With its rich, varied, and sometimes bloody history, Snowdonia is as popular a holiday destination for history enthusiasts as it is for climbers, walkers and cyclists. There are many excellent museums in the Snowdonia region; here are ten Snowdonia museums you won’t want to miss.
In the thousands of years since man first made Snowdonia his home, life in the region has changed almost beyond recognition. From Iron Age settlers and Roman invaders to Jacobean altruism and the Industrial Revolution, there’s no better way to learn about Snowdonia’s history than to pay a visit to one of Snowdonia’s many museums.
One of the wonderful things about Snowdonia’s museums is that they’re often situated in historic buildings, giving visitors a real sense of place and time that you’re unlikely to encounter in modern, purpose-built museums.
The following are ten of Snowdonia’s most fascinating museums, covering everything from Roman archaeology to early 20th century statesmanship.
1. Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, Bangor
Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, Bangor, houses some fascinating exhibits depicting the rich and varied history of North Wales. Exhibits include some fantastic Roman artefacts, including the finest Roman sword in Britain, and a wonderful furniture collection which includes a 17th century oak drawer chest.
2. On The Quay at Barmouth
On The Quay at Barmouth is three attractions rolled into one. Barmouth Sailors’ Institute, built in 1890, includes a Victorian reading room which still looks much as it did when it was built. Ty Gwyn dates to 1460 and was one of the earliest buildings to be built in the shelter of the anchorage. And Ty Crwn, built in 1834 as a lock-up, has two cells – one each for men and women.
3. Quaker Heritage Centre, Dolgellau
Entry to the Quaker Heritage Centre is free, and it’s worth a visit to learn about the Quaker community that once lived in Dolgellau, and the persecution they endured which led to their emigration to Pennsylvania.
4. Trefriw Woollen Mills, Conwy Valley
Take a free tour of the Trefriw Woollen Mills and see the working mill museum and turbine house. Trefriw are manufacturers of traditional Welsh bedspreads, tapestries and tweeds, and their shop sells a great range of products made on-site, as well as pure wool knitwear and sheepskin items.
5. Lloyd George Museum, Llanystumdwy
The Lloyd George Museum is based at the childhood home of David Lloyd George, Britain’s Prime Minister during the First World War. As well as telling the story of Lloyd George’s life, the museum includes a Victorian classroom where children can dress in Victorian costume and learn what life was like for Victorian children.
6. Almshouse Museum, Llanrwst
The Llanrwst Almshouse Museum is run as a community museum, safeguarding the Jacobean building in which it’s housed. Established in 1610 by Sir John Wynn of Gwydir, the almshouses provided homes for elderly members of the community until the 1970s, when they were deemed unfit for habitation. Now restored, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into hundreds of years of life in a typical Welsh market town.
7. Dinorwic Quarry Hospital, Llanberis
The Dinorwic Quarry Hospital in Llanberis was built for the 19th and 20th century quarrymen at the nearby quarry. This is one of Snowdonia’s most unusual museums, and includes a restored ward and operating theatre (with associated gruesome medical instruments), a mortuary and an original X-ray machine. This is one of the few hospitals of its kind in Britain, and is a fascinating attraction for all the family – except, perhaps, anyone who’s a bit squeamish!
8. Regimental Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, Caernarfon
Caernarfon Castle is, in itself, a wonderful attraction that will keep you enthralled for many hours. But nestled in the Queen’s Tower, and part of the Chamberlain Tower, you’ll find an added attraction – the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. This museum houses a comprehensive collection of military memorabilia from the past few centuries, and tells of life in the Regiment from its beginnings to modern times. Exhibits include centuries-old uniforms and kit, and information about Britain’s most famous military campaigns and personnel.
9. Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, Tywyn
Part of the Talyllyn Railway, the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum is housed at Tywyn Wharf Station. The museum has an excellent collection of artefacts from over 80 British narrow gauge railways, including seven locomotives, tickets and signalling gear. There’s also a special exhibition dedicated to the Reverend W V Awdry, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine.
10. National Slate Museum, Llanberis
With slate playing such a big part in the history of Snowdonia, no visit to the region would be complete without a visit to the National Slate Museum. Situated in the original Victorian workshops of the Dinorwic Quarry, the museum tells the story of slate and what it was like to live as a quarryman in Snowdonia during the 19th century. The workshops are designed to look as if workers have literally just downed tools for the day, and the numerous talks, demonstrations and exhibits play out all the dramas of everyday life at the quarry.