Hidden gems of the Llŷn Peninsula – Plas yn Rhiw and Pernarth Fawr

You have to be a bit determined to get here. Tucked away on the southern coast of the Llyn Peninsula and after a couple of miles on narrow lanes, you reach one of Wales’ prettiest manor houses – Plas yn Rhiw. The 17th century Tudor/Georgian style manor house and terraced garden overlook the beach of Porth Neigwl, Cardigan Bay and Llŷn Peninsula in Gwynned, northwestern Wales. The history of the estate goes back even further to neolithic times and today is under the care of the National Trust .

Now, when you hear manor house you might think of stately homes with columns at the front, lion flanked stairs leading up to an impressive entrance and big windows through which you can see rich paintings and chandeliers. A Welsh manor house in a location like this is somewhat smaller and more solid build but what it might lack in size and grandeur it sure gains in atmosphere and charm. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take any photographs inside but let me show you around the grounds.

The 17th century house was built for a descended from a ninth-century King of Powys and from there passed through the family until 1874, when it was bought and occupied by a series of tenants.
After being abandoned it was finally acquired by the Keating Sisters in 1939 who restored the building and recreated the garden. Big supporters of the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales, they donated the surrounding land of the estate to the National Trust in 1946 and Yn the rest of the property in 1952.

After indulging in a cream tea we headed back home (I was travelling with my parents) when my dad said: “Oh, what’s this with a star on the map, shall we stop there?” (See, that’s one of the perks about travelling old-style with a map instead of a naviagation system, you notice things you otherwise wouldn’t.) It was Penarth Fawr, a medivial hall house with thick stone walls, high ceiling and beautiful timberwork. Today it is under the care of Cadw and was definitely worth our little detour.

 

Yr Eifl revisited

If you read my blog regularly you might remember that I visited the region of Yr Eifl on the Llŷn Peninsula before. But instead of the promised glorious views I got stuck in the clouds and a very cold wind.

I wasn't too impressed last time ( you might be able to tell)  as you couldn't see a thing and the wind was quite fierce and cold.

I wasn’t too impressed last time (you might be able to tell) as I couldn’t see a thing and the wind was quite fierce and cold.

It was time to give it another try as the forecast sounded quite good and what can I say, it was amazing! The views are spectacular and even though it was a very fine day I had the mountains almost all to myself. I won’t bore you with too many details (you can read it in the older post), just enjoy the views.

Looking towards Yr Eifl from the Porth-y-Nant upper car park

Looking towards Yr Eifl from the Porth-y-Nant upper car park

panorama 77-83s

Not too bad so far. Imagine this to be a 3/4 turn. Yr Eifl (left) is actually more behind me, then you get a stunning view across the Llyn Peninsula

Yr Eifl heather

Missed the heather in full bloom but still pretty.

happy face

See. Happy face this time.

panorama 93-95s

On my way to the Tre’r Ceiri Iron Age hill fort looking towards Porthmadog and Snowdonia (roughly)

Tre'r Ceiri 1

Entering the hill fort

Tre'r Ceiri 2

This time you could even make out the round shapes of the stone huts.

panorama 13-19s

Lunch break with a view. Yr Eifl and the heavily quarried and inaccessible Garnfor on the left, looking along the coast line towards Caernarfon.

Tre'r Ceiri 3

Leaving the hill fort through another of the old ramps. Next stop the highest peak of ‘The Rivals’, Yr Eifl.

Tre'r Ceiri 4

Looking back towards the hill fort. The size is astonishing.

Yr Eifl

Almost there.

summit chocolate

Never break with old traditions! ‘Summit chocolate’ – I was introduced to this as a child during summer holiday camps in the Dolomites.

panorama 53-61s

Almost 360º panoramic view from the summit. It was so worth it.

If you’re ever in the area on a nice day, just do it and go up there. There is also a ‘Weatherman Walk’ available for the area.

Walking in the clouds – Yr Eifl

The weather forecast didn’t sound bad: not too much wind, not too cold and some sunny spells. Combine this with a nice walk to the summit of the highest mountain of the Llŷn Peninsula, Yr Eifl, some stunning views over to Anglesey, across the Irish Sea, Cardigan Bay and Snowdonia and you have a perfect day out. Instead I got this.

Tre'r-Ceiri-hillfort-1

It didn’t start too bad though. The clouds had started to clear on my drive to the peninsula so my hopes were high that it would all go away during the course of the day. Well, it didn’t. But, call me stubborn if you want, I was there now so I might as well go up.

I was hopeful that last cloud would pass as well...

I was hopeful that last cloud would pass as well…

... but Tre'r Ceiri and the hill fort was still covered in cloud.

… but Tre’r Ceiri and the hill fort was still covered in cloud.

I started with a visit to Tre’r Ceiri and one of the best preserved and most stunning Iron Age hill forts in Britain. I have been to quite a few so far and usually they are best visible from further away and when you finally climb up there, it’s just an earthen ramp or ring and nothing much else. Well, this one is different.

One of the passages in the rampart.

One of the passages through the rampart.

not-amused

Not amused. The wind was quite fierce on the top and the visibility got worse.

Tre'r-Ceiri-hillfort-3

Even the interpretation panel had had enough and disappeared.

The settlement is surrounded by stone walls which are largely intact and reach up to 4 metres in some places and you enter through passages in the ramparts. Inside there are the remains of 150 round stone huts. You can clearly see the stone walls that make up the round shapes. They would have had turf roofs back then.

Tre'r-Ceiri-hillfort-huts

The round shapes of the huts are quite impressive – if you can see them…

Next stop was the summit of Yr Eifl, Garn Ganol. Yr Eifl basically consists of three peaks and this one is the highest with 561 metres which makes it the highest point on the Llŷn. It was a bit eerie as I couldn’t see far and heard this whistling noise that got louder the higher I got. Turned out to be sculpture on top of the cairn.

Yr-Eifl-summit

Almost there.

Yr-Eifl-summit-2

This is what made the whistling sound. I read somewhere that the metal sculpture is a declaration of love from the blacksmith to his wife. His name beginning with ‘A’, his with ‘H’ the meaning being 4ever. Not sure whether it’s true but I quite like it.

I had originally planned to do a circular walk but by now it was getting late and the visibility got worse so I decided to retrace my steps and head down to Nant Gwyrtheyrn for a nice cuppa (I’m slowly becoming British), a love story and some sea views.

Yr-Eifl-panorama

The sun was shining bright further down.

Yr-Eifl-panorama-2

The views definitely got better as well.

Nant Gwrtheyrn (Vortigern’s Creek) is named after the valley where it is located and lies isolated by the sea at the foot of Yr Eifl. It was formerly known as Porth y Nant, a quarrying village that was abandoned after the cessation of quarrying. It now houses a Welsh Language and Heritage Centre.

Nant-Gwrtheyrn-farm

An abandoned farm at the bottom of the valley.

Nant-Gwrtheyrn-cottages

The old miners’ cottages – two up and two down.

Nant-Gwrtheyrn-farm-house

Another abandoned farm house.

After I had a look around some of the abandoned quarry buildings and structures it was time to head back up (it is quite a climb) to the car park.

Nant-Gwrtheyrn-quarry-4

The area was heavily mined.

Nant-Gwrtheyrn-quarry

It was mainly granite that was mined here.

Nant-Gwrtheyrn-sunset-2

Back up at the centre. Time to head for the car.

Nant-Gwrtheyrn-quarry-2 Nant-Gwrtheyrn-sunset-4

Nant-Gwrtheyrn-sunset

The sculpture commemorates the love story of Rhys and Meinir.

And while I was driving back I was compensated with a beautiful sunset for all the wind and cloud earlier on. The sky was on fire.

Llyn-sunset Llyn-sunset-2 Llyn-sunset-3 Llyn-sunset-4

The tragic love story of Rhys and Meinir

Llanddwyn-Island-Llyn-Peninsula

View from Llanddwyn Island towards the Llŷn Peninsula in the haze.

Recently I told you the story of St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers and Welsh equivalent to St Valentine, and with Valentine’s Day fast approaching I think it’s time for another love story. Unfortunately a tragic one. When I was sitting on the shores of Llanddwyn Island looking over to the Llŷn Peninsula, I remembered a love story I had heard whilst visiting Nant Gwrtheyrn a couple of years ago.

The secluded Nant, which lies in isolation by the sea at the foot of Yr Eifl, is the setting for one of Wales’ most tragic love stories and tells the tale of Rhys and Meinir, who grew up in Nant and after being childhood friends, fell in love and decided to get married. They had a favourite spot under an old oak tree, on the lower slopes of Yr Eifl, the highest mountain on the peninsula.

Yr-Eifl

Yr Eifl hidden in the clouds

A date was set for the wedding and preparations began with neighbours being invited down to Nant the day before the wedding to give gifts to the couple. Everyone was looking forward to this joyful occasion. The people of Nant Gwrtheyrn still kept the tradition of the ‘Wedding Guest’.

But what does this mean?
On the morning of her wedding, the bride would run and hide. While everybody gathered in the church, Rhys’ friends played their part in the tradition and went searching for Meinir, who had headed for the hills. But they couldn’t find her. Rhys kept searching for his sweetheart for months, slowly losing his mind, but to no avail.

Rhys-Meinir-tree-1

Then one stormy night, while he was out wondering in the hills, he took shelter underneath their favourite oak tree when a bolt of lightning struck the the trunk, splitting it in half.
Rhys couldn’t believe his eyes when the splintered tree revealed a skeleton wearing a wedding dress. He had finally found his Meinir. Overcome by emotion, he collapsed and died beside his beloved bride.

There is a symbolic tree in the village which commemorates Rhys and Meinir and visitors claim to have seen two ghosts holding hands on the beach.

Rhys-Meinir-tree-2

Now you might be thinking, she didn’t just drive all the way there to tell us this story and you’re right so let’s start at the beginning and Yr Eifl