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.
500 years of building history come together at the site of Moreton Corbet Castle in Shropshire. Around 1100 the Torets, a family of Saxon descent built the first castle here which passed by marriage into the Corbet family, who gave their name to the village and still own the castle today (although it’s managed by English Heritage now).
When you approach the ruins today, the distinction between the medieval castle ruins and the remains of the later Elizabethan house is more than obvious.
Whereas the first castle buildings were built of timber, from 1200 on they were gradually replaced in stone. Many alterations were made until in the late 16th century Robert Corbet decided to build a new mansion, continued by his brothers after his death.
16th century gatehouse, the entrance to the medieval building, with the remains of the great tower or keep on the right.
Sir Andrew Corbet’s monogram above the date 1579 and the family crest
Inner courtyard with the gatehouse
Front of the later Elizabethan house
Another monogram, probably Robert Corbet, on the Elizabethan mansion
It’s amazing how much detail survived all those centuries
Chimera on the west corner
West front bathed in the evening sun. In the background are the ruins of the medieval castle’s former great hall. The fireplaces and doors to the latrines are clearly visible.
View from the Tudor great hall towards the Elizabethan house
East front and an overview of the whole size of the Elizabethan manor
Built in the late 19th century by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the style of the great Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley, Waddesdon Manor sits on a hilltop overlooking Waddesdon village in Buckinghamshire.
Wanting a country retreat to entertain his guests, some features of Waddesdon were inspired by two particular Loire châteaux: the towers by those of the Château de Maintenon and the staircase towers on the north facade by the staircase at the Château de Chambord.
Parterre at the south front
South front of the house
North front silhouette with the towers
North front with one of the staircase towers
Some of the elaborate details of the manor.
The Parterre at the south front of the house is a fine example of the flamboyant, high Victorian style of gardening with their bedding displays and fountains. The grounds were a wonder of their day, too, as many large trees were successfully transplanted. This was such a special thing those days, that even Queen Victoria invited herself to view them in 1890.
View at the Parterre from the first floor
Details of the Proserpina fountain at the south front
Other half of the fountain
Ornaments on the Aviary
Three-dimensional carpet bedding
Three-dimensional carpet bedding
Stables – even the horses had a manor of their own
Fountain on the north side of the house
Sculptures are key to the garden, creating focal points and ever new things to discover. Being mostly allegorical and mythological figures, they form one of the most important collections of 17th and 18th century garden statuary in the country.
When first built, guests of the manor enjoyed all modern comforts of the time like running water, central heating and electricity. Still it feels like a French château with lavish furnishings, chandeliers and lots of gold.
Inside the staircase tower.
In case you need to rest, ways can be very long.
One of the many ornate clocks
Dining in style
There are many more things to discover and spending a whole day almost didn’t seem enough.
Today Waddesdon Manor is part of the National Trust and administered by a Rothschild charitable trust.