It is sometimes referred to as 'the Nant' and is named after the valley where it is located, Nant Gwrtheyrn ("Vortigern's Creek"), which lies in isolation by the sea at the foot of Yr Eifl. The centre is built within the structures of the former quarrying village Porth y Nant, which was abandoned mid-way through World War II after the cessation of quarrying.
The quarry named Nant Gwrtheyrn opened in 1861, and was serviced by a village on the site of the current language centre called Porth y Nant. Nant Gwrtheyrn produced setts used for road surfacing. The community lived an isolated existence, with product shipped and goods shipped out mainly via the Irish Sea, resulting limited contact with the outside world.
The quarry closed early in World War II, partly due to a drop in demand and also to transport difficulties. The hillsides of the Nant, through their landscape scars and the ruins of quarry structures, testify to this former existence.
After the quarry was closed, the community dispersed and the cottages fell into disrepair. Occupied by hippies for a time during the 1960s, the site was the subject of several plans for redevelopment, including as an approved school, when it was acquired by a local trust set up to establish a Welsh language centre there.
The centre specialises in courses for adults who want to learn Welsh as a second language. Courses are held throughout the year at a variety of levels from absolute beginner up to Higher and Proficiency levels, with learners' weekends and other activities to strengthen understanding. Course participants usually are offered one or two cultural experiences as well as formal teaching. Accommodation for students is available in the village, which consists of two terraces of former workmen's cottages, Trem y Mor (Sea View) and Trem y Mynydd (Mountain View).
The centre is used in addition for weddings and conferences, and as a residential site for Writing students at Liverpool John Moores University. The countryside surrounding Nant Gwrtheyrn is known for its outstanding natural beauty, and frequented for this by writers and photographers.
The nearby beach can be seen from the village and it is accessible via an unpaved path. The views take in Porth Dinllaen and on a clear day South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey can be seen. Castle Gwrtheyrn was destroyed by a fire from heaven, according to legend.
Access and transport
The remote character of the centre means that it is difficult to access. The original road down into the village was very steep and full of sharp bends, and was unsuitable for nervous or inexperienced drivers, or for bad weather conditions. It was for this reason used as a "corkscrew" testing ground by many international motor firms. British Pathé characterised driving up the road as "Climbing the Unclimbable" and filmed a car successfully ascending it. The road has now been improved, and has passing places.
The nearest bus stop is in the nearby village of Llithfaen, and the nearest rail stations are in Pwllheli and Bangor. Walking to the centre from the top of the valley is also possible, but the walk down can take over forty minutes, while the walk up is a strenuous one that can take over an hour.
- "Climbing The Unclimbable! - British Pathé". Britishpathe.com. Retrieved 2012-06-21.