If you’ve a taste for history, September couldn’t be a better month for visiting Snowdonia. Every year, September marks ‘Open Doors’ month, when over 50 historic buildings open their doors to the public.
Throughout the Snowdonia region there are hundreds of examples of fascinating architecture. Churches, castles, historic houses; medieval, gothic, Arts and Crafts – there are countless combinations of buildings and architectural styles to be admired.
The annual ‘Open Doors’ event (click to download a PDF brochure) in Snowdonia, part of the ‘Our Heritage‘ initiative, encourages visitors to explore historic buildings they might not ordinarily think of visiting. The event, which takes place every September, opens the doors of more than 50 historic buildings and in many cases includes additional events at some of the venues.
Here are ten of our favourite historic buildings you can visit as part of the Open Doors event.
1. Bodnant Garden
Nestled in the Conwy Valley you’ll find Bodnant Garden, which feels like stumbling upon a hidden magical world of beautiful plants and trees. Expect dramatic scenery, rare plants, vast lawns and secluded nooks, and year-round colour.
2. Ty Mawr Wybrnant
Ty Mawr Wybrnant is an extremely important part of Welsh history, as it was the birthplace of Bishop William Morgan, who translated the Bible into Welsh. The traditional farmhouse has been restored to how it would have looked in the 16th century, and houses a massive collection of bibles in different languages from all over the world.
3. Bangor Cathedral
Founded in the year 525, Bangor Cathedral is Britain’s oldest cathedral in continuous use. It’s seen a lot of action in the centuries since St Deiniol founded it; the cathedral has been rebuilt several times after suffering damage due to attacks in 634 and 1073, then by King John in the 12th century, in clashes during Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion, and even in the Civil War. Consequently, none of the original structure remains and the oldest surviving parts of the building only date to the 12th century – but that’s still pretty old!
4. Plas Glyn-y-Weddw
Fans of the gothic will love Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, Pwllheli. This Victorian mansion looks for all the world as if the Addams Family or the Munsters would be happy to take up residence in it. The mansion’s interesting past includes use as a boarding house for Land Army girls during WWII, but today it’s a wonderful art gallery – the oldest in Wales, in fact.
5. Dinorwic Quarry Hospital
The Quarry Hospital at the old Dinorwic Quarry, Llanberis, is a fascinating place to visit. It contains original medical equipment from the 19th century, and has an operating theatre and original x-ray machine. The hospital has recently undergone a huge programme of renovation including better interpretation – making it a great place to visit, especially with children who seem to be fascinated by such gruesome things as Victorian surgery!
6. Church of St Baglan
Although this little church overlooking Caernarfon Bay largely dates to the 13th century, a curiosity that’s worth looking out for is a re-used carved stone on top of the eastern wall of the porch which dates to the 5th or 6th century, and a similar one used as a lintel over the inner face of the porch door. The form of the church suggests pre-Christian origins and exploration of the churchyard is particularly recommended.
7. Lloyd George Museum
David Lloyd George was a great statesman who, during his time as Prime Minister in the early part of the 20th century laid the foundations of the welfare state. His childhood home, Highgate, is now a museum dedicated to his life and times, and contains a fascinating collection of items connected to the great man – including his personal copy of the Versailles Treaty.
8. Porthmadog Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum at Porthmadog can be found in the last remaining slate shed on the harbour, aptly enough. At the museum you’ll see displays relating to the maritime history of the area, including a large collection of artefacts, pictures and videos.
9. St Mark’s Church, Brithdir
Built in the 1890s, St Mark’s Church in Brithdir near Dolgellau is one of the finest, most complete Arts and Crafts churches in Wales. Among the many charms of this exceptionally lovely church are the carved stalls in the chancel, which feature delightful zoomorphic images of squirrels, rabbits, owls and other creatures.
10. Royal Welsh Yacht Club
You’ll find the Royal Welsh Yacht Club at Porth-yr-Aur (‘the golden gate’ – taking its name from the setting sun, which it faces). Porth-yr-Aur is the watergate – the west gate – of Caernarfon‘s town walls. The walls and castle, built by the English king Edward II in the late 13th century, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The yacht club was founded in 1847 and its home inside the watergate makes these perhaps the most unique premises owned by a yacht club anywhere in the world – and certainly the oldest.