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Holidays, as we understand them today, are very much a British invention. From the Grand Tour of the 18th century, to the seaside excursions, Britons pioneered the summer holiday.

Thomas Pennant, National Portrait Gallery, London D19671
Thomas Pennant, National Portrait Gallery, London D19671

The first tourist guide in the world was produced by Thomas Pennant when he published his Tour of Scotland in 1771. In the same year he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford. He visited the continent and made the acquaintance of Voltaire, the famous French author and philosopher.

Pennant was born in northern Wales, educated at Oxford and destined to become confidante of Sir Joseph Banks who had welcomed Pennant as a Fellow of the Royal Society, London in 1767. His friends included Captain James Cook and Francis Grose senior, whose son, also Francis, administered the colony of New South Wales when Arthur Phillip returned to England in 1792. His keen interest and support of the journeys of these men to the other side of the world possibly led to his name becoming preserved in that of the suburb we now know as Pennant Hills. Under the patronage system of the eighteenth century, the colonial pioneers often acknowledged their supporters in England by naming geographical features in their honour, although many of these people never travelled to Australia.

Pennant commenced writing Outlines of the Globe, based on his correspondence with the major explorers around the world. There are four volumes of this work and in volume four are the details of the settlement at Sydney Cove obtained through his correspondence with Joseph Banks.

In many ways, Thomas Pennant was the 18th century equivalent of legendary British naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.