The Ugly House
This cottage beside Thomas Telford’s A5 road is remarkable for the rough boulders used in its construction.
Why is it called the Ugly House? Being just above the river Llugwy it might initially have been called Tŷ (“house”) Llugwy, but the river’s name was too difficult for English visitors to pronounce. Hence it migrated to the Ugly House. Since then it has been translated back into Welsh as Tŷ Hyll ("ugly house")!
Legend has it that this is a Tŷ Un Nos, a ‘one-night house’, referring to a Welsh custom whereby if you could build a house overnight on common land, with smoke rising from the chimney by daybreak, it was yours to keep.
Details of the cottage’s early history are scant but it may have started as a crude shelter for workers building the bridge that carries the A5 over the Afon Llugwy and may then have been gentrified into a folly by the local landowner. By 1900 it was home to a shepherd and his wife.
From 1928 it belonged to Edward and Lillian Riley who ran a popular tearoom after the First World War. It was renowned for the insults of a bad-tempered cockatoo. Edward had worked as a gardener at The Towers, in Capel Curig, then served in the First World War with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry until he fell ill with malaria and was invalided out of overseas service.
The Ugly House is now owned by the Snowdonia Society, which for many years used it as an office. In 2012 the cottage was reopened as a tearoom with a honeybee centre, which gives visitors an insight to the lifecycle of the honeybee. The tearoom and honeybee centre are open seven days a week from Easter to the end of October, then Fridays to Mondays and generally closed December to mid-January. The Ugly House’s gardens and woodlands are always open.
With thanks to Huw Jenkins, of the Snowdonia Society
Postcode: LL24 0DS