Tŷ Hyll - The Ugly House
VISIT THE NEW UGLY HOUSE WEBSITE
The Society rescued this well-known cottage from dereliction in the 1980s. Situated on the A5 at Capel Curig, until October 2010 it served as the Society headquarters.
The Society have now moved to Caban, Brynrefail and 2011 sees an ambitious plan to turn Tŷ Hyll into a Visitor Centre and a centre for the protection and promotion of the Welsh honeybee. See the Welsh honeybee initiative.
The Ugly House opened to the public as a tearoom and visitor centre in June 2012, see here. It is open seven days a week, 10.30am to 5pm.
Tŷ Hyll - Origins and History
As you can see, despite its unusual name, it is far from being an 'ugly house' and the House is regularly featured on television.
Though the true origins of the Ugly House remain shrouded in mystery, legend tells us that it was a crude house built in the 15th century by two outlaw brothers. It was a ‘Ty Un Nos’ - or house built overnight. Under ancient law, he who built a house between sunset and sunrise, with walls, roof and smoking chimney, could claim the freehold. However, Ty Hyll was probably built in the mid-nineteenth century as a 'Picturesque' cottage that would appeal to the growing tourist trade.
In the early 19th century, navvies working on Telford’s new road and the bridge by the Ugly House may have taken over the cottage. They may have added a loft and new windows before abandoning the house when it was no longer near enough to their place of work. By the mid 19th Century, the Ugly House is included in ‘A Tourist Guide to Wales’ as a ‘quaint cottage’. Its reputation grew so that more than a 100 years later visitors are still charmed by the old building.
Edward and Lilian Riley bought the Ugly House back in 1929. Edward, groom at the nearby Towers (then owned by a London cork manufacturer), divided the ground floor into three rooms, a tiny scullery kitchen, a living room and a parlour. He added steps to the first floor attic, where he made two bedrooms and a bathroom.
The couple frequently entertained friends and even passers-by. Edward, a colourful and controversial man, became well known as a local storyteller. Lillian died in 1960 and Edward a year later. After the Riley's time the house was used as an antique shop and a tea shop, but it was left empty and decaying during the early 1980s.
By 1988 the cottage was derelict, and was bought and restored by the Snowdonia Society. The renovation work was lovingly carried out by Peter Kirby, the husband of the Society’s founder, the late Esmé Kirby. It is now a Grade II listed building, housing on its upper floor the Society’s offices while the ground floor has a display about the Society’s work; a small sales area and a depiction of how part of a 19th century Welsh cottage would have looked.
The once neglected 5 acres of garden and woodland now provide a pleasant and interesting walk.Volunteers, committed to the Society's goals, undertake management of the gardens surrounding the house. The cottage-style wildlife gardens are designed to attract and sustain wildlife and are organically managed.
The woodland trees are mainly sessile oak with some birch and hazel. Numerous bird boxes, particularly attractive to tits and pied flycatchers, have been put up throughout the woods. Further habitats are provided by the dry stone walls and piles of decaying logs. The wildlife pond was created in 2003, on the site of an old chalet, and is now well established. There is a woodland walk taking you through the grounds. Find out more about the wildlife garden and related events and activities here.
You are most welcome to come and visit this unusual, magical cottage. Built with boulders weighing several tons, step inside and find out about its history and why it is called "ugly"! Have a leisurely stroll in the enchanting garden, enjoy the woodland walk, or simply relax in the beautiful grounds.
When the House is closed you are welcome to walk in the grounds. We simply ask that visitors make a contribution to the "honesty box" to support the work of the charity.
A colour guidebook is available at the house, price £2.
The Ugly House is at Ordance Survey grid reference SH 756 576. It is situated on the northern side of the A5, approximately 3 miles west of Betws-y-Coed, and two and a half miles to the east of the centre of Capel Curig.
Use the box below to get directions from any postcode in Wales. If you are travelling from an address outside Wales visit Traveline.