Saturday 25 June 2022

Plas yn Rhiw

My long-suffering friends SJ and Steph probably thought they had done their bit for the National Trust Scone Project by now. I'm sure they waved me off back in March following our jaunt to Aira Force in the Lake District thinking "please God, please just let her finish this project so we can talk about something else". 

But they could see that I was struggling a bit with the final fifteen NT properties on my list. Plas yn Rhiw was the one that was worrying me the most - it's in North Wales and quite remote, plus it looked relatively small. The thought of trying to get there and back in a day didn't really fill me with hope.

Plas yn Rhiw

And thank God I didn't try to get there and back in a day. Plas yn Rhiw is FANTASTIC, as is the local area. We decided to make a weekend of it - stay in a dog-friendly caravan park in Pwllheli, visit Plas yn Rhiw, have a little chunter along on the Ffestiniog and Welsh and Highland Railway in Porthmadog AND have a look at Portmeirion (neither of the latter two are National Trust but never mind).  

But let me tell you a bit about Plas yn Rhiw:
  • The house dates back to at least the 17th century, when a man called John Lewis owned it. He was descended from the King of Powys.
  • It remained in the family by marriage until 1874, when it was bought and occupied by tenants before it was abandoned.
  • Three sisters (Eileen, Lorna and Honora Keating) came to live at Plas yn Rhiw in 1939. They were from Nottingham but had spent holidays in the area and had been longing to save the house. When it came up for sale they bought it.
The Hall at Plas yn Rhiw
The Hall at Plas yn Rhiw - the wiggly post was a Clough Williams-Ellis addition
  • They lived in the house until Lorna died in 1981, but they had opened it up to the public before the place was taken on by the National Trust in 1952. 
  • The Keatings were friends with Clough Williams-Ellis, the architect who built Portmeirion, and he had some influence on the house.

The house is incredibly homely - I could move in there tomorrow. Outside, there's a beautiful garden that fits lots of colour and greenery into quite a small space. It's a wonderful place that leaves a really strong impression.

The volunteers were also lovely. One of the women had visited the house as a child and knew the sisters - it's quite sad to think that those connections won't always be with us, but also such a lovely privilege to meet people so connected to a place and feel that the past is still close by.

The Plas yn Rhiw Scone

There's one important feature at Plas yn Rhiw that doesn't appear in the photographs on the NT website: the sea. The house has a spectacular vantage point over Cardigan Bay and over a beach known locally as 'Hell's Mouth', which is probably the most misnamed place in the whole of the UK as it's stunningly beautiful. The name has something to do with shipwrecks, apparently.

Anyway, the tea room courtyard at Plas yn Rhiw overlooks the bay, which means it must surely have the nicest view of any National Trust tea room. I can't think of a better one:

Plas yn Rhiw tearoom

Steph has traditionally avoided eating any scones on our outings - you can see her enjoying a salad here at Hardcastle Crags - but today she shocked me by announcing that she was "on holiday" and therefore scones were permitted.

I'm not sure the scones had been freshly baked that day but they looked the part and were very tasty:

Plas yn Rhiw scone

I'm pleased to report that Steph loved hers. I'd always feared that maybe she didn't like scones at all and one day it would all come out in a dramatic Kat-Slater-in-EastEnders moment - "You ain't a scone fan!" "NO I HATE THEM!!!" - and we'd sadly have to fall out. But today proved that she has been bravely subjecting herself to torture for a few years by watching the rest of us eat ours.

We then pootled off to Porthmadog for a ride on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway - that link will take you to my other project, which is to visit the 500 places on the Lonely Planet Ultimate Travel List. (I wouldn't rush down to Ladbrokes to bet on me finishing that project anytime soon.)

That leaves just 14 National Trust scones to go! I've decided to give myself a bit longer, as squashing them in takes a bit of enjoyment out of it. My new deadline is April 2023 - that'll make it a nice round (if slightly embarrassing) 10 years of scone adventures.

Plas yn Rhiw: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4 out of 5
Unexpected view of the bay to accompany scone: 5 out of 5