THE beauty of mid Wales is no secret to its inhabitants.

It was certainly not lost on novelist Daniel Defoe who visited Radnorshire between 1724 and 1726.

The author of Robinson Crusoe had written of his awe at the landscape.

He wrote: “Its mountains were far more awe inspiring than those of the Alps or the Andes because they rose up 'at once, from the lowest valleys, to the highest summits' and thereby their height was made to look 'horrid and frightful, even worse than those mountains abroad; which tho' much higher, rise as it were, one behind another'.

Defoe had been tempted to see the 'great cataract or water fall of the River Wye, at a place called Rhaeadr Gwy in Welsh, but was prevented 'by reason of a great flood at that time, which made the way dangerous.’

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Daniel Defoe.

Defoe’s views of Radnorshire had been in stark contrast to previous famed tourists.

A hundred years earlier the historian and cartographer John Speed had complained of “the inaccessible mountains whereof this shire is overpressed and burdened, many times I feared to look down from the hanging rocks, whereunder I passed into those deep and dark dales, seeming to me an entrance into limbo.”

However, by the 18th century the reputation of Radnorshire as a place of beauty had been further enhanced as tourists looked to follow the example of Defoe.

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Radnorshire landscape. Picture: Geograph

Clergymen were particularly given to this kind of activity with the Revd William Gilpin sketching the River Wye after his visit in 1770 while the Revd Richard Warner visited in 1797, walking from Builth Wells to Rhayader.

With war clouds looming over Europe the Grand Tour of high society had to look closer to home for their holidays.

Among them had been Romantic poet William Wordsworth and Percy Shelley.

Wordsworth had family in the area and visited in 1793, 1798, 1810, 1812 and 1824, penning the words ‘O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer thro' the woods, How often has my spirit turned to thee.’

County Times:

William Wordsworth.

In 1811 Shelley came to the Elan Valley and stayed a month as the guest of his cousin, Thomas Grove, at the mansion of Cwmelan.

The stay had an affect on Shelley who had sought to move to the area the following year to a house known as Nantgwylt of which he wrote “Give me Nantgwillt: fix me in this spot, so retired, so lovely, so fit for the seclusion of those who think and feel. Fate, I ask no more.’

Protracted negotiations for its lease, came to nothing, as did Shelley's dream of establishing an 'asylum of distressed virtue, the rendezvous of the friends of liberty and truth'.

County Times:

Percy Shelley.

However Defoe, Wordsworth and Shelley’s love of Radnorshire had not been the only reason it had come to enjoy a growing fame as the magical healing waters of Llandrindod Wells had seen the town dubbed the ‘Montpellier of Wales.’

Victorians flocked to Radnorshire for its healing spas and perhaps found remedies in the water as the Romantics had in the county’s landscape.