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The Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel

Pen-y-Gwryd is a pass at the head of Nantygwryd and Nant Cynnyd rivers in Gwynedd, Wales and a quarter of a mile from the boundary with Conwy in northern Snowdonia, close to the foot of Snowdon. It is located at the junction of the A4086 from Capel Curig to Llanberis and Caernarfon and the A498 from Beddgelert and Nant Gwynant about a mile from the head of the Llanberis Pass, and is the site of the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel.

A Short History of Pen-y-Gwryd from 1810 to present[edit]

Pen-y-Gwryd 1891
Ann & Henry Owen
Early climbing party Pen-y-Gwryd

The Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel was originally a simple farmhouse dating from 1811 and would become an Inn under the auspices of a John Roberts from Llanberis,[1] who eventually sold the Inn (c1840) and left for America. A Mrs. Hughes, who was the widow of the first landlord of the Capel Curig Inn, a Joseph Grifith, (which became The Royal Hotel, now Plas-y-Brenin) and later the widow of Reverend Robert Hughes Capel Curig, took over the Inn (c1843).

In 1847 Henry Owen acquired the Inn,[2] initially combining the work with a position of Agent at a nearby copper mine, and later with farming. By 1858, the business was sufficiently successful to allow him to purchase the freehold, and during his tenure the original building was considerably extended, transforming it from a farmhouse Inn to a well-known and popular hotel.

During the Owens tenure the Inn's status for its comfort and hospitality [3] would only be surpassed by its connection with mountaineering in North Wales.[4] In May 1898 The Climbers Club originated at Pen-y-Gwryd, as it is recorded in its first journal "....its natural birth at Pen-y-Gwryd" and "...its congenial atmosphere...... (The Climbers Club) first struck its roots". The Climbers Club is now based at Helyg on the A5 between Capel Curig and Ogwen Cottage.

In 1870 the Society of Welsh Rabbits (c1865) came into being, the object of which was to explore Snowdonia in winter, and as close to Christmas as possible. Anne Owen related a story to Mr. Carr (author) in 1895, that some thirty years ago that the society had written an article "praising Pen-y-Gwryd as an excellent resort at Christmas", prior to that Mrs. Owen went on to say " ....we rarely, if ever, had a guest at Christmas and since then we have hardly been without guests during the period".

Harry Owen was born in Beddgelert, Caernarvonshire on 2 April 1822, the son of a farmer, Owen Owen. He married Ann Pritchard, of Llanbeblig. Ann's excellent cookery was apparently to pay no small part in the success of their hotel venture.

Both Harry and his wife Ann would run the Inn until 1896 when Anne Owen died, Harry Owen having died in 1891.

Ten years of indifferent fortune passed before Miss. Roberts from The Royal Hotel, Capel Curig took over the running of the hotel. However, it was not until William Hampton, along with Arthur and Florence Lockwood, took ownership and further developed the property (and in the 1920s created Llyn Lockwood - the small trout lake opposite the hotel), that the hotel and its mountaineering traditions developed once again. During the second world war the hotel was taken over by Lake House School from Bexhill-on-Sea.

One hundred years after the Owens drove the hotel and its mountaineering connection into the public consciousness, Chris and Joe Briggs, at the same time, both improved the hotel and enhanced its mountaineering links by becoming a Mountain rescue post (the plaque is still attached to main entrance), whilst maintaining the hotel's history.

The Pen-y-Gwryd mountain rescue post was closely tied with the two other mountain rescue posts in the area, namely Ogwen Cottage Outdoor pursuits Center now the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation and Plas y Brenin.

Each of the guest bedrooms is named after one of the thirteen peaks over 3000 feet, and the bath is one of the largest Victorian period pieces.

Everest connections[edit]

The hotel's most notable mountaineering connections are largely due the first successful Everest expedition in 1953 and the Kangchenjunga expedition in 1955, where training and testing of oxygen equipment for those expeditions took place, at Helyg near Capel Curig. On the right at the hotel entrance there is a Tyrolean style Stuberl with the signatures, written on the ceiling, of the team that did the first ascent of Everest in 1953 and of the successful first ascent of Kangchenjunga in 1955, these include Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Sir John Hunt, Charles Evans, George Band, Joe Brown, John Angelo Jackson,[5] Wilfred Noyce,[6] Tony Streather, Tom Mackinnon, Norman Hardie, Neil Mather, John Clegg and others including Noel Odell from Mallory's 1924 expedition and Chris Bonington of later successes. There are many photographs and exhibits provided by the original team members in the main bar and guest lounge. In the past each year, now every five years, Pen-y-Gwryd hosts the Everest and Kangchenjunga reunions.

Caradog Jones, the first Welshman to conquer Everest, has stated that it was this Welsh connection with the mountain which inspired him.

Everest Reunion Pen-y-Gwryd 1963
Kangchenjunga reunion at Pen-y-Gwryd 1990

Other notable visitors include: Charles Kingsley and Henry Kingsley, William Ewart Gladstone (Gladstones), Augustine Birrell, Walter Parry Haskett Smith, Thomas Huxley, Lord Coleridge - past and present (at the time of writing), John Henry Cliffe "Notes and recollections of an Angler" (1860), Andrew Ramsay,[7] George Mallory in 1914 and Jack Hawkins (actor - Lawrence of Arabia and the Cruel Sea).

The Roman camp[edit]

Surveying of the site prior to excavation of the Roman Camp in 1960

The Roman marching camp lies at head of Dyffryn Mymbyr below Snowdon and Moel Berfedd.[8][9] Nothing remains of this camp but grass and bramble covered mounds. The site was first excavated in 1960 by early surveying courses from Plas-y-Brenin under the auspices of Dr. Josephine "Jo" Scarr, now Dr. Josephine Flood. The camp had no permanent buildings, as it was used mainly as an emergency camp on the march from Chester to Caernarvon.

The camp is difficult to observe due to erosion and local land usage, was roughly diamond shaped, the ditch approximately 5 ft (1.5 m) wide and 2 ft (0.61 m) deep below the turf-line with a rampart of 8 to 9 ft (2.7 m) wide. The Northern rampart runs through the current location of the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel.[8]

The surrounding area[edit]

The "PYG track", one of the routes leading to the summit of Snowdon, begins opposite the youth hostel at Pen-y-Pass, and its name is believed by many to be derived from the initials ("P-y-G"). Older maps, however, label the path as the "Pig track" and the name derives from Bwlch y Moch (the Pigs' Gap), where the path passes through a spur. The Old Miners' Track from the Snowdon copper mines (incorporated into the modern A4086 road between Pen-y-Pass and Pen-y-Gwryd) continues northwards beyond Pen-y-Gwryd, skirting Glyder Fach to Bwlch Tryfan and Dyffryn Ogwen.


  1. ^ H.R.C. Carr & G.A. Lister (1948). "IV". The Mountains of Snowdonia (2nd ed.). Crosby Lockwood & Son Ltd. p. 60. no 
  2. ^ H.R.C. Carr & G.A. Lister (1948). "IV". The Mountains of Snowdonia (2nd ed.). Crosby Lockwood & Son Ltd. p. 64. no 
  3. ^ Charles Kingsley (1857). Two Years Ago. no 
  4. ^ H.R.C. Carr & G.A. Lister (1948). "IV". The Mountains of Snowdonia (2nd ed.). Crosby Lockwood & Son Ltd. p. 73. no 
  5. ^ Jamie Owen (2005). "IV". Welsh Journeys:Snowdon. Gomer Press. pp. 79–101. ISBN 1-84323-569-2. no 
  6. ^ Wilfred Noyce (1954). "I". South Col: One mans adventure on the ascent of Everest 1953. William Heinemann. pp. 8/11. no 
  7. ^ H.R.C. Carr & G.A. Lister (1948). "IV". The Mountains of Snowdonia (2nd ed.). Crosby Lockwood & Son Ltd. p. 67. no 
  8. ^ a b D.R. Wilson; R. P. Wright (1964). "Roman Britain in 1963: I. Sites Explored:II. Inscriptions". The Journal of Roman Studies 54: 152–185. doi:10.2307/298662. JSTOR 298662. 
  9. ^ Mr. J. E. Jones (1963). "Archeology in Wales 1963". Caernarvonshire Inventory II. 


  • Snowdonia, National Park Guide Number 2, edited Edmund Vale, HMSO 1958/1960
  • "A Scrapbook of Snowdonia", Vernon Hall, Arthur H. Stockwell Ltd., 1982, ISBN 0-7223-1622-4

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°04′57″N 4°00′07″W / 53.08256°N 4.00203°W / 53.08256; -4.00203