My Perfect Day: Dan Snow
Dan Snow, son of political presenter Peter Snow, is the ‘History Hunter’ on The One Show and presented Norman Walks on BBC Four. Here he tells walk about his favourite things…
Where would you wake up on your perfect day?
In Criccieth, north Wales, where my nin (that’s Welsh for grandmother) grew up. The castle there is rare for being Welsh-built rather than Norman or Plantagenet. It looks out to Harlech, Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula to the east. I’d recreate a childhood walk, climbing up Moel-y-Gest.
And the ideal meal and drink?
I’d return to Criccieth for Cadwalader’s Ice Cream Café, and then have Welsh lamb and parsnips. I’m also fond of Welsh beer.
What’s the best way to bring a landscape alive?
An expert guide can really bring a place to life. I’ve just come back from the Crimea, where the battlefield guides are amazing. Second best is technology, so you can show what it was like for 2,000 Saxons on the ridge in Battle, East Sussex, just before the Battle of Hastings. Graphics let you imagine the noise and the chaos.
You were once a guide in the Rockies…
Not a very expert one – but it was a terrific gap year. The Canadians have kept the feeling of wilderness, unlike the Himalayas or the Andes, where you’re aware of swathes of industry and opencast mining. The Rockies are magnificently managed.
You’re descended from both Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George and a First World War general. Is there a pressure to live up to the family name?
There’s no sense of needing to act up. Lloyd George was a philandering, morally ambiguous character, and a World War One general is hardly a useful role model for the 21st century. I’m lucky to have these ancestors, but I’d point to my mum, journalist Ann MacMillan, and grandmother as far better role models.
Tell us more about Norman Walks…
It’s a series of three walks exploring what light the landscape can shed on our Norman past. The first one follows the path of the invasion, from Pevensey – where William the Conqueror’s army landed in 1066 – up through the marshlands to Battle. The second is a ‘three castles walk’ along the Welsh borders, going through Monmouthshire and taking in Skenfrith, the White Castle and Grosmont. It’s very beautiful. Finally, there’s a short walk in North Yorkshire, along an escarpment from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey.
What legacy have the Normans left in our present-day British landscape?
Apart from the New Forest, which William I had cleared for hunting, the landscape has changed. There isn’t much the Normans would recognise if they returned.
So what would you say is the Normans’ finest extant remnant?
Chepstow Castle is a very provocative building. An impressive ducal palace, built on a stunning natural position on the Welsh side of the Severn.
Are you concerned about government cuts affecting Britain’s heritage and footpath network?
As someone with a love for history, I believe that we need to protect our magnificent heritage. In 2007, I was one of 22 historians highlighting the need for more funding for English Heritage. And footpaths are essential for letting us enjoy some of the remotest and most idyllic places in Britain, such as my favourite Loch Merkland in Sutherland.
Do you row with your father over politics at the dinner table?
We have similar political views. But we take up alternative points of view sometimes, to practise the arguments. And we do argue about historical turning points, and their significance.
Image by Andrew Tait.