Penrhyn Castle is a country house in Llandegai, Bangor, Gwynedd, North Wales, in the form of a Norman castle. It was originally a medieval fortified manor house, founded by Ednyfed Fychan. In 1438, Ioan ap Gruffudd was granted a licence to crenellate and he founded the stone castle and added a tower house. Samuel Wyatt reconstructed the property in the 1780s. The present building was created between about 1822 and 1837 to designs by Thomas Hopper, who expanded and transformed the building beyond recognition. However a spiral staircase from the original property can still be seen, and a vaulted basement and other masonry were incorporated into the new structure. Hopper's client was George Hay Dawkins-Pennant, who had inherited the Penrhyn estate on the death of his second cousin, Richard Pennant, who had made his fortune from Jamaican sugar and local slate quarries. The eldest of George's two daughters, Juliana, married Grenadier Guard, Edward Gordon Douglas, who, on inheriting the estate on George's death in 1845, adopted the hyphenated surname of Douglas-Pennant.
Penrhyn is one of the most admired of the numerous mock castles built in the United Kingdom in the 19th century; Christopher Hussey called it, "the outstanding instance of Norman revival." The castle is a picturesque composition that stretches over 600 feet from a tall donjon containing family rooms, through the main block built around the earlier house, to the service wing and the stables. It is built in a sombre style which allows it to possess something of the medieval fortress air despite the ground-level drawing room windows. Hopper designed all the principal interiors in a rich but restrained Norman style, with much fine plasterwork and wood and stone carving. The castle also has some specially designed Norman style furniture, including a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria when she visited in 1859.
Hugh Napier Douglas-Pennant, 4th Lord Penrhyn, died in 1949, and the castle and estate passed to his niece, Lady Janet Pelham, who, on inheritance, adopted the surname of Douglas-Pennant. In 1951 the castle and 40,000 acres (160 km²) of land were accepted by the Treasury in lieu of death duties from Lady Janet. It now belongs to the National Trust and is open to the public. Penrhyn's attractions include a formal walled garden, extensive informal gardens, the Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum, a model railway museum and an adventure playground. Hanging on its walls is one of the finest art collections in North Wales, with works by artists such as Canaletto, Richard Wilson, Carl Haag, Perino del Vaga and Palma Vecchio. The collection formerly included a Rembrandt - (Catrina Hooghsaet, valued at up to £40m, the Dutch Culture Ministry tried to buy the painting for Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum in 2007 but couldn’t meet the asking price). The family began collecting paintings from the early years of the 19th century; this significant collection was catalogued by the 2nd Lord Penrhyn's daughter Alice Douglas-Pennant. The castle has views over the Snowdonia mountains. In 2008/09 it was the National Trust's thirteenth most visited paid-entry property, with 156,575 visitors.
There is separate mobility parking, 200 yards distant. Grounds - partly accessible, some steps and cobbles. There is a Staff-driven multi-seater vehicle - booking essential. There is a Drop-off point. Building has a ramped entrance. Two wheelchairs available. Many stairs to other floors. Stable block - fully accessible. Lift to first-floor gallery and museums. Adapted toilets in kitchen courtyard. Assistance dogs are welcome. Walter Speed is seen as largely responsible for creating the beautiful and extensive gardens and grounds around Penrhyn Castle. Born in 1835 in Great Abington in Cambridgeshire, Walter Speed became Head Gardener of Penrhyn Castle in 1862, before going on to serve three Lord Penrhyns in a career lasting over 58 years. Speed was generally considered to be one of the best gardeners of his generation. The Royal Horticultural Society awarded him the prestigious Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH) and it was presented to him by Queen Victoria herself in 1897. During his time as Head Gardener the gardens at Penrhyn were seen as one of the top three gardens in the whole of Britain. He managed a staff of over 30 gardeners, who looked after not just the castle’s ‘pleasure grounds’ but more than 6 acres (2.5 hectares) of exotic fruit and vegetable gardens. At this time, working under Speed at Penrhyn was seen as one of the best training opportunities for young gardeners, better even than working at Kew or Windsor. Speed married Charlotte in 1889 and the couple went on to have 14 children, many of whom went on to gain employment at Penrhyn, such was the high esteem the Pennant family held him in. Speed died in 1921 at the age of 84 and was buried with his wife and four of his children.
Location : Penrhyn Castle, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 4HT
Transport : Bangor (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 5, 6, 9, 66, 67, S6, X5 and X67 stop near by.
Opening Times : Daily 12:00 to 17:00; Grounds open at 11:00
Tickets : Adults £11:30; Children £5.65; Guided Tours £8.00 each
Tel : 01248 353084