The River Wye has long been celebrated for its exceptional, picturesque beauty. Though for centuries a busy navigation, with trows and barges trading up and downstream, not to mention the many who fished for salmon from their coracles of ancient design, few large towns grew up, nor heavy industry came to despoil its lovely landscape, market towns and villages. In 1782 William Gilpin's illustrated book Observations on the Wye encouraged a rich flow of wealthy tourists to embark on 'The Wye Tour' - an excursion, by boat, from Ross-on-Wye to Chepstow. That book was followed in 1797 by Picturesque Views on the Wye by Gilpin's contemporary, the artist and author Samuel Ireland, who described the river from its source on Plynlimon down to Chepstow, near its confluence with the Severn. The mood of the moment was the 'discovery' of the beauty of wild nature and the 'picturesque' so the Wye quickly attracted poets and artists such as William Wordsworth and J.M.W. Turner, with their pens and paints. Indeed, even Admiral Lord Nelson came to take 'The Wye Tour', by boat, in 1802.
During the 19th century many further guides to the Wye and its delights were published, including those by Thomas Roscoe, Leitch Ritchie, Lousia Anne Twamley and Mr and Mrs S.C. Hall. All were illustrated and our present author has made very skilful use of the best of these early aquatints and engravings, interwoven with early photographs of the landscape, to illustrate her brilliant account of the Wye.