting changes towards a carbon neutral society. He is also part of the World Heritage Site team working to raise awareness of the slate landscapes in North Wales.

Upcoming tours
13 - 18 May 2024
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