Letters Describing a Tour Through Part of South Wales


“Letters Describing a Tour Through Part of South Wales” was written by Armand-Louis-Bon Maudet, Comte de Penhouët (1764 – 1839) and published in 1797. The book is a collection of letters written to an anonymous lady and “sketches of every object that had attracted my attention.”

The Breton aristocrat was in exile in Britain because of the French Revolution.

He travelled from Caerphilly to Castell Coch in June 1796 and commented on the “beautifully striking” landscape. He continued south to Cardiff but wasn’t impressed by the town, describing it as, “a miserable place”.

Letters Describing a Tour Through Part of South Wales

By a Pedestrian Traveller

with views, designed and etched by the author

In the preface, Armand-Louis-Bon explains that the work was not originally intended for publication. He was persuaded by his friends to, “lay it before the public” and describes his illustrations as, “the feeble performances of an amateur.”

His first letter was written in Caeleon on June 4th 1796 and the final one from Old Passage on June 27th. (“Old Passage” is the name of an early passage across the River Severn in the village of Aust in Gloucestershire.)


This early illustration of Castell Coch is fascinating. I’ve spent quite a while trying to work out where the Comte de Penhouët could have been when he sketched this view. It’s fair to assume that this was never meant to be a perfectly accurate rendition of the landscape.

It’s a charming scene with figures I like to imagine are enjoying a quiet walk by the river.

Mr and Mrs Hall, who visited the castle more than 60 years later, included sketches by Edmund Wimperis that show what the ruins looked like in the late 18th Century.

Illustration of Castell Coch from, "Letters Describing a Tour Through Part of South Wales", 1797


“After travelling six miles through the valley, the mountains are much closer to each other, and indeed appear almost united at the spot where Cogh Castle, (i.e. Red Castle) is situated.

“The road lies on the other side of the Bridge, which we crossed in order to have a more perfect view of the Castle. From this place the prospect is beautifully striking, the rocky summit of the mountain of a blueish tint forms a fine contrast with the red earth and thick foliage, which ornament its sides.”

Text from, "Letters Describing a Tour Through Part of South Wales", 1797

Dr Rita Singer published, “Through Wales in the Footsteps of William Gilpin: Illustrated Travel Accounts by Early French Tourists, 1768–1810” in 2019, which contains some fascinating insights about Armand-Louis-Bon Maudet and is well worth a read.

You can read the whole book on Google Books.

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Jack is the editor of CastellCoch.com and Tongwynlais.com.

2 thoughts on “Letters Describing a Tour Through Part of South Wales”

  1. I love these articles of the Castle. Living in the Ton it is so easy to forget how significant the castle was in the landscape before the development of the village from a drover stop to a suburb of the City.

    Even as a ruin it clearly made quite an impact, post the Bute renovations an even greater one. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I’ve made it a pleasant point to visit or view Castle Coch during my 32 family-history visits to South Wales since 1968. My great grandparents Matthews and many other ancestors lived in the Ton, Taffs Well and Ponty. I’ve enjoyed sharing many visits to the castle with many of my extended family members in Caerphilly, Llanbradach and Penpedairheol. I often think of the history that lies within the ruin of the original castle. And nothing can beat the beauty of the view of the Castle Coch from Iron Bridge. Thanks for the taste of how an ancient pedestrian experience the scene!

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