Gwylfa Hiraethog Shooting Lodge: the Haunted House of Denbigh Moors

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesSpooky, no? Well, I got chills. Then again it had recently snowed. (Groan). Okay, fine. So even though it’s known as the “haunted house” it probably isn’t haunted. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t scary. Upon arrival we were greeted with a spray painted “trespassers will be shot.” Gulp. We thought we were all alone, so no worries, it seemed. Until we were leaving, when we really were afraid for good and earthly reasons. But that’s at the end. We need to start at the beginning.

Sportsman Arms, WalesThat 16th Century building is the Sportsman’s Arms, reputed to be the highest pub in Wales. I’d looked forward to stopping in, as it was right on the A543, but it was closed. Turns out that it’s no longer a pub, but a private home, as of the beginning of 2012. No wonder it wasn’t open for business.

From the A543, we trudged through those snow drifts (they’re deeper than they look!) and took a moment to take a photo and catch our breath before continuing up the hill to Gwylfa Hiraethog. Before we get to the house, I’ll pause here again just in case you’d like to read some related ghost stories (or see some beautiful Denbigh Moors photos) in my previous post, Ghosts on the Denbigh Moors. I’ll also add that some claim Gwylfa Hiraethog was once used as a mental hospital, which apparently adds to its scary reputation. Whether or not the mental hospital bit is true, the decaying building atop a hill practically in the middle of nowhere does look rather eerie. But enough of scary stories. Onward…

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesOriginally, Gwylfa Hiraethog was a shooting lodge for the first Viscount Devonport, Hudson Ewbanke Kearley. When the lodge was built, in the early 1890’s, it was said to be the highest inhabited house in Wales with some of the finest views of the British Isles.

When I told my husband that I wanted us to visit the ruins of an old hunting lodge, he wondered if it was worth the time and energy. After all, with so many other destination options, did we really want to go see a ruined house? Yes. If for nothing else than to see those fine views.

Tree on Denbigh Moors from Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesSitting high in the Denbigh Moors, the lodge still stands (as it does) in a remote location.

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesThe lodge was first built as a wooden chalet made from prefabricated sections imported from Norway. In 1908, the original chalet was incorporated into a new stone lodge. The lodge was enlarged in 1913, becoming a Jacobean style mansion with a three gabled front with cross wings, long mullioned windows, and a stone flagged roof. It must have been grand!

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesIn 1925, an estate sales catalogue listed the lodge as a shooting box and residence comprising 11 principal bedrooms, two secondary bedrooms together with servant’s quarters. Sadly, the lodge rapidly deteriorated since its abandonment in the 1960’s.

Denbigh Moors from Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesBut even if the lodge is now in ruin, the views are still spectacular. The lake in the distance is Llyn Aled. That fence (or its remains) appears to stretch all the way from the lodge site to the lake.

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesNormally, I’m not a lover of graffiti, but evidence of past visitors somehow made the ruins seem less lonely.

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesIt was so quiet.

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesAnd beautiful.

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesHere you can really see the state of decay, with so much of the lodge’s rubble and debris inside what remains of the building’s walls.

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesPerhaps some of the timbers remain from the original wooden chalet.

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesIt was cold.

Front of Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesAnd really cool!

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesIs anyone home?

East Panorama of Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesI took three panoramas at the lodge site. Together, the three cover nearly all 360 degrees. Please click on each panorama for a larger, more detailed view. The above view was taken approximately from north to east.

SW Panorama of Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesThis view is roughly southeast to southwest. Can you see Llyn Aled in the distance?

NW Panorama of Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesThis view covers northwest-ish to northeast-ish.

Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesOne last look at the remains of Gwylfa Hiraethog. As it turned out, exploring the lodge ruins was interesting and worth the visit. But the views far and away made this outing truly unforgettable.

Leaving Haunted House of Denbigh Moors, Gwylfa Hiraethog, WalesI did not want to leave; I wanted to watch the sun set. But as the sun dipped lower the temperature dropped further. And we had deep snowdrifts between us and our car. (That snow-free patch of grass didn’t go very far).

This is where the fright comes in. We’d reached the exact same spot where we’d rested on the trek up to the lodge. I was photographing some baby lambs when we heard shouting that we couldn’t understand. Language barrier or not, the anger was clear. With no one else around, we suspected we were the intended target. And speaking of target, the “trespassers will be shot” notice flashed in my mind. We ran. Or at least we leaped as well as we could over the snowdrifts. We weren’t planning on waiting to find out what we’d done to anger this man.

Horse and Sheep at Sportsman Arms, WalesTurns out we’d parked in the wrong place. (Sorry!) We high-tailed it out of there, but not before I took a picture of these four-legged residents beside the Sportsman’s Arms. Unforgettable.

Historical information contained in this post came primarily from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. If you’d like to see more photos of Gwylfa Hiraethog, including some historic ones, the Royal Commission’s site also has a collection of images.

For some wonderful, moody black-and-white photos, an entertaining story, and additional information, visit Treasure Maps’ The House on the Moor, Gwylfa Hiraethog.


About satnavandcider

An American expat living in England, exploring the United Kingdom and Europe through five senses and a camera lens.
This entry was posted in All Posts, Animals, Destinations, Landscape, United Kingdom, Wales and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Gwylfa Hiraethog Shooting Lodge: the Haunted House of Denbigh Moors

  1. Vicky says:

    Some wonderful pics of a beautiful place, that is so typical of the type of scenery I love to visit. 🙂

    • Thanks! It is a beautiful area I’d like to return to some day. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

      • Helen Muckley says:

        Thank you for the story and pictures really enjoyed your post. I remember the lodge as a child in the late 50’s early 60’s when we went for picnics on the moors. The roof and chimneys were still in place then and as a child we were told it was haunted and it looked very foreboding .The place always fascinated me . Thank you.

  2. Monique says:

    Oh, my fav is the pano with your shadows! Beautiful and clever. I’m laughing at the thought of you trying make your great escape through the snow…

    • Thanks, Monique! I really like that pano, too. And leaping through the snow is pretty funny now, but at the time I really was afraid and did not stop. By the time we got to our car I had so much snow in my shoes that my feet were numb.

  3. leiah says:

    Brrrr…I love that photo with your shadows.

  4. Pingback: Ghosts on the Denbigh Moors | Sat Nav and Cider

  5. We visited this place last week…I have been passing by since the seventies, when it looked quite a bit different. I’ve watched it gradually decline and am ashamed that I haven’t photographed it before now. Finally we had a look, although the views were non-existant due to the weather! Your words capture the place well and the photographs are lovely, much better than those on my blog. At least I now know what the views are like 🙂

    • Thanks for the compliments. I’m glad to read that you enjoyed the views, so to speak. I read your post and really enjoyed it, learning a few things on the way. Your photos reflect the perfect mood for featuring Gwylfa Hiraethog. I am honored that you thought enough of my post to include kind words and a link to this post on your blog. It is much appreciated.

  6. Gino says:

    I came across your blog when I was researching the home “Gwylfa Hiraethog” on the web. I am a fan of the mid-80’s BBC sci-fi TV show “The Tripods”. I have been hunting down filming locations and this house was used in two episodes. Season 2 episode 4 and episode 11. There were a number of other locations in Wales used as well. If you are interested in any screen captures, additional information or a Google Earth kmz file of all known filming locations get back to me.

  7. Dan says:

    Lovely pics of a place that played a large part in my childhood memories, and I dare say will haunt my dreams forever. From the late sixties to the early eighties. I recall exploring the dark upstairs rooms with my older brother (some of which still had furniture), the amazing view over the moors towards Snowdon from the patio room, with the cloud actually swirling below us, the stately reception hall staircase and the odd metal “ladder” that ran down the inside of the house.

    My elder brother, along with his friend were very interested in buying the house to convert it into a themed hotel, and I recall sitting patiently bored while they negotiated with the lady who allegedly owned the house..I say allegedly because I recall the cash offer being held in front of her and her procastrinating with the eventual outcome of “not at the moment”..sad to think that at this point in the early 70’s the house was still a viable project with its tattered curtains fluttering in the broken windows.

    I believe there is a story that it once held German pow’s, some of whom attempted to escape to a waiting submarine off the coast, but were recaptured, and a early Hound of the Baskervilles film made there, oh and watch for the adders as my brothers friend had a near miss with one which was coiled around a window sill and touched his face..I’ve yet to see anyone go whiter 🙂

    Anyway sorry for the long ramble, but to see that wonderful atmospheric building in the state its now in is absolutely heartbreaking, and according to my old mum she accredited the begining of the demise on scrap metal thieves who stole the lead back in the early 60’s-whatever, when you think of the millions our councils waste on “ugly art” and white elephant projects, Plas Pren would have been worth every penny of any preservation order..

    And finally watch them snowdrifts, I recall taking a young lady up there in my courting days and falling in to a drift which was taller than me, made for an interesting ride home on the old Lambretta!

    • rvknox says:

      Very interesting anecdote Dan. I’m researching and writing a historical novel about it and would be interested in hearing about what was inside the house at the time, if you see this message. Thanks, Rachel.

  8. Thank you, Dan, for your compliment and thoughtful comment. I really enjoyed your first-hand accounts and history of the house and surrounding area. It must have been incredible to walk through the house when it still was a house and not a ruin. It’s somewhat shocking to read of just how recently the building was still standing, furniture and all. What the ravages of time and people can do. And thanks for the heads up about the adders and the snowdrifts. If we ever have the chance to return, I’ll be more careful.

    I agree that it is a shame the house was not preserved. Before visiting, I’d seen pictures taken from only a few years ago and walls were still standing. I must admit that I was rather shocked about how much damage had occurred in just the last few years. It really is tragic that something wasn’t done while something still could be done. The state of the site seems well past any efforts. Thankfully, the view is still like no other.

  9. Jon Genys says:

    My ancestors were here before and after the wooden lodge was built. Farmers and gamekeepers they bred pheasant and grouse for shoots. Must visit soon.
    Thanks for a great piece.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jon. Your ancestors lived in a beautiful area, with or without the lodge. Having ties to the land must make such a unique place all the more special. I hope you do get to visit soon. All the best!

  10. Sheila Cross says:

    This place fascinated me ages ago, 30 years or more. We passed it again today, travelling along the A543 into Denbigh, we couldn’t believe it was still there, after all these years, although it looked more of a wreck than the last time we saw it!

    I have learnt so much after reading your article, many thanks. The place always looked as though it had a real atmosphere.

    Did you just park in the closed pub car park and walk up, or is there another road around the back somewhere that gives access to the building?

    • Thanks, Sheila. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I saw pictures of the house from about 20 years ago and it still looked in reasonably good shape as far as ruins go, so I was surprised how ruined it really is now. I can’t imagine how different it must have been for you after 30+ years.

      As far as parking, we did park in the closed pub car park, but shouldn’t have. Not knowing the pub was permanently closed, we mistakenly thought the pub would be open by the time we returned so we could have a drink or a meal. Instead, we were notified that we should move our car. I don’t know if it was because we were parked in a way that blocked something or if we shouldn’t have parked in the lot at all. I didn’t notice any place to park on the main road and I saw no other access points to the property, so I’m at a loss regarding parking should we ever return.

      • Sheila Cross says:

        Thanks for reply. It looks as though someone is living in the pub now, although it still has a for sale sign. Wonder if its one of those people who building sits?

        Think there was a pull over spot a bit down the road before the pub, which maybe we could use. Did you then just walk up the track to the left side of the pub? My interest has been re-awakened and am fascinated once again after seeing your wonderful photos. Think we will have to give it a go!!


  11. Sue says:

    Remember many a good night at the Sportsman’s Arms, it was a very popular pub in its day. I also remember the outline of what I knew of as “Plas Pren” on the skyline, that looked like your typical Haunted House!
    The P.O.W camp was actually at Dyffryn Aled, just outside the village of Llansannan. long since demolished.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sue. Too bad the popularity of the Sportsman’s Arms didn’t continue until today. I wish we’d been able to stop in after our hike to and from, but even better if back when the ruins were a little less ruined. The desolate ruins must have been a spine-chilling sight on a moonlit night.

  12. The Sportsmans arms is now open once again – reopened October 2015 apparently.
    They serve food from 10-8pm and they are open till 11pm.
    I know this as I went there last night for a pint of thatchers gold and had a chat with the barmaid.

    The house (Plas Pren/Gwylfa Hiraethog etc etc) is now nothing much more than a couple of almost collapsed walls and a large amount of bricks.
    A pity really how quickly it has fell apart – even in the early 80s it wasnt too terrible.
    It needs a miracle now.

    • Thanks for the update on the Sportsmans Arms ( and the old lodge. I’m glad to know that the pub/restaurant is open once again, but sad to learn about the worsened state of the ruins. Definitely a pity.

  13. Tex says:

    I have been to this wonderful place and I am so sad to see that it has been let down and totally neglected. If I had the money I would return it to its former glory. Also I have been informed that the sports man arms is to close at the end of October this year. I do hope that this is just a rumour .
    Kind Regards. Tex.

  14. lester george says:

    Hi fascinating Read’s I remember the lodge as a young boy when we thought nothing of walking up to the lodge from Denbigh Does anyone actually know who owns the land and Ruins Now..??

  15. Wendy says:

    I remember the hunting lodge the chimneys on it were spectacular twisted. Brick and it stood proud it is said it was pulled down abroad. And shipped. Over and re built.we are losing so many lovely. Big houses I hope to go there. Soon.

  16. Mrs Sue Cottam says:

    Myself and my family have looked at this old house from the early 60s and watched it decay over the years. It has always fascinated us. Walked up to it once and found it very haunting.

  17. rvknox says:

    I knew the house later in the late 1970s – 1980s when we lived close to it and visited often, but due to the upper floors collapsing inwards, our parents didn’t allow us to go inside. Have a few pictures from over the years, but my mother seems to have lost the 1970s-80s photos which would have been more interesting. Can confirm it wasn’t a POW camp but it was used to train the home guard during the second world war. It was never a mental hospital either, perhaps people got confused with the very large asylum (also derelict) in Denbigh. The last people to live were a gamekeeper family (the youngest child of this family has done a few talks about the house). They left in 1955 and it was sold and left to the elements by owners who only purchased it to get the land. Very sad as I think it worthy of preservation.

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