Capel Curig Inn

A 3¼ inch hand-coloured magic lantern slide of Capel Curig with Snowdon in the background. St Julitta’s church is on the bottom right, Capel Curig Inn in the centre and Llynnau Mymbyr between it an the Snowdon range.

This summary of information about Capel Curig Inn is based entirely on comments in tourists’ journals and guide books. Other sources, such as newspaper reports, trade directories, maps and family records (including the grave stones in the churchyard) are being gathered by The Friends of St Julitta’s church and will add much to this summary.

Stereo Photograph by H Petschler and Co,            The same building in 2018
Manchester No 587 Hotel at Capel Curig, 1860s?     (Michael Freeman collection)

Stereographs by Francis Bedford, no. 128

CAPEL CURIG    Hotel, the Garden Front

1860s

(Michael Freeman collection)

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the south side of the inn

 

 

 

 

 

 

This page includes:

  • Variations on the spelling of Capel Curig
  • Introduction
  • Inn or Hotel?
  • The Location of Lord Penrhyn’s Inn
  • Coaching Inn
  • Additional Facilities for coaches
  • Soaked to the skin
  • Other inns, hotels, public houses and lodging houses in the village
  • Adverts for the Inn
  • Accommodation in Capel Curig before Lord Penrhyn’s Inn
  • Lord Penrhyn’s Inn
  • The garden
  • Boats and fishing on the lakes
  • References to the number of beds
  • References to the Inn being full or empty
  • References to the quality of the service
  • References to the harper
  • Notable visitors
  • Royal hotel
  • Illustrations of the Inn

See also separate files on:

Variations of the spelling of Capel Curig

The following spellings were used by tourists, in guide books and occasionally on maps:
Capel Currig, Capel Cerig, Capel-Kerrig, Capel Cerrig, Capel Kurig

The Inn at Capel Curig from Moel Siabod, c. 1870. The trees between the inn and the rustic bridge are where the ski-slope is now located.

 

 

 

 

 

Print, which appeared on an advert for the inn dated 1861

Introduction

There was a small inn at Capel Curig before Lord Penrhyn built his inn (see below).
Lord Penrhyn built a new road from Bangor to Capel Curig at the end of the 18th century and commissioned Benjamin Wyatt to design a new inn at Capel Curig. Work on the building was in progress by 1798 and Joseph Griffiths obtained a licence to keep the inn [sell alcohol] on 15th September 1800. The earliest entry in the visitors’ books (which appears to have been copied from an earlier book), is dated July 1801.

The earliest reference to the new inn described it as small but it seems that it was very soon enlarged: in 1804, Harriet Green stated that ‘a large inn is building’ [presumably being enlarged] and in the same year, Anon, (NLW Puleston Papers, 1084A) wrote that it was ‘enlarging under the patronage of Lord Penrhyn’. An entry in the visitors’ book for May 1804 (p. 81) suggests that building work was about to start or was in progress and in 1806 the Duc de Montpensier noted that: ‘There will be when quite finished, seventy bedrooms, fifteen or twenty sitting rooms, and stalls in the stables for one hundred horses.’  However, a plan of the Inn, dated 1808,  shows a proposed extension to provide 35 bedrooms, 11 parlours, a bar, tap room and stabling for 36 horses (Plans of the building,  Bangor University Archives).

Some tourists suggested that it was extended several times but no one other than Harriet Green reported that building was in progress while they were there. Hall in 1809-1811 stated that it was 180 feet long while Fisher (1817) estimated that it was 90 yards (270 feet) and Freeman (1825) thought it was 252 feet long. Pugh, in 1816, reported that it had been enlarged and that ‘twelve handsome rooms are now finished’. As a result, several visitors described it as a warren and had difficulty finding their rooms or complained that there was a long walk from the bedrooms to the dining room.

Moses Griffith’s watercolour of it (NMW A 3193) dated 1806 shows it as long set of connected buildings with large stables as a separate block. It seems that originally it comprised one or two story buildings but some of these have had extra stories added to them, possibly in the 20th century.

In 1955 the building was purchased for The Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR)  and was renamed ‘Plas y Brenin’ as a memorial to King George VI. It is now The Snowdonia National Recreation Centre.

Inn or Hotel?

Lord Penrhyn’s accommodation for travellers at Capel Curig was initially called an Inn, as were most such facilities until the early 19th century but in 1815 an American called it an hotel and others did so from 1819 although many continued to call it an Inn. See inns and hotels

The Location of Lord Penrhyn’s Inn

The inn was built about half a mile off the main Shrewsbury to Holyhead road in order for the guests to have what was considered to be one of the best views of Snowdon, over Llyniau Mymbyr (the Mymbyr lakes). To the south lay Bettws y Coed and the popular Swallow waterfalls; to the north lay the spectacular Nant Ffrancon, the Penrhyn Quarry and Bangor; to the east lay the road to Beddgelert, off which ran a road down the Llanberis pass to Llanberis and on to Caernarfon.

Coaches

Capel Curig was about 220 miles from London and 40 from Holyhead. Coach services passed through Capel Curig from the early 19th century, and increased with the improvement of the Shrewsbury to Holyhead road during the 1820s but with the coming of the railway along the north coast of Wales in about 1848, the mail coach service came to an end. Many inns provided posting services – i.e. fresh horses. Initially, it seems, that the nearest posting service was at Cernioge, 15 miles to the south-east, but the following entries in the Capel Curig visitors’ book suggests that this was unsatisfactory, and was taken over by Mr Griffith, the landlord of Capel Curig. It is possible that new stables were built at this time for additional horses. In 1805, the Duc de Montpensier noted that theyre was to be stabling for 100 horses.

18th May 1805
Hitherto, the whole of the posting business from Capel Curig has been done by Mrs Dale of Cernioge but the numerous complaints that have been made from time to time of her horses, carriages, harness and drivers has made it necessary for Lord Penrhyn to insist upon his tenant, Griffith to be responsible for the better conduct of it – from henceforth Griffith’s horses, carriages and drivers will do the posting from Capel Curig to Bangor Ferry which will enable Mrs Dale to curtail the number of her horses and carriages but it is expected that she will select such as will do the business in a proper manner between Capel Curig and Cernioge. It is acknowledged that great allowances ought to be made for Mrs Dale; but as Travelling this road is now become general, out of justice to the public, this alteration has been made.
[neatly written but not signed]
Capel Curig Inn Visitors book, NLW ex 2126, p. 156

20 November 1805
This day Griffith enters upon the whole posting business at Capel Curig. It is to be hoped that he will conduct it properly so that no just complaints may be recorded in this book.
Capel Curig Inn Visitors book, NLW ex 2126, p. 188

1821
Route 249 HOLYHEAD (Oxonian Express), [From London] thro’ High Wycombe, Oxford, Birmingham, Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Llangollen, Cernioge, Capel Curig, and Bangor.
Daily. [Leave London] 5 morning. Arrive Eagle and Child, Holyhead, 8 evening.
Depart. 5 morning Arrive [London] 8 evening.
Cary’s New itinerary; or, An accurate delineation of the great roads … (1821)
[There are probably many similar adverts for coach routes along the Holyhead road].

Additional Facilities for coaches

Because of this fine location off the main road, not all coaches called at the new inn. A cottage and stables were built on the main road to save coaches having to take a short diversion to the Inn to change horses so passengers had to walk 1/4 mile between the inn and the main road to where the coaches stopped. The location of these facilities is uncertain.
‘in addition [to the inn], and to save time, Mr. Pennant has caused to be erected a cottage and stables, to enable parties in haste, as well as the mail and coaches, to change horses without going down to the inn.’
Cliff, Allen, The Cambrian tourist : or, post-chaise companion through Wales : containing cursory sketches of the Welsh territories, and a description of the manners, customs, and games of the natives ; with charts, comprehending, at one view, the advisable route, best inns, distances, and objects most worthy of attention. (6th edition, 1828), p. 210

In 1827, Judith Beecroft reported that the coach they caught on the main road at Capel Curig for Llangollen stopped for breakfast at Dolgan, 2 miles towards Bettws y Coed, where there was another inn, connected with Capel Curig Inn.  (see below)

Soaked to the skin

Capel Curig has the highest rainfall in Wales and several tourists complained about arriving at the inn soaked to the skin or unable to leave it for hours and sometimes days because of bad weather.

Other inns, hotels, public houses and lodging houses in the area

Before 1801, generally poor accommodation was to be found at Nant Peris (old Llanberis); Beddgelert and by Llyn Cwellyn (later known as the Snowdon Ranger). The Goat Inn opened at Beddgelert in 1803; an inn opened at Pen y Gwryd at the junction of the Beddgelert to Capel Curig road and the road down the Llanberis Pass in 1811 and the Victoria Hotel opened at Llanberis in 1832. Tourists stayed at all these inns in preparation for, or following, an ascent of Snowdon. Capel Curig inn was the furthest from the summit and its guide (also a harper) charged the most to accompany guests to the summit.
Capel Curig had other accommodation for tourists by the middle of the 19th century and by the end of the century there was the Tan-y-Bwlch inn [not the one to the south of Beddgelert], the Bryntyrch Inn, Cobden’s, Ty’n Coed and lodging houses. Some of these had special deals for tourists to stay by the week.

Adverts for the Inn

 

1861                              1897                                                                    1912 or after

Adverts for this inn, and others in the area were published in a few guidebooks, directories and newspapers. These provided information about the facilities and the names of the inn keepers  but so far, only a few have been found for Capel Curig. It is possible that the inn was so well-known and busy that there was no need to spend money on adverts.

Accommodation in Capel Curig before Lord Penrhyn’s inn

It seems that there was a poor inn at Capel Curig by the end of the 18th century but its exact location is unknown. It is likely that it was on the main road, in the village, and not where the present Inn was built.

1798
The present Public House is somewhat similar, in point of accommodations, to those at Llanberis. We got here some eggs, bacon and dreadfully bad new ale. They told us they had some dried goat, but though the house was rather famous for this species of food, we declined having any.
Bingley, William, (1774-1823), A tour round North Wales, performed during the summer of 1798: (London, 1800), p. 319

1799
An inn little better [than Llanberis], either in appearance or convenience, the people are boorishly polite all we got here was tea and eggs. This was the delectable mansion, with the apartments of terrible aspect, it seems a place for murder, bloody sheets and thieves!!
Porter, Robert Kerr, Sir (1777-1842), Journal of a Tour in North Wales etc, NLW MS  12651A

1799
After a frugal repast at a miserable hovel called an inn I proceeded to Llanrwst.
Hoare, Sir Richard Colt, Cardiff Public Library, MS 4.302.3 (folio)
Cardiff Public Library, MS 3.127.6 (quarto)
Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, (1983), p. 115

1799
Sir Richard Colt Hoare visited the new inn in 1810.
When I last visited these parts some years ago [1799] there was no accommodation even for the fisherman or even a pedestrian-tourist.
Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 1983, pp. 247-248, 269

Descriptions of Lord Penrhyn’s Inn

[1798]
Capel Curig stands in a fine mountainous vale in which are two lakes. A good inn, erected here by Lord Penrhyn in 1798.
Anon, A Short Account of Caernarvon, and Bedd-kill-hart; or, Beddgelart, &c. (Caernarvon, T. Roberts, 1806), p. 65

1798
Lord Penrhyn is now building a small but comfortable inn, from a design of his agent, Mr Wyatt:
Bingley, William, (1774-1823), A tour round North Wales, performed during the summer of 1798: (London, 1800), p. 319

1799 July
He [Lord Penrhyn] is now building an inn of Gothic Architecture at Capel Curig
Colt Hoare, Sir Richard, Cardiff Public Library, MS 4.302.3 (folio)
Cardiff Public Library, MS 3.127.6 (quarto)
Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 1983, p. 115

1800
The inn at Capel Curig, was, in 1800, a small house of three rooms upon a floor with an attached wing of offices.
‘An account of the parishes of Llandygai, Llanllechid and Aber forming part of a preparatory draft of ‘A Description of Caernarvonshire’ written 1809-1811 by Edmund Hyde Hall’, NLW add MS 839C

1800
The inn at Capel Cerig is lately erected by Lord Penrhyn, and is occupied by two of his former servants; happily for their business, English and Welsh. It smells a little of the embattled cottages, but one is thankful for good accommodations in so remote a place. Before it was built, sorry cwrw, milk, butter and oaten bread was all that money could purchase, at a hut called a public house, in Capel Cerig.
Hutton, Catherine, Letters written during a third tour in North Wales, letter 27, Capel Cerig, Sept 18th 1800, NLW ms. 19079C, p. 126; letter XVI (edited and renumbered), Corwen; Sept. 20, 1800, Monthly Magazine and British Register, vol. 46, (1818), pt. 2, p. 128-141

1801
Near one of these Lord Penrhyn has erected, from a design of Mr Benjamin Wyatt, a small, but very comfortable inn.
Bingley, W., Rev, (1774-1823), A Tour round North Wales including its Scenery, Antiquities, Customs and some Sketches of its Natural History; Delineated from two Excursions through all the interesting Parts of the Country, during the summers of 1798 and 1801, (London, 1804), pp. 439-440

1801
“In this place, wild and mountainous as it is, stands an inn, without exception the most elegant and comfortable of any public house of entertainment I ever was in. Too much cannot be said in praise of the public spirit of its noble founder, Lord Penrhyn, to whom travellers are indebted for this most agreeable surprise, and also for having improved the roads in a very great degree, though still very much, indeed, remains to be done in that particular. The master of the inn (Mr. Griffith) has a kind of album, in which, for his lord’s information and amusement, he requests all gentlemen, his guests, to insert their names. My dear father did not insert ours, but instead of them the following, leaving our names to be delivered to Mr. George Leycester, my old friend and tutor, who is at present on a visit to Lord Penrhyn, and who is expected with his lordship at C. C. [Capel Curig]:-.
Long had old Snowdon grieved to know
Where from the beauteous vale below
His summit fairest shew’d;
The eye of taste could scarce approach,
No comforts nigh-to chaise or coach
Impassable the road.

The Genius of the Mountain smiled,
And bade his first-born fav’rite child
Dispel his clouds and care;
Penrhyn shall smooth the road; Penrhyn
With Wyatt’s help shall build an inn,
And place a Griffith there.

This tribute to the elegant munificence of the noble owner of the surrounding wonders, to the skill of his admirable architect, and the acknowledged merit of the excellent master of the house, is left by a father and son, whose names will not be unknown to some of the noble Lord’s very respectable friends.-Augt. 30th, 1801.

Amongst a number of names, there are also the following confirmatory lines:
Heathcote, Impey, and Drake,
For formality’s sake,
All due commendation bestowing
On the drinking and eating
They met at this neat inn,
Subscribe to the praises foregoing.

Children, Anna Atkins, Memoir of J.G. Children, Esq … (Westminster, 1853), pp. 36-37

1804
10th September
At Capel Curig for three days where ‘a large inn is building’
Green, Harriet, Letter to Samuel Galton jnr. (Dudson, Birmingham). 26 Sept. 1804, Birmingham archives, MS3101/C/D/16/3/1  

1804
Clear away the ground before your new building in the form of a Crescent and don’t narrow the Entrance, Otherwise you will spoil the appearance of the building and render it inconvenient.
Anon, Capel Curig Inn Visitors’ book, 19th May, 1804, p. 81 [This appears to be advice to those extending the inn.]

1804
Mr Tighe had passed this road in 1801 [see p. 5 of the Visitors’ book] He has now seen with pleasure so useful a ?setup – so nearly completed
Capel Curig Inn Visitors’ book, 9th July, 1804, p. 92

1804
[Lord Penrhyn], … has built a neat and agreeable inn.
Brewer, James Norris, (fl. 1799-1829), A Tour Through the most interesting parts of North Wales, The Universal Magazine, New Series, vol. 3, p. 24

1806
Lord Penrhyn has built a most magnificent Inn, such a one indeed as you would like to find near London. There will be when quite finished, seventy bedrooms, fifteen or twenty sitting rooms, and stalls in the stables for one hundred horses.
d’Orleans, Antoinne Philippe, Duc de Montpensier (1775-1807), Tour in Wales, [1806], Correspondence to Mrs Forbes, Seaton House, Aberdeen. MS 2358 University of Aberdeen, Letter dated Caernarfon, 20.9.1806
Hay, Malcolm, (translator) Prince in Captivity, (London, 1960), p. 208

1809-1811
The inn at Capel Curig, was, in 1800, a small house of three rooms upon a floor with an attached wing of offices. It has since grown by successive additions to an extent of 180 feet in front, with stabling, out offices, and every sort of convenience. Sixty beds are made up within it, and the establishment of carriages, and horses, tender? the mail and a heavy coach, which pass here, is very ample. Yet great as are the accommodations, so continual is sometimes the travelling, particularly in summer, that they are not sufficient to receive all who require them.
‘An account of the parishes of Llandygai, Llanllechid and Aber forming part of a preparatory draft of ‘A Description of Caernarvonshire’ written 1809-1811 by Edmund Hyde Hall’, NLW add MS 839C, p. 5

1810 (about)
The inn at Capel Curig I may safely pronounce to be one of the handsomest and most commodious in this country, having a garden tastefully laid out, and ornamented, all the rooms lie at the back of the house, most of them possessing a most perfect view of Snowdon and other mountains and a gravel walk about 3 yards from the house gives you an unbounded landscape with Snowdon in the Centre.
Anon, Narrative of a Tour through Wales by an anonymous English Gentleman. NLW MS 18943B

1810
I cannot commend either the architecture or materials of the house, particularly those of the principal front which is entirely lined with slate, giving it a most funereal appearance when viewed from the lake and other places. Had it been built with the stone of the country, and not faced, it would have proved a good and enlivening object from many points of view in the neighbourhood. The architecture is a medley of square and pointed windows etc. and irregular in its plan. The bedrooms are in general small but the whole is commodious, and so good a refuge in so desolate a country could hardly be expected.
Colt Hoare, Sir Richard, Tour of Wales, 1810
Cardiff Public Library, MS 4.302.2 (folio, part;  MS 4.302.3 (folio, part);  MS 3.127.6 (quarto)
Thompson, M.W., The Journeys of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 1983, pp. 247-248

1816
The inn is built agreeably to a design of Mr Wyatt, the architect, but is by no means one of his masterpieces. The whole consists of one house of three, and another of four stories in height, situated close to each other; the latter being again separated into two divisions, one of which has a gate in the gothic style, and the other a gate in the common style. We were ushered into a pretty little hexangular room, in a projection behind the building the windings of which opened into the garden, and in the contemplation of the beautiful prospect we here enjoyed soon forgot all our objections to the building itself. … The garden which runs along the whole length of the building in which we were, consisting of the projection already mentioned, and two other square projections connected together by intermediate structures, is indeed very narrow, and contains only a gravel walk with a few flower beds on each side, but from its length and number of lauristinuses, roses etc, with which it is filled, it has on the whole a very agreeable appearance.
This inn, notwithstanding its unconnected plan, is provided with every convenience a traveller could wish for. Nay, suitable provision is even made for the scientific tourist as ancient and modern topographic and orthographic maps of Wales are hung along the walls of the passage which connects the small house with the larger one.
Spiker, Samuel Heinrich, Dr (1786-1858.), Travels through England, Wales, & Scotland, in the year 1816: Translated from the German.  (London: Printed for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, 1820. (2 vols), pp. 38-40

1816
This inn was lately built from a plan by Mr. Wyatt, but finding it much too small for the convenience of the numerous travellers on this road, Lord Penrhyn ordered an addition of no less than twelve handsome rooms, which are now finished.
Pugh, Edward, (1761-1813), Cambria Depicta: A Tour Through North Wales illustrated with Picturesque Views, By a Native Artist, (London: printed by W. Clowes for E. Williams, 1816. Quarto), pp. 111-112

1817
It was built a few years ago upon a small scale by Lord Penrhyn, from a pleasing design by Mr. Wyatt; but it has been since greatly enlarged in consequence of the increase of travelling on this road, and is now of vast extent, being scarcely less than 90 yards in length. Its sides as well as roof are wholly covered with blue slates. … In the entrance passage of the inn we saw, suspended in frames, the coats of arms, emblazoned, with the styles and titles set forth, of the two last viceroys of Ireland, the Duke of Richmond and Lord Whitworth: and at other inns on this line we afterwards observed similar ones, with those of many former Lords-Lieutenants; it being usual for every new one to send such to all the inns at which he sleeps on the way to his viceroyalty.
Fisher, Paul Hawkins, A Three weeks tour into Wales in the year 1817, (Stroud, 1818), pp. 44-45

1817
We arrived at Capel Curig to tea, the inn large and ill conducted, but the Harper was a very good one,
‘Tours through Part of North Wales in 1817 and 1819 by Captain and Mrs Henry Hanmer’, NLW, ms. 23996C, p. 46-47

1818
I must not omit mentioning that the landlord at Capel Curig is also the clergyman. He does not however take any active part in the management of the inn. It is carried on in the name of his wife, who was a widow.
Alderson, Harriet, (Accompanied Lady Fitzherbert of Tissington, Staffs?), Journal of a tour from Aston to Beaumaris in September 1818, Gwynedd Record Office, XM/2600

1819
It has so many doors I was obliged to ask a person standing by which I was to go in at.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867), Original manuscripts in the Institution of Electrical Engineers, Savoy Place, London, Common Place Book 2 for 19 July 1819,  UK0108 SC MSS 002/1/2
Dafydd Tomos, Michael Faraday in Wales: including Faraday’s journal of his tour through Wales in 1819 [1972], p. 95

1825
This house of entertainment for man and horse, looks, on approaching it from the high road, more like a little town than a single building. It was erected by the late Lord Penrhyn, of excellent memory, for this country’s improvement, from a design by Mr. Wyatt, and has been much enlarged since. The length it has attained is no less than 252 feet, so that it affords space for a very large establishment.
Freeman, George John, Sketches in Wales; or, A diary of three walking excursions in that principality, in the years 1823, 1824, 1825. (London, 1826), pp. 152-153

1825
We slept on Wednesday evening at Capel Carig, which Sir W. supposes to mean the Chapel of the Crags; a pretty little inn in a most picturesque situation certainly, and as to the matter of toasted cheese, quite exquisite.
Letter from Sir Walter Scott to his wife in Lockhart, John, The Life of Sir Walter Scott, vol. 3, (Paris, 1838), pp. 291-292

1827
Soon after we arrived at the large inn [of Capel Curig] built by a few straggly houses – the situation is romantic and the house is very long but not high – we were not pleased with the approach to the bed chamber they allotted us but were delighted to find that besides the Holyhead Mail which passes every morning at 4 o’clock, there is a daily coach every morning at 11 o’clock.
Friday July 6th
To our great and agreeable surprise we found that we were to have a nearer and more agreeable bedroom which was neat and upon going into the pretty garden at the back we admired the back front of the house which is Gothic and the walls as well as the roof covered with slates fastened on by nails. At 11 o’clock we had to walk ¼ mile to a house connected with the inn which the stage coach passes (for the road having been altered no longer goes near the latter). Fortunately we had the inside of the coach to ourselves … Two miles from Capel Curig the coach stops to breakfast and therefore for us it would have been more convenient to have slept there – the place is called Dolgan and the house is connected with the Capel Curig Inn. [Continued to Llangollen].
Beecroft, Judith, Excursion to North Wales, Cardiff Central Library, MS2.325. pp. 100-101

1827-1829
the parlour ‘a room hung round with maps and magnificent engravings from the pictures of Rubens.’ … These two large rooms at the west end of the house, were his [Lord Penrhyn’s] private apartments, and this was his dining room. {comments on the prints on the walls.}
Parker, John, (1798-1860), The Passengers (Travels through Wales), (London, 1831), pp. 114, 124

1830
Capel Curig where there is an inn lately built by Mr Pennant upon a large scale
Coleman, Thomas,‘Journal of a Tour into north Wales with Mrs Coleman, 16th August, 1830’, NLW Minor Deposit 1544, f. 29
[This is an odd statement since the inn was built at the end of the 18th century and enlarged during the first decade of the 19th. It is possible he copied this information from an earlier guide book or published tour.]

1832
After puzzling out our way through the labyrinth of passages to the breakfast room [we] took our morning meal.
Letts, Thomas ‘1832 August Manchester, Liverpool, By coach to North Wales with Mr Tho[Thomas] Boyce. Joined by Messrs [John] Russell and Badderly.’ NLW MS 21690B

1851
We will not, therefore, make the quietness of Capel Curig an excuse for passing it over. The inn is a very irregular building—has only two storeys and one lobby, the latter snakey in its sinuous turnings, though unserpent-like in all else, for it leads to snug little rooms in abundance into some of which I looked), and to one commodious coffee-room, in which we were very speedily discussing luncheon. The grounds at the back are more picturesque than neat. The amazing frolics played by the hedge-rows amused me. They seemed to have “ nudged” each other out of line, to have wheeled round, faced about, kicked up their heels, and settled down in disorder. One little hedge-row was wincing up against the road, another was staring at the window, a third had apparently, like an eccentric locomotive, steamed into a lot of cabbages, and got stopped by a regular pickler. There is a small tank in the garden, full of fish for tourists who like them fresh, and little springs and rivulets in all directions, chirping towards the lake on which rests the shade of Snowdon.
Layne, Pyngle [Fox-Turner, J.], Sketches: chiefly contributed to the Manchester Examiner and Times, (1855), p. 19

1854
The building is composed principally of slate and is of very curious construction since it has been enlarged about a dozen times, in fact it required quite an exploring expedition to find one’s bedroom among so many ups and downs.
Billinghurst, Henry Farncombe, A Pedestrian Ramble through Oxford, Chester  and North Wales, Women’s Library, London, 7RMB/B/1, pp. 270-272

1858
My room overlooked the pleasure-grounds at the back of the house. These are laid out in very pretty style, and from their attractive position are a great ornament to the hotel. … On descending at length, when my captivity was over [while drying his clothes], into the public room, it was at once apparent that the house was full to overflowing, and the visitors were almost dying with ennui. …
{They walked to Llyn Ogwen and back to find that:}
The house was so full, that, notwithstanding many of the guests were in private apartments, the coffee-room presented quite an unwonted sight. The attendance under these circumstances was quite insufficient for the demand, and people were occupying whatever places they could find, in patient expectation of their turn for dinner to come round. So crowded was it, that even ladies were taking temporary refuge in the smoking-room; and two gentlemen pedestrians had just been refused accommodation for the night. The condition of these last was very unenviable. …
It was about half-past eight o’clock before I was finally enabled to make my descent; and at a quarter to nine I proceeded to attack the dinner which had been originally ordered for six o’clock. Most of the guests had by this time been served, though the waiter was still busily skipping about. They were sitting round the room in their respective groups, in such silence that anything uttered above a whisper was almost audible to all the rest, and looking quite as uncomfortable as if they were in the stocks.
St Helier, Aubin, Travels not far from Home, [1860], pp. 276, 279-280

1862
The hotel, now of great length, seems to have been built at some half dozen successive periods,—a new portion having been added now and then to meet the increasing demands on its accommodation.
It is a most comfortable house in every respect. The fare is excellent, the waiters intelligent, attentive, and civil; …  Having repeatedly taken up my quarters at the Capel Curig Hotel, and on more than one-occasion for a week together, I can strongly recommend it as a place of sojourn for the tourist who is bent on exploring the bold scenery of this neighbourhood. … At Capel Curig you will encounter a continually flowing stream of fellow tourists; and the coffee-room often realises a description of the late lamented Christopher North, elsewhere applied, in which he speaks of a “miscellaneous rabble of editors, authors, lords, baronets, squires, doctors of divinity, fellows of colleges, half-pay officers,- and bagmen.”
Bigg, William, The ten day tourist, or Sniffs of the mountain breeze: comprising, Ten days in North Wales, (1862)

1869
There is a large hotel, a relic of posting days, gloomy without being grand – very much like a workhouse – a place you avoid as long as you can – The little inn is snug and homely – a regular tramps house. [The author referred to himself as a tramp – because he was tramping about Wales.]
Anon, An Account of tour in North Wales – ‘Notes to Wild Wales’ NLW MS 11045E, p. 11

The garden

Postcard of the garden with Snowdon in the distance. Offa series, postmarked 1905

Capel Curig Inn had a garden along the south side of the buildings. It led to the nearest lake, on which guests were allowed use the inn’s boats and to fish. There are only a few descriptions of the garden.

1809-1811
a stone coffin which has been broken and part of it … forms a seat in the gardens.
‘An account of the parishes of Llandygai, Llanllechid and Aber forming part of a preparatory draft of ‘A Description of Caernarvonshire’ written 1809-1811 by Edmund Hyde Hall’, NLW add MS 839C

1810
The inn at Capel Curig … having a garden tastefully laid out, and ornamented, … and a gravel walk about 3 yards from the house gives you an unbounded landscape with Snowdon in the Centre.
Anon, Narrative of a Tour through Wales by an anonymous English Gentleman. NLW MS 18943B, f. 43v

1816
The garden which runs along the whole length of the building in which we were, consisting of the projection already mentioned, and two other square projections connected together by intermediate structures, is indeed very narrow, and contains only a gravel walk with a few flower beds on each side, but from its length and number of lauristinuses, roses etc, with which it is filled, it has on the whole a very agreeable appearance.
Spiker, Samuel Heinrich, Dr (1786-1858), Travels through England, Wales, & Scotland, in the year 1816: Translated from the German.  (London: Printed for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, 1820. (2 vols), pp. 38-40

1825
A dismal place shut in by mountains, a dismal garden, everything dismal-
Atherton, Ann, Tour of North Wales and Cardiganshire, 1825, NLW, 20366B,

1826
It [Capel Curig Inn] is situated on the edge of a lake, to which the gardens behind the house, lead; they are laid out with great taste and judgement, and the view from them combines high cultivation contrasted with sterile barrenness; – the stillness of a calm quiet lake, with the imposing grandeur of towering mountains.
Anon, A Trip to the Suspension Bridge over the Menai Straits, to Caernarvon, the Lakes of Llanberis, Snowdon, Beddgelert, Capel Curig, Llanrwst, Conwy and Beaumaris. (Printed in the Stockport Advertiser, 21.7.1826 and four following weeks, now reprinted with corrections, 1828), p. 24 [and subsequent editions]

1844
The pretty inn at Capel Curig is built of slate, walls and roof and flights of steps, all of a shining grey, contrasting oddly with its gay garden of roses which lies beneath
Costello, Louisa Stuart, (1799-18700.  The Falls, Lakes, and Mountains, of North Wales. By Louisa Stuart Costello … With illustrations by Thomas and Edward Gilks, from original sketches by D. H. McKewan.  (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1845), pp. 95-96

1856
Sundry steps lead the visitor across the garden enclosure into the open plain, in which, close at hand, are two lakes, of unequal extent, on which a boat is kept for the accommodation of visitors.
Anon, The Strangers Best Guide to Bangor, Penrhyn Castle and the slate quarries, and through the most picturesque scenery of Carnarvonshire with directions how to proceed at the least possible expense and loss of time. (Bangor, printed by Catherall, Bangor and Chester [1856]), p. 35

1858
My room overlooked the pleasure-grounds at the back of the house. These are laid out in very pretty style, and from their attractive position are a great ornament to the hotel.
The narrow stream which joins the two lakes, and flows on at the foot of the garden, was considerably swollen by the recent rains, and was dashing along like a torrent through the fields.
St Helier, Aubin, Travels not far from Home, [1860], p. 276

1874
Behind the house was a terraced lawn, radiant with flowers; beyond, a pleasant grove, at the foot of which ran a clear, rapid stream. Crossing this by a little foot-bridge, I climbed up the hill-side …
Post, Loretta, J., Scenes in Europe; or, observations by an amateur artist. (Cincinati, 1874)

Boats and fishing on the Lakes

Llynniau Mymbyr from the garden of Capel Curig Inn with Snowdon in the distance, 2018

Boats were available for guests of the inn to use on the two nearby lakes, Llynniau Mymbyr, either just for pleasure or for fishing. Several guests noted that their meal included fish freshly caught from these or other nearby lakes. However, it seems that the quality of the fishing declined, possibly due to over fishing by tourists and locals, but a visitor, writing in 1860 noted that the drains from the Inn emptied into the lakes and this might have contributed to changes in the number or type of fish (although at that time, it is unlikely there were any serious pollutants in the waste, other than, perhaps, chemicals used for cleaning).

1850
NOTES FOR ANGLERS. Cape Curig is not so good a fishing station as it once was.  … There are two boats belonging to Capel Curig hotel, where keys are kept; and two or three other boats, which are much used by quarrymen and others, who often flog the lake unmercifully; the fishing had improved in 1849. It belongs to Col. Douglas Pennant. … The two lakes, Llynniau Mymbyr, near the Capel Curig inn, formerly afforded first-rate sport, but have, from some cause—perhaps frequent netting—greatly fallen off. One day in August, 1831, Hofland the painter killed here 26 brace of trout, chiefly from 1/2lb. to 1 lb. weight, three exceeding 1 lb. …
Cliffe, Charles Frederick, The Book of North Wales, Scenery, Antiquities, Highways and Byeways, Lakes … (1850), pp. 160, 164-165

1860
In his Notes on Family Excursions, written in 1860, Mr Halliwell, F.R.S., speaking of Capel Curig, says, “To turn to a prosaic and unromantic subject, but one which, if not speedily considered, will send both tourists and romance out of Wales, it was with regret I here observed that the drainage of the inn was diverted into the lake.
Bye-gones, July, 1874, p. 80

1869
behind the hotel is a small square pond, … Here they are compelled to breed fish for themselves, in consequence of the isolated position of the hotel. The fish are bred in the two large lakes (called Mymbyr) near here, and are at times netted and brought up to the small pond beforenamed, where they are allowed to swim until required for the tea or breakfast of some hungry tourist, when they are lifted out by means of a small hand-net, to be cooked; and very delicious they are, I can assure you.
Bradbury, John, North Wales: How to See it for Four Guineas, (1869)

1878
Close to the hotel are Llyniau Mymbyr, 2 fine sheets of water, which afford poor fishing;
Murray, A Handbook for England and Wales, Alphabetically arranged (1878), p. 92

1897
Good fishing on all the Lakes, free of charge to Visitors staying at the Hotel. Boats may be used, free of charge.
Advert in a guide book published by Ward Lock

1912 (about)
It is a capital resort for anglers and mountaineers besides the Capel Curig lake on which boating and fishing is FREE to Hotel Visitors. There are also numerous other lakes and streams for fishing open to visitors. Private Lake restocked 1912 with 5,000 9-inch trout.
Advert for the Hotel, c. 1912

References to the number of beds

It is not clear whether these are the numbers of people that the inn could accommodate in beds or the number of bedrooms. Several visitors noted that they were obliged to sleep on sofas or on a floor.
Date   no. of beds
1801   60
1806   70 (when finished, plus 15-20 sitting rooms and stalls for 100 horses)
1808   60
1821   40
1844   50
1859   50

References to the inn being full, or nearly so, or empty

A number of tourists (and possibly some travellers) complained that the Inn was full but they were often found somewhere to sleep, either because other guests left or they spent the night on a sofa or fireside chair (and one complained of having to sleep in a water closet). There were several reasons for the inn being full, despite its size:

  • it was on the main Shrewsbury to Holyhead road, thus served those travelling to and from Ireland on official business as well as tourists;
  • it was in one of the best places for seeing Snowdon from a distance
  • it was situated in one of the places with the highest rainfall in Wales, obliging those who wanted to explore the area to stay until the weather improved: several guests reported staying indoors all day because of heavy rain.

1819   had difficulty procuring beds
1821   very full
1822   no beds to be had (later, able to get a bed in a remote part of the inn)
1824   not a bed to be had
1824   had the last vacant apartment
1834   full
1844   untenanted but by ourselves
1852   full
1856   full up
1859   full
1867   very full

July 8th 1804
Mr Hassell of Eastwood slept here in the water closet – no alternative but sitting up [,] more rooms and beds wanted.
Visitors’ book, p. 92

27 September [1804]
Mr and Mrs Standing and Rev  ???? had the mortification of finding Capel Curig involved in the confusion of a fair with every room full of company and every bed engaged {but Mr Griffith gave them supper and found them beds}
Visitors’ book, p. 119

The quality of the service

Inevitably, guests had differing opinions of the services offered by the innkeeper and staff of the inn – their opinions may have been influenced as much by their own state of mind as by the actual quality of the offerings.

1810
… but still I do not like the inn. Those English waiters and English manners do not suit the mountainous region in which they are transplanted. Oh how much more delightful is the romantic inn and rustic ways of the tenants of Beddgelert.
Hue, Corbet (1769 – 1837), Journal of Corbet Hue, Fellow and Bursar of Jesus College, Oxford, ‘Journal of a Tour through N W[ales], 17th July, 1810’, NLW MSS 23218B, p. 83

1810
all these beauties are much increased by the politeness, genuine civility and accommodation of Mr Griffiths, the landlord of the inn who uses every exertion to make his guests comfortable. The longer you remain in this inn, the more difficult you will find it to get away.
Anon, Narrative of a Tour through Wales by an anonymous English Gentleman. NLW MS 18943B, f. 43v

1824
It was nearly nine o’clock when we reached Capel Curig. At that excellent inn we found everybody ready to serve us.
Freeman, George John, Sketches in Wales; or, A diary of three walking excursions in that principality, in the years 1823, 1824, 1825. (London, 1826), pp. 117-119

1824
On our arrival at Capel Curig at 10 am we were informed … that all the beds were engaged but on hearing we had proposed to stay until Monday they discovered (very much to our subsequent regret), that we could be duly accommodated. I would by no means advise anyone to follow our example [of staying more than one night]. There appeared a sad want of arrangement [in the inn] and the quality of the provision was very indifferent but we cannot speak too favourably of our night apartments. … an opposition inn would be of great advantage to travellers in this quarter.
Lockett, John George, A tour through North Wales, 1824, NLW MS 23939B, ff. 25-26

1825
Pretty good keep at Capel Curig.
Atherton, Ann, Tour of North Wales and Cardiganshire, 1825, NLW, 20366B

1827
Capel Curig [inn] – clean but not comfortable
Beecroft, Judith, Cardiff Central Library, MS2.325, list of inns at end of manuscript

1833
Every thing turned out to be excellent except the weather; the landlady must certainly have dreamed beforehand that we were coming, she had so enticing a sitting room prepared.
Sinclair, Catherine, (1800-1864), Hill and Valley, or Hours in England and Wales, 1833, (1st edition, New York, 1838), pp. 175-182, (2nd Edition, Whyte and Co., Edinburgh, 1839), pp. 143-149
Also in Sinclair, Catherine, Sketches and stories of Wales and the Welsh, [1860], pp. 162-165

1844
The inn miserable, people stupid.
Hall, Ellen, Diary, Bromley Archives, 855/F3/3, pp. 139-140

1847
To Llanberis for breakfast, the inn there is perfection which is more than I can say for that at Capel Curig.
Hall, Emily, Diary, Bromley Archives, 855/F2/5, p. 201

1856
We left Capel Curig in very good humour with the house altogether – it is clean & well-appointed in many respects – the food is not good but I never do particularly enjoy hotel diet.
Hibbert, Mary Ann, Diary for 1856, Gloucestershire Record Office, D1799/F337

1862
It is a most comfortable house in every respect. The fare is excellent, the waiters intelligent, attentive, and civil.
Bigg, William, The ten day tourist, or Sniffs of the mountain breeze: comprising, Ten days in North Wales, (1862)

References to a harper at Capel Curig

There are many references to harpers at Capel Curig, but the only one who was named was Evan Jones described variously as a guide, waiter, harper, weaver, mineralogist, botanist and hairdresser.

Photograph of grave stone in church at Capel Curig. ‘Beneath lyeth the remains of Evan Jones, who was harper at Capel Curig inn for 28 years who died 13th September, 1832 aged 62 years’ (also his wife, Elinor, who died in 1848 – her inscription is in Welsh).

Notable visitors

It is likely that many famous people, as well as members of titled and noble families visited Capel Curig, but only a few have left their names in the records.

This list does not include:

  • people who became famous as authors of tours of Wales (e.g. Pennant, Bingley, etc.). Their names are in the list of all visitors
  • local gentry and most of the Irish nobility and gentry who stayed at the inn while travelling to and from Ireland.
  • people who are listed in the visitors’ book but have not been fully identified.

1798   JMW Turner, (1775-1851), artist, painted a scene near Capel Curig
1799   Sir Richard Colt Hoare (Artist and Antiquary of Stourhead, Wiltshire) visited the area
1802    P.S. Munn and J. S. Cotman of Bond St., July 31st 1802 (Visitor’s book, p. 10)
1802    Joshua Cristall 1 Augst 1802 (Visitor’s book, p. 10)
Munn, Cotman and Cristall became well-respected artists. Cotman painted the interior of Capel Curig Church from which a print was produced.
1802    Mr and Mrs Wyatt [possibly the architect of the Inn, or one of his relatives] (Visitor’s book, p. 25) He or other members of Wyatt families, including George Wyatt, J.P.,  stayed five times up to 1805.
1802   Richard Llwyd, poet, author of Beaumaris bay (Visitor’s book, p. 25)
1802-1803     John Skinner (1772–1839), (antiquary and diarist (published as Journal of a Somerset rector, 1930 and subsequently) stayed at the inn in December 1802 and January 1803 before and after visiting Anglesey.
1806   Antoinne Philippe d’Orleans, Duc de Montpensier (1775-1807)
1807   Charles Lennox, the 4th Duke of Richmond is said to have visited Capel Curig on 6th September.
1810   Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838, Artist and Antiquary of Stourhead, Wiltshire) and Richard Fenton (1747-1821, author of Historical Tour through Pembrokeshire) stayed for several wet days at the inn together.
1811 and 1812   Edmund Becker (fl. 1770s-1825), German artist, sketched the church.
1813   It is said that Lord Byron visited the inn. His name was inscribed on a window pane
1815   Washington Irving (1783-1859) American author, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat
1816   Dr Samuel Heinrich Spiker (1786-1858), German tourist
1818   It is said that Sir Walter Scott visited the inn. His name was inscribed on a window pane
1819   Michael Faraday (1791-1867), scientist
1824   William Wordsworth (1770-1850), poet
1825   Sir Walter Scott passed through Capel Curig on his way from Ireland to the Lake District. He praised the toasted cheese.
1828   Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871)
1831   Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
1842   Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
1854   George Borrow (1803-1881), author of Wild Wales (1862)
1854   Brindle Richards, Composer of God Bless the Prince of Wales visited the inn on August 10th
1856   Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), professor, social reformer, historian and novelist
1856   It is said that Joseph Paxton (1803-1865) visited the Hotel
1858   It is said that Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, (1805-1873), Bishop of Oxford, visited the Hotel.
1860   John Tyndall (1820-1893) and Professor John Huxley (1825-1895) climbed Snowdon between Boxing Day and New Year’s day, having stayed at Capel Curig for one night.
1890   The Queen of Rumania stayed at Penrhyn Castle, and on Wednesday 17th September 1890 she travelled to Bettws y Coed via Llanberis and Capel Curig but it is not known for certain that she visited the Hotel.

Undated
The Duke of Wellington’s name is inscribed on a window pane (date of visit unknown)

Royal Hotel

John Bradbury stated in his North Wales: How to See it for Four Guineas, (1869) that Princess Victoria visited Capel Curig and fished in the pond there but there is absolutely no evidence for this. As with most Royal events, the visit to north Wales of Victoria and her mother in 1832 is very well documented and it shows that Victoria did not visit the Royal Victoria Hotel, Llanberis, as planned because she was unwell on the day but her mother went there. Nor is there any evidence that she visited the inn as Queen, although her name is apparently inscribed on a window pane.
Records of Princess Victoria’s visit to north Wales, 1832.

This story about the visit of Victoria was repeated in subsequent publications and web sites: e.g. in his extensive note on Capel Curig (note 72, pp. 139-140), Dafydd Tomos lists members of the British Royal family who are said to have visited the Inn at Capel Curig.
(Dafydd Tomos, Michael Faraday in Wales: including Faraday’s journal of his tour through Wales in 1819 [1972], p. 95).
Other publications repeat this, e.g.
Quartermaine, J., et al, Thomas Telford’s Holyhead Road, The A5 in North Wales, (2003), p. 103-104

The first known reference to Capel Curig Inn as ‘The Royal Hotel’ also appears in John Bradbury’s, North Wales: How to See it for Four Guineas, (1869). There is no firm evidence that any members of the British Royal family visited the Hotel during the 19th century. The Prince and Princess of Wales were in Caernarfon in 1868, but did not travel inland. It is possible that a member of a European Royal family stayed at Capel Curig enabling the owners to add ‘Royal’ to the name, but no known record of such a visit exists. It was not unusual for an inn to acquire the epithet ‘Royal’ when it became a staging post for the Royal Mail but by 1869, post was no longer delivered by coach.

The Duke (later George V) and Duchess of York drove through Capel Curig and down the pass of Llanberis to the slate quarries in late April, 1899.
Bye-gones, May 3 1899, p. 103

An advert for the Hotel of 1912 or later stated that Capel Curig Hotel was visited by Edward VII in 1907 and by King George and Queen Mary on the 14th July, 1911.

The building, renamed Plas y Brenin was visited on the 1st June 1956 by H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh, president of The Central Council of Physical Recreation who had purchased it for The Snowdonia National Recreation Centre.

Illustrations of the Inn

1805

Capel Curig  from Sketches in north Wales by Moses Griffith 1805. NLW, DV 27

1806
Griffith, Moses, (1747-1819)
Watercolour
‘Capel Curig’
View of the full length of the inn from the south side with ?stables on the right. Compare with Colt Hoare’s view of 1810 (below)
National Museums and Galleries of Wales, A Picturesque Tour Through Wales, 1675-1855, (Catalogue, 1998), plate 58
NMW A 3193

1810
Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838)
Pen and ink wash
‘South front of the Inn at Capel Curig with Snowdon’
Showing part of the south façade of the inn from the east, with part of the garden, lake and Snowdon in the background.
NLW Drawing volume 9, p. 8

1810
Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838)
Pen and ink wash
‘Inn at Capel Curig, 10th July, 1810’
Showing the full length of the inn from the south side. This is essentially the same as Moses Griffith’s watercolour of 1806 but has more detail and may be more accurate.
NLW Drawing volume 9, p. 9

1810
Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838)
Pen and ink wash
‘The Inn at Capel Curig with Snowdon at a distance 10th July, 1810’
Showing the inn in the middle ground.
NLW Drawing volume 9, p. 13

1812
Edmund Becker, (fl. 1770s-1825 also known as Ferdinand Becker)
Pen and ink wash
‘Capel Curig Snowdon in the distance’
“The great and comfortable inn of Capel Curig is situated in the most romantic spot where Snowdon with all his mountain scenery, barren, vast and sublime shews itself in his glory.’
Becker, Mr and Mrs, (1812) Album of drawings, NLW DV33 (PZ319), p. 97

pre 1819

Samuel Davis, 1757–1819, ‘Snowdon from Capel Curig’, undated, Watercolor, Yale Center for British Art, B1977.14.167,

1824

NLW DV35
‘A Collection of Views in North Wales Drawn from Nature in the years [blank] by Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Bart.
no. 28 ‘Snowdon from Capel Curig, 1824’

Stereograph by Francis Bedford no. 233

CAPEL CURIG       Rustic Bridge, near the Hotel, No. 2

(Michael Freeman collection)