Roald Dahl tours – trips to the unexpected
Trace the Welsh roots of the beloved author and stay at his boyhood holiday home
Roald Dahl Plass in Cardiff: a public space named after the author.
Afternoon tea was rather fabulous. There were scrumdiddlyumptious snozzberries, edible teapots, yummy scrummy sandwich bars, loopy lollipop shortbread and lots and lots of levitating, lifting liquid. And, consequently, lots and lots of whizz poppers.
Which had everyone going “Yipeee!” because, as the BFG in all of us knows, whizz-popping is a sign of happiness.
In the centenary of his birth and with the release of Steven Spielberg’s movie The BFG, the Lolfa Cynin working dairy and sheep farm in St Clears, Carmarthenshire, on the Welsh coast now offers Roald Dahl afternoon teas (“with whipped cream whipped with real whips”), family-orientated Dahl-themed holidays and weekend breaks with a Dahlian twist.
It is a mini Roald Dahl theme park.
“We’ve been amazed by the response. The adults get into it as much as the kids,” says Gwawr Davies, whose father, Dyfrig, also gives lambing workshops on the 440-acre family farm.
Roald Dahl was born in the Cardiff suburb of Llandaff in 1916. Named after the Norwegian explorer who beat Scott to the North Pole, he grew up in Radyr, just outside the city. In 1920, after the deaths of his sister Astri and father Harold – of appendicitis and pneumonia respectively – the family moved back into the city, to Cumberland Lodge.
Dahl attended Llandaff Cathedral School in Cardiff. The site of the original Lutheran church where he was baptised is now the Red Dragon cinema, bowling and restaurant complex. “Cardiff on Foot” city tours include Dahl landmarks such as Roald Dahl Plass, an open area next to the Millennium Centre. Walking guide Nigel Bevan says: “It’s strange one of the greatest English-language children’s writers was actually baptised in Norwegian.”
Dahl’s father may have been a wealthy Norwegian shipping broker and timber merchant but a Chinese takeaway is probably Cardiff’s most popular Roald Dahl landmark. The Great Wall of China restaurant on Llandaff High Street has a blue plaque, commemorating where Dahl and four “accomplices” allegedly put a mouse in a gobstopper jar in what was then their local sweet shop.
It is thought the strict owner of Mrs Pratchett’s Sweet Shop inspired Matilda’s cruel school headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. (And that a local builder may have inspired the BFG.)
In his autobiographical Boy: Tales of Childhood Dahl described the Trunchbullian proprietrix of his local sweet shop as “a small skinny old hag with a moustache on her upper lip, little piggy eyes and a mouth as sour as green gooseberry”. He and his friends hid the mouse in her gobstopper jar, an act that secured him a flogging in his school.
To commemorate the centenary of its famous son, the city of Cardiff will transform over the weekend of September 17th and 18th to a City of the Unexpected, with pop-up performances of Dahl’s work, exhibitions and a Great Pyjamas Party in Bute Park.
Before then, on September 13th, Dahlicious Dress Up Day will see children and adults dress up as characters from the famous books, with all proceeds going to Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Medicine Children’s Charity, which raises money to provide nurses and family support to children suffering from serious illnesses.
There will also be a free exhibition, Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, with illustrations of Roald Dahl’s tales and characters, at the National Museum Cardiff until November 20th. You can learn more about the life of the author, spy, fighter pilot and inventor at The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl experience at Wales Millennium Centre, also in Cardiff. The hour-long experince runs until January 14th 2017 with tickets from £8/€9.40.
Dahl film fans will be making pilgrimages to Dahl locations this year. The Headland Hotel, Newquay, in Cornwall was the location for The Witches (1990). Matilda (1996) was filmed in California. Miss Trunchbull’s house is at 2186 East Crary Street, Altadena. Willie Wonka and His Chocolate Factory (1971), starring the late Gene Wilder, who passed away just this week, was shot on location in Munich. Dustin Hoffman and Dame Judi Dench filmed Esio Trot (2014) in Hackney, east London.
But Wales is real Dahl country, and you can even stay in Dahl’s old holiday home.
The Dahl family holidayed in Tenby every Easter for 20 years. In My Year (1993), he fondly remembered “donkey rides on the beach and the long walks with the dogs along the top of the cliffs opposite Caldey Island . . . we adored Tenby”.
The family stayed at The Cabin overlooking the harbour. Once part of the town’s assembly and bath rooms, it is now owned by Dahl’s niece and is available for rent (coastalcottages.co.uk, from £532/€622 for seven nights).
The kitchen looks out over the harbour to the sailing school and tiny 1878 St Julian’s fishermen’s church.
Through the next window, you look over North beach and Carmarthen Bay. On the ground floor below is Caldey Island storehouse. The ferry to the monastic island (and its chocolate factory) leaves from outside the Dahl house.
HOW TO ... DAHL’S WALES
Get there: Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies direct from Dublin to Cardiff. For details of Cardiff’s centenary events, see cityoftheunexpected.wales
Stay: The Cabin , Coastal Cottages of Pembrokeshire, 01437 767600, coastalcottages.co.uk. Starts from £532.
Eat: Lolfa Cynin family overnight packages start from £145. Additional nights available from £105 per family room. Afternoon tea only available for £10 per child & £15 per grown up ‘human beans’. (email@example.com)