Plas y Brenin

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Plas y Brenin located in Conwy County Borough, Wales is the National Mountain Centre for the United Kingdom. The centre is situated in Dyffryn Mymbyr, the Mymbyr Valley, in Snowdonia and is less than a quarter of a mile south-west of the centre of Capel Curig on the A4086 road.


In the late 18th century, Richard Pennant, 1st Baron Penrhyn, built a road from Bangor through the Nant Ffrancon and Dyffryn Ogwen to Betws-y-Coed, and eventually through to Shrewsbury (in use by 1798). In 1801, Lord Penrhyn built the then named Capel Curig Inn. In 1808 the Mail coach which ran from Holyhead to Shrewsbury began running via Capel Curig. The Mail coach ceased operation in 1848 following the opening of the Chester and Holyhead Railway. The inn wasn't built on the road (now the A5), but some distance from it on the present site to facilitate enjoyment of the superb view of Llynnau Mymbyr (the lakes) and the Snowdon horseshoe.

Sometime between 1869 and 1871 the building's name was changed again from the Capel Curig Hotel to the Royal Hotel. Since its opening in 1801[1] the famous guests over the years were Queen Victoria, Edward VII, George V, and Edward VIII.

Other well-known people who visited included Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond on 6 September 1807 (there is a plaque commemorating his visit), Sir Joseph Paxton (1856) (designer of The Crystal Palace), Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (1858), Lord Byron (1913) and Sir Walter Scott (1818). Some distinguished visitors to the hotel etched their names into the windows of the then cocktail bar (now the reception area): these were still in place into the 1970s.

"The Royal Hotel" main entrance view (late 19th century)
"The Royal Hotel" with "Pont y Bala" in the foreground
The Royal Hotel gardens (late 19th century)
Llynnau Mymbyr and the Snowdon Horseshoe.


In 1955 the Royal Hotel was renamed "Plas y Brenin," which means "King's Place" in Welsh, as a memorial to King George VI, whose trust fund had bought the building for use by The Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR) and was "The Snowdonia National Recreation Centre". Plas y Brenin was visited by H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh (president of the CCPR) on 1 June 1956.

G.I. Milton was its first Warden/Director. John A Jackson, initially Chief Instructor for two years, then became its second Director from 1960 to 1976. This was to be Plas y Brenin's formative and hard fought period and eventually became the "gold standard" for other such centres around the world.

The earliest outdoor courses such as horse riding, surveying, subaqua and flyfishing were later discontinued. Less well known sports such as archery and even javelin throwing were taught, evidence of the latter sports were located in a cellar underneath what is now the dining room.

Plas-y-Brenin's horse riding instructor Tibor Zanelsky)
Fly casting practice from the terrace
Early subaqua in Llynnau Mymbyr)
The dinner ladies on farmers night. 1960s

A less well known activity was that of "Farmers Night" which was instigated very early on and still continues today. Its function was to foster good relations, not only with the farmers but with people who lived in Capel Curig.


Plas y Brenin is now a vibrant outdoor pursuits centre and is managed by the Mountain Training Trust (MTT), on behalf of Sport England, and is one of five National Sports Centres. MTT is a registered charity, set up by the British Mountaineering Council and the United Kingdom Mountain Training Board, specifically to run the centre. The latter point should be considered as a justification of the original intent of Plas y Brenin that for the first twenty five years of the existence of the centre that the British Mountaineering Council treated the existence of Plas y Brenin with a deal of politically motivated negativity.[citation needed]

View from the Pinnacles, over the old Turnpike, St. Julitta's Church, Plas y Brenin, Llynnau Mymbyr, Dyffryn Mymbyr, Nant y Gwryd and the Snowdon Horseshoe.
Plas-y-Brenin under a gloomy sky, c1972. Photograph illustrates a well-developed artificial Ski slope, the first in North Wales

Plas y Brenin is uniquely positioned below Llynnau Mymbyr at the foot of Dyffryn Mymbyr, the broad valley leading to the Pen-y-Gwryd hotel and the Snowdon Horseshoe. The centre's purpose is to offer the highest quality mountaineering, climbing and canoeing training. Courses are also offered to the dedicated mountaineering fraternity with opportunities to gain progressive qualifications.

Courses range from governing body award courses to multi-activity holidays, from advanced techniques in alpine climbing to accredited safety and rescue courses.

On site facilities include:

  • 13m climbing wall and a training wall
  • Indoor canoe training pool (6m x 3m)
  • 60m artificial ski slope
  • Fitness room

There is accommodation with up to 65 beds. There are also conference and function room facilities, six lecture rooms, a dining room, bar and shop.



  • "The Splendid Enterprise - The First Fifty Years of Plas y Brenin The National Mountain Centre (UK)", by Lyndsey King, Published 2006, ISBN 978-0-9554675-0-9
  • "The First Fifty Years of the British Mountaineering Council", Published 1997, ISBN 0-903908-07-7. The opening gambit in the Introduction reads: 'It (the BMC) exists to further the interests of mountaineering as a whole, and it will succeed in this only in as far as it receives the full support of each and every mountaineer...It should be needless to add that there will be no attempt to introduce anything so foolish as a qualification scheme for mountain leaders.' G.A.Dummett, Pembroke College, Cambridge, 1946.

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Coordinates: 53°06′07″N 3°55′04″W / 53.10192°N 3.91779°W / 53.10192; -3.91779