1816 Byron Summer Tour

1816 Byron Summer Tour

In the summer of 1816, Shelley, Mary, and Claire visited Byron at his Villa Diodati in Coligny. The villa is high on a hill, overlooking Lake Geneva (also known locally as Lac Leman). About halfway down the hill was a modest cottage, where the trio stayed from May until the end of August. Shelley and Byron enjoyed boating, and in June toured the lake to its easternmost border including a visit the castle of Chillon—a round trip of roughly ninety miles.

The party first stayed at the Hotel Angleterre in Geneva. The building is currently undergoing a rather drastic renovation. The building company, however, has draped the building site with early images of the hotel, including the one below, which shows the hotel in 1800.

The group moved to Cologny, where Byron lived at the Villa Diodati, and the Shelley party occupied a cottage between the villa and the lake.

Byron’s Villa Diodati still stands in Coligny on a private road (the Champs du Parc-de-Montelegre). The building is on a high slope overlooking Lake Geneva. Below it, a nineteenth-century villa has been built on the site of Shelley’s cottage. Members of the Byron Society were allowed inside Diodati a few years ago, but the property is privately owned and not available to visitors.

The Coach House.

The northeastern view from Byron’s home in Coligny.

Villa Diodati—eastern face.

North view from the site of Shelley’s cottage at Coligny.

The wall surrounding Diodati.


North face of Diodati, overlooking the lake.

Although "Mont Blanc" was appended to the History of a Six Weeks’ Tour, the Shelleys did not actually see the Chamonix glaciers, Mer de glace, and Vale of Arve until the 1816 trip two years later. They of course can still be found, although the best views of the glaciers are reserved for the intrepid hiker who follows the three-mile trail leading up from the Mont Blanc tunnel car park.

A four-lane highway now borders the Vale of Arve, but there are ample pullouts that allow tourists to descend (the descent is a bit scary in spots) and have something approaching Shelley’s own view in "Mont Blanc." After making twenty or so stops, I found the site which best seemed to approximate the view described in the poem—complete with a nest of clouds partially obscuring Mont Blanc’s summit.