Spooky, 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.
That 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…
Originally, 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.
The 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!
In 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.
But 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.
I 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.
I 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.
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.