Victorian gothic splendour on the Llŷn peninsula
Elizabeth Caldecott married into the biggest landowning family on the Llŷn peninsula. Based on their estate at Madryn Castle, the Jones-Parry family owned most of the land within the parish of Llanbedrog, some 7 miles away. Following the death of her husband in 1853, Lady Elizabeth immersed herself in the construction of a vast ‘dower house’, and Plas Glyn y Weddw was born.
The location of the house, whose name means ‘gallery in the vale of the widow’, was selected especially by Lady Elizabeth. Her reasons included its sheltered woodland setting, stunning views of Cardigan Bay and close proximity to the grave of her husband, which is just a stone’s throw away.
Lady Elizabeth never actually moved into the house, preferring to travel to and from Madryn by coach. However, Plas Glyn y Weddw did become home to her considerable art collection. When entrepreneur Solomon Andrews bought the mansion in 1896, he turned it into a public art gallery, complete with tea rooms and ornamental gardens.
The gallery closed in 1939 and during the Second World War Land Army girls lived at the property. In 1979 artist Gwyneth ap Tomos and her husband Dafydd bought the building to save it from dereliction. They worked for many years to enable the gallery to reopen to the public.
Today Plas Glyn y Weddw, the oldest art gallery in Wales, continues to attract art lovers to its exhibitions and packed programme of arts and heritage events. In 2012 alone, over 130,000 visitors came to the site. Nature trails through the surrounding 12-acre forest, the Winllan, and a new open-air amphitheatre are also to be found at this special place.