Swansea and Gower, in Dylan Thomas’ footsteps

The “ugly, lovely town” of Swansea was Dylan’s home for more than half his short life. To trace his story, visit his birthplace and raise a glass in a few of his favourite haunts.

  • Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

    Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

    In Swansea’s former Guildhall, the Dylan Thomas Centre is a museum and cultural centre which houses an exhibition of letters, manuscripts, publications and recordings which celebrate Dylan Thomas’ life and work. You can hear live readings and talks, too. The centre hosts literary events throughout the year, including the annual Dylan Thomas festival in late October and early November.

  • Exterior of 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea

    5 Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea

    David John Thomas and his wife Florence (Florrie) bought this sizeable house in 1914, when it was brand new. Florrie gave birth to their son Dylan here a few months later. It remained their family home until 1937. It has now been restored to the way it might have been furnished during Dylan’s earliest years. You can look around, attend a dinner or event or stay overnight.

  • Cwmdonkin Park, Swansea

    Cwmdonkin Park, Swansea

    When Dylan was a boy, he loved his local park. Rather than walking round to the main gate, he’d scramble over a wall to get in by the fastest possible route. The rare cedars and redwoods found here were imported by the keepers of Kew Gardens, who used this sheltered spot as a testing ground.

  • Called The Uplands Hotel in Dylan’s day, this was Dylan’s local, where his love of pub culture took hold. As he put it: “I liked the taste of beer, its live white lather, its brass-bright depths, the sudden world through the wet brown walls of the glass, the tilted rush to the lips and the slow swallowing down to the lapping belly, the salt on the tongue, the foam at the corners.”

  • Captain Cat statue, Swansea Maritime Quarter

    Captain Cat statue, Swansea Maritime Quarter

    This waterside square is a short stroll from the pubs of Wind Street, where Dylan would retreat between shifts at the South Wales Evening Post. In the square, a statue of the writer , perched on a chair, gazes out over the marina. Behind it is the Dylan Thomas Theatre, home to his old company, the Swansea Little Theatre. There’s also a statue of Captain Cat from Under Milk Wood nearby.

  • For Dylan and his contemporaries, the Kardomah was the equivalent of the Café de Flore in Paris or The Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village, New York – a place where artists, poets, writers and musicians would gather to drink and discuss. After the original Kardomah, on Castle Street, was obliterated by bombing during the war, the business moved to Portland Street. 

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    St Helens and the Patti Pavilion

    Swansea Bay, with its distant views of Devon, was a lasting inspiration to Dylan. He would watch cricket and attend fairs and circuses at the St Helen’s cricket ground on the bay, describing them in his radio play Holiday Memory. The Patti Pavilion, built by the opera singer Adelina Patti as a winter garden, appears in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog, renamed the Melba Pavilion.

  • View towards Mumbles from Swansea Maritime Quarter

    Mumbles, Swansea

    Mumbles was one of the villages which inspired Under Milk Wood. Dylan, an enthusiastic and talented amateur actor, ostensibly came here to rehearse with the Swansea Little Theatre at a church hall on Mumbles Road. However, pubs proved a major distraction. One of his favourite haunts, The Mermaid, has disappeared, but The Antelope and The Marine, renamed The Village Inn, still stand.

  • Dylan’s aunt Dosie was married to a preacher, the Reverend David Rees, and the whole family attended his Sunday services here at Paraclete. For Dylan, who once wrote of his uncle “I hate you from your dandruff to your corns!”, this was a penance. However, the Reverend’s fire-and-brimstone delivery, full of the passion the Welsh call hwyl, had a profound influence on Dylan’s own declamatory style.

  • Rhossili, Gower Peninsula

    Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula

    This spectacular beach was a favourite for young Dylan. He visited on camping trips with friends, sometimes walking all the way from the Uplands, as two of his characters do in the story Who do you wish was with us? Later in life, he returned with his wife Caitlin and friends. He even considered moving to the village of Rhossili, but dropped the idea when he realised it didn’t have a pub.

Find out more about Dylan Thomas and the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival.