Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Charming Chapel Retreat with The Landmark Trust in Snowdonia



This Easter holidays we headed back to Snowdonia to celebrate my birthday.  For the first time, we booked a Landmark Trust Property, and stayed in the charming Ty Capel just outside Betws-y-coed.

I've always wanted to live in an old church but given that I'm not likely to ever be able to afford to buy a converted chapel, holidaying in one is the next best thing.

Hidden away in a remote and small hamlet called Rhiwddolion just above the popular North Wales town of Betws-y-coed, this former chapel and school is one of three Landmark Trust properties  here rescued from ruin after it was abandoned following the end of the slate mining industry here.

Surrounded by rocky outcrops, magical oak trees dripping with moss and lichen, sheep in the surrounding fields and the constant and reassuring flow of the stream as it ambles down the hillside and cascades over small waterfalls, this is truly a place to get away from it all.

There are some downsides and if you're a high maintenance kind of person, then this probably isn't for you - you can't drive up to the doorstep, you won't find a hairdryer or power shower and you definitely won't be able to watch your latest obsession on Netflix.  But if you embrace it, enjoy it's tranquility and rediscover the joy of sitting in front of an open fire reading a novel, or playing Monopoly with the kids, then you'll be hard pressed to find a prettier location.


Built in 1860 as a school and chapel, this building served the mining community and was headed up by the lively Bard Griffith Hugh Jones, a lover of music who introduced a brass band, a choir and even it's own eisteddfodau.  He served here for 50 years and in 1892 the chapel was extended and an open-air auditorium added for special performances.

Derelict cottages overgrown with brambles and nettles scatter the valley, bringing a sense of other-worldliness.  Ty Capel is the first property you reach as you follow the quaint footpath from the forest road track.  A delightful walk in good weather, through the trees, passing a kissing gate, across the wobbly slate stone footbridge over the stream, before the climb up the hill.  That said, it's not so much fun in the pouring rain and howling wind, slipping on the muddy path while trying to get your luggage to the house. Forget your townie wheeled suitcases, haul everything onto your back and trek like a mule!  It was a good 10 minutes from the car to the door, and if you travel as heavy as we do, that meant an hour of unpacking the car with 3 round-trips for the Old Man.  You'd definitely struggle with young kids and a pushchair would have no chance.  It's slightly frustrating given that there's a very clear road track that goes past all three of the Landmark Trust properties so someone clearly regularly drives up there following a different route, but cars are forbidden for guests to protect the footpaths and even the housekeeper does everything on foot.  The plus side of course is that there's no traffic noise and kids can play safely.




Once the car's unpacked, it doesn't take long too settle in.  A large hallway allows plenty of space to hang your coats, waterproofs, dog leads and kick off your muddy boots.  There's a welcome tray waiting in the kitchen with tea and coffee (a pint of milk in the fridge would have been nice, and if you haven't brought any with you it'll be a trip back to the car and a few miles drive to Betws-y-coed to the nearest shop.


As with all Landmark Trust properties, renovations are sympathetic and in keeping with the character and age of the property, decoration authentic and furniture carefully sourced to blend in.  I was worried that a religious building might feel a little austere for my taste, but I found it utterly charming.  You will find running water (supplied by the stream) and electricity but that's about as far as the nod to the 21st century goes.  The heating is via electric storage heaters and of course the huge open fire, and we found it very warm and cosy.  There's an electric oven, toaster and kettle in the kitchen but you won't find a microwave or other electrical gadgets.  It was well stocked with cutlery, glasses and cooking utensils, and although small I found it easy to cook breakfast each morning and dinner most nights.  The open shelves make beautiful displays of the dinner service and there's enough serving dishes to host a grand dinner party should you want to.


The sitting room/dining room area is very spacious and although there's armchairs rather than a sofa, it's comfy and relaxing.  The large dining table is perfect for family meal-times or for playing board games in the the evening. The property boasts a fabulous open fire with one of the biggest grates I've seen so you can get a huge roaring fire going in the evening and settle down in front of it.  Because of the high ceilings, there's a real sense of space and airiness.




The MOST charming thing about this holiday property though is the sleeping arrangements.  Set up a staircase off from the living room, the bedroom is a galleried mezzanine overlooking the living room.  Three single beds all in a row were so much fun to sleep in we felt like the Three Bears - clearly this arrangement wasn't set up with romance in mind, but remember - you ARE in a chapel!




Set in front of the three stained glass upper windows, you awoke each morning to a fabulous view.  The wheel back bedsteads reminded me of my nan's dining chairs and the reassuring weight of cosy wool blankets, counterpanes and sheets tucked in with hospital corners had a real sense of nostalgia.  We all slept like logs, I think Ruby found it reassuring to have us next to her, but we didn't have to suffer the restlessness of her wriggling about in our bed.  I actually really liked the sleeping arrangements!

There's an antique chest of drawers but no wardrobe (although there is some hanging space under the stairs downstairs) so mostly we were living out of our bags that we tucked away under the beds.

The bathroom continues the wood panelling theme that's throughout the property and it's a pleasure to lay in a hot bubble bath gazing up at the trees through the tall window.  Fill the bath and you'll notice a slightly coppery green hue to the water.  There's no shower but you will find a plastic hose attachment for the taps so hair washing isn't too much of a chore.



Even the hound was catered for with her own dog bowls - one less thing to lug up the hill!  Unfortunately she was recovering from an operation so couldn't fully enjoy the surroundings, but it was great to be able to let her use the garden, which is mostly sunken and secured with a stone wall all round.


Staying here really felt like stepping back in time to a simpler era.  We loved all the little details, original features, pretty etched and stained glass windows and Victorian artwork.  




Of course, if you venture out there's plenty to do nearby.  Betws-y-coed is always popular with lots of tea rooms and gift shops. There Swallow Falls and Fairy Glen are close by, and Llanberis is only a short drive away, the gateway to Mount Snowdon whether you chose to do that on foot or via the steam train. Snowdonia's newest tourist attraction Bounce Below is close too at Blaenau Ffestiniog and here you can enjoy giant underground trampolines in a former slate mine.  You'll also find the famous Ffestiniog steam railway here.

If you want to eat locally I can recommend the Bistro Betws-y-Coed, unassuming from the outside, and with slightly dated decor, look past that to the amazing menu offering delights such as cutlets of Welsh lamb marinated in Snowdonia honey and balsamic with minted mash potato and traditional lava bread sauce or pan fried breast of pheasant served with butcher's handmade black pudding cake, braised red cabbage and cream of mushroom and Welsh Penderyn whiskey sauce and desserts such as lemon flummery with toasted oats and raspberry cream.  I had a fabulous birthday meal there and from the entrees through to the homemade mint fudge served with coffee after the meal I loved every single morsel of my 3 course dinner.  There's a great selection of local ales and whiskey too.  Book ahead as it's very popular.


If you enjoy walking (and frankly why come to Snowdonia if you don't) then there's a glorious walk from the chapel, through the mysterious Gwydyr forest to Lake Elsi which at the time we visited was teeming with toads.  As you approach through the wood, you hear before you see the Llyn - the peculiar sound of hundreds of seagulls nesting on the lake's island makes you wonder if you've taken a horribly wrong turning somewhere and are not in fact miles inland.  This is a popular spot with mountain bikers, dog walkers and families. Climb to the top of the hill by the monument and enjoy the view.



Ty Capel sleeps 3 plus a travel cot.  It's available from £155 for 4 nights.

Further information and booking here.

What to bring:

Your dog, a good book, stout walking boots and a sense of adventure. Also bring firewood, newspaper and kindling as there's none provided and the logs from the local garage were soaking wet and going mouldy! Whatever you bring, make sure you can carry it.

What not to bring:

Your laptop (there's no wifi and rarely even a phone signal), DVDs (there's no telly), high heels - you'll never get up the hill!



Linking up with Time Traveller.

66 comments:

  1. I'm always very taken with these Welsh chapels and if I see one for sale I am always half tempted (not that we could take one on). Great to be able to stay in one for a while and this looks like its been really sensitively converted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I get very twitchy when I see a For Sale board, we nearly booked a viewing at one last time we were in Wales but I worried I'd fall in love!

      Delete
  2. Absolutely beautiful. What a gorgeous place to stay and a wonderful description of it. The Landmark Trust has the most amazing properties. We stayed in one last year - an old prison - and it's one of the best, most unusual places we've ever been.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like the ethos behind The Landmark Trust and the way they rescue buildings I'd love to stay in some others. An old jail sounds amazing!

      Delete
  3. The Landmark Trust is great and deserves all the publicity :) Lovely photos, such an interesting place. I quite fancy staying in a lighthouse!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kate. Oooh a lighthouse would be awesome!

      Delete
  4. Gosh it looks beautiful, and with all of this modern tech we're constantly surrounded by how refreshing to get away from it all. Looks like a great place to curl up with a well-thumbed copy of Wuthering Heights x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absloutely Lins. As it's Wales we had a very mixed bag of weather, but one evening with the rain coming down in sheets, hammering against the window and the wind howling down the chimney, I had a Cathy moment - wrong national park I know!

      Delete
  5. We love Landmark Trust, their properties are gorgeous and it's so lovely to stay somewhere really unique. This places looks absolutely gorgeous, makes me want to book a trip!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't believe I've never stayed in one before. I'll definitely be booking more.

      Delete
  6. Oh I love love love. I'll be checking out the Landmark Trust in a mo! So many nice touches and like you I always dreamed of living in a converted chapel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's my dream Mammasaurus which is quite odd since I'm the least religious person I know!

      Delete
  7. I have never been to this area, but I should go as I live in South Wales. Landmark Trust properties look amazing I must admit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What? WHAT?? You must head up north you won't regret it!

      Delete
  8. oh wow this looks my sort of break, certainly relaxing and one for the husband and i to enjoy some us quiet time

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Completely relaxing. Enforced chatting with no TV hehe. As long as you don't mind sleeping in single beds ;)

      Delete
  9. It looks so beautiful, the chapel has so much character. Looks perfect for a great walks and adventure. I haven't been to Wales in years, I would like to stay here. However the bedroom area does look a little spooky.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no, not scary at all, and I'm easily spooked!

      Delete
  10. We honeymooned near hear and it has a big place in my heart. I would love to visit. It is a stunning pace and there is nothing better than a good book, great company, a pot of tea and a roaring fire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh what a gorgeous part of the world to honeymoon in.

      Delete
  11. What a totally beautiful place. The surroundings are breathtaking too! x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely stunning scenery Jessica.

      Delete
  12. we never stay in places like this but you have got me wanting to experience something different. I wonder if my teen can survive without wifi!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well it was tough but we had to embrace it. I know I wasn't going to be glued to social media but it's funny how reliant we are on it now - looking up opening times, booking restaurant tables, checking the weather... Luckily, I'm of an age where I remember life before the internet!

      Delete
  13. No heels? No wifi? Eeek I am not sure I could survive but if I did decide to step outside of my comfort zone, this looks just like the most idyllic place to do it in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! Well you can wear you heels when you get there!

      Delete
  14. Apart from the no WiFi, this sounds like a parent break in Heaven! Your photo's are amazing and really drew me in to the post, I closed my eyes at one point and imagined me being there! I'm not great with leaving Spud, but when he is older, this is one place I'd love to visit! x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh thank you Jade! High praise indeed. x

      Delete
  15. What an absoluteness beautiful place to stay, it seems like somewhere you could just switch off and relax.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Completely switch off and forget your worries here.

      Delete
  16. What a treat. It seems so relaxing but so full of character that it is bursting with energy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was so much character to the building, I loved the history of the place.

      Delete
  17. What a stunning place to stay, not sure mine would cope without a TV or wifi though

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We do quite a lot of camping so I guess I'm used to it. It's once to switch off for a while every so often.

      Delete
  18. Oh sounds delightful!
    I loved everything about your post. I have put snowdonia on our list. My Daughter just needs to be a little older.

    I would love to sleep like the three bears! And also the chance to sleep like a log.

    Thank you for capturing lovely photos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you My Model Mummy! You won't be disappointed if you go.

      Delete
  19. Oh wow. This looks and sounds amazing. Pinning it!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I always think of Ty Capel as my own. I holidayed in this beautiful property in this atmospheric upland valley with my family so much, that I fell in love with Wales. We re-located to Snowdonia, learned Welsh and bought a renovation project. Croeso i Gymru. Lluniau da iawn!��

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahh how wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to comment, so nice to hear from you. That's our dream too.

      Delete
  21. It sounds like an amazing place and so beautiful. I love Wales and this is a part I need to explore next! Simply beautiful

    ReplyDelete
  22. Oh what a beautiful welcoming place for people that just want to relax. would love it there!

    ReplyDelete
  23. We've stayed in a few Landmark Trust properties, and they never disappoint. This one looks stunning - what beautiful shots of the scenery and interior.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't wait to try some more now!

      Delete
  24. This looks beautful Liz and so very you. I adore that path through the forest. I really would love a visit here. Mich x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you'd love it too Mich.

      Delete
  25. I've had my eye on the Landmark Trust properties for a while now, they are all amazing looking and I love what they do. Your pics are stunning and it looks like a fabulous spot.

    ReplyDelete
  26. it looks absolutely fabulous, its somewhere id love to stay

    ReplyDelete
  27. Oh Liz, this looks just gorgeous! What an amazing spot for a weekend break!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish we lived nearer, we'd be popping there all the time!

      Delete
  28. It looks absolutely stunning. I would prefer more mod cons myself but my mom loves her walking holidays and would adore staying here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The scenery more than made up for it.

      Delete
  29. I would love to stay in such a property as thus . I dearly love my travel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you'd like it here Claire.

      Delete
  30. That sounds so relaxing! Not sure I could live without the wifi these days though! Love your pics x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's always 3G and 4G on the phone when you're out and about!

      Delete
  31. Ha ha! Don't bring your heels, great tip!
    What a fabulous place, like you say, a fascinating step back in time. I've always been intrigued to see converted chapels too so this would be perfect and we could take the dog too but am I right in thinking it only sleeps three? That could be a problem with the twins.
    Thanks for linking up to #TimeTraveller

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, this property only sleeps 3 plus a travel cot so that wouldn't work for your family (unless you left Dad at home ha!). Check out The Landmark Trust though they have lots to choose from.

      Delete
  32. oh wow how beautiful! .. i am LOVING those windows in the bedroom! :-) i love unique features in a place we holiday in x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was really special waking up to those windows each morning.

      Delete
  33. Wow what a beautiful place, it looks really serene xxx

    ReplyDelete
  34. Oh this is beautiful! I have happy memories of Betws-y-Coed as a child. Kaz x

    ReplyDelete