The Daily Telegraph - Travel
The magical worlds of Roald Dahl
Chris Moss picks eight of the best places to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the inspirational children’s writer
The centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth is a great excuse to revisit his vivid imaginary universes. Although Dahl travelled extensively abroad, hiking around Newfoundland in his teens, later working for Shell in East Africa, flying as an RAF pilot in Iraq, Palestine and Greece and spending time as assistant air attaché at the British Embassy in Washington DC, his imagination was forged closer to home, in the Cardiff suburbs and at Weston-super-Mare and in Derbyshire, where he was schooled. He spent happy childhood holidays in Norway and in Tenby, Pembrokeshire. As for Gipsy House, his Great Missenden home, far from being a staid suburban hideaway, it housed the greenhouse where James’s giant peach was conceived, an old caravan that Dahl wrote about in Danny, the Champion of the World and a birdhouse filled with giant green bottles, which fans of The BFG will know were actually “dream catchers”. Here are some of the best places in Britain to find a dusting of Dahl magic.
Southbank Centre, London
Open now and running until July 3 (when it transfers to the Wales Millennium Centre), The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl showcases archival material from the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and takes visitors on an interactive journey through seven immersive worlds that explore Dahl’s life, characters and stories.
Open daily, for children aged seven to 12. £10 adults, £8 children (southbankcentre.co.uk).
Also in London, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: the New Musical is at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Tickets from £17.50 (charlieandthechocolatefactory.com).
Tatton Park, Cheshire
Spreading Dahl-love northward, the historic estate near Knutsford has organised themed Roald Dahl character trails through the gardens, mansion, farm and parkland as well as outdoor theatre and cinema events, a birthday picnic, courses and special events.
Family ticket (two adults plus up to three children) £27.50. Some activities have a small additional charge (tattonpark.org.uk). The writer, below; and young actors performing The Wondercrump World of Roald Dahl, below left
This year’s Hay Festival will feature several Dahlthemed events, including art installations by Hereford College of Art, a discussion on the writer’s most villainous villains with Lindsey Russell of Blue Peter, and performances for children.
Free entry to site. Individual events from £10. May 26-June 5 (hayfestival.com).
Great Missenden, Bucks
The Buckinghamshire countryside, in which Dahl spent the latter half of life, provided the backdrop for Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox and Danny, the Champion of the World. In 1954, Dahl and his then wife Patricia Neal bought Whitefield Cottage in Great Missenden, which was later renamed Gipsy House and is now a privately owned home. Dahl is buried in the cemetery of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, while sights around Great Missenden include “Danny’s dad’s petrol pumps” and the house that provided the inspiration for Sophie’s orphanage in The BFG. The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre – established by the author’s second wife, Felicity, in 2005 – is the main keeper of archives, memorabilia and photos. In 2012, Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut, including his customised writing chair, was moved from the garden at Gipsy
Adults £6.60, children £4.40, underfives free. Family ticket (two adults plus up to three children) £21 (roalddahl. com/museum).
Roald Dahl was born at Villa Marie (now Ty Gwyn), an Arts and Crafts house on Fairwater Road in Llandaff, Cardiff. From July 16-24, Cardiff hosts its annual Children’s Literary Festival, which this year includes a Dahl-inspired treasure hunt across the city centre and themed workshops in storyboarding, scriptwriting, poetry and prose, organised by Literature Wales. Sessions are in English and Welsh. Between July 16 and November 20, the National Museum will showcase Inside Stories, an exhibition of work by Quentin Blake, who illustrated many of the author’s books. On the weekend of September 17-18, Cardiff will host City of the Unexpected. Parkour artists, pigeon fanciers, puppeteers and farmers will give performances in Victorian shopping arcades, cafés, parks and out on the city’s streets. Later on, during Dahl After Dark, some of his lesser-known short stories for adults will be told.
See (museumwales.ac.uk/cardiff) and (cityoftheunexpected.wales).