Stately Homes and Castles - Wales

Penrhyn Castle, Bangor, Gwynedd - Part 1

Some History and Background

This is a splendid neo-Norman castle built overlooking the Menai Straits. The tall square keep dominates the castle with its round windows, arcading and chevrons.

Penrhyn Castle

In the early C19th the land was inherited by George Hay Dawkins Pennant on the death of his second cousin, Robert Pennant who had made his fortune from Jamaican sugar and the local slate quarries.

George Hay Dawkins Pennant asked the famous architect, Thomas Hopper, to build him a Neo-Norman castle. Dawkins had visited Kilpeck Church in Hereford and decided this should be the inspiration for the carving and decoration of his new castle. The tall tower with the family rooms was constructed around the earlier house. A spiral staircase, vaulted basement and other masonry were incorporated into the new structure. Thomas Hopper oversaw the designing and building of the castle's furniture, made by local craftsmen.

George Hay Dawkins Pennant died in 1840 and the house passed to his daughter Juliana who married Edward Gordon Douglas who later became the 1st lord Penrhyn of Llanegai. Edward amassed an outstanding collection of Dutch, Venetian and Spanish paintings, still on display in the castle.

Every surface is carved. If the outside is impressive, the inside is even better with a series of stunning rooms. No expense was spared during its construction and the quality of the stone carving in the grand hall and stairway is mind blowing. The woodwork is equally as good. Rooms are huge but well proportioned so they don’t feel intimidating. Clever use of mirrors makes them seem even larger. They are opulently furnished and the slate bed is unique. Specially made for Queen Victoria, we were assured that it was comfortable to sleep on as the slate is just the framework. It has a wooden base and two mattresses. As well as the family rooms, the servants quarters are some of the best owned by the National Trust.

The house is surrounded by extensive grounds and woodland with three different trails to follow.

Penrhyn Castle

There is a very good railway museum in the stables block with some  interesting locos and examples of quarrymen’s coaches.

There is almost too much to take in during a visit. Allow yourselves plenty of time - at least half a day to appreciate it all. Photographs are allowed inside the castle and it is very photogenic. Room stewards are excellent, friendly and knowledgeable without being pushy. There is a tea room serving hot meals as well as cakes and a shop.

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