Why was this perfect little cottage ever called ugly?
Some legends say it was built by robbers and thieves, taking advantage of travellers on the old A5 as they journeyed through Snowdonia – ugly people that gave the house a fearsome reputation. Others say the name is a corruption of the name of the river burbling away on the other side of the road, the Llugwy which flows from near Ogwen to join the river Conwy. Or maybe it’s the big, crude boulders that give the house its name – the word ‘hyll’ in Welsh can mean rough or crude, as well as ugly. The Ugly House is known as Tŷ Hyll in Welsh – click here to listen to how a Welsh speaker says this.
Could you move these boulders?
No one really knows who built the house. Some myths say the house was built overnight – a ‘tŷ unnos’ or ‘one night house’. With four walls and a chimney smoking by dawn, the builder could claim it as his own. The house was certainly built before we had machines and diggers. It may have been a robbers’ hideout in the 15th century, or Irish labourers constructing Telford’s bridge over the Llugwy could have built it for shelter in 1820. It was not mentioned by travel writers until 1853 and could simply be a Victorian folly, a romantic attraction for the increasing numbers of visitors to Snowdonia.
It would have taken a lot of manpower to move the stones and put them in place, possibly rolling them up earth banks using logs from the woods. By the mid-19th century the skills to manoeuvre such huge boulders would have been readily available among Welsh quarrymen, expertly tilting them out to stop rain entering the house and, with no mortar, plugging gaps in the thick walls with moss to block out the draught. The stones could be from the rock face above or taken from a local quarry.
Who owns it now?
Whatever the mythical origin, the house is now in the care of the Snowdonia Society, and remains an unusual and beautiful place to visit.
Ty Hyll is located on the A5 between Capel Curig and Betws y Coed. It is easily accessible by car, with 12 parking spaces and 1 disabled parking space – please park carefully.
Ty Hyll is also accessible on foot and by bike. It is located close to the Marin Trail, one of the best known mountain biking trails in north Wales.
For more information about visiting the Ugly House, please click here.
View Ty Hyll in a larger map
This cottage is full of history, legend and mystery. Nobody knows who built it or when, but we do know about some of the people who have lived here in the past…
The first person who we know lived here was local shepherd, John Roberts, in 1900. Within the thick dry stone walls his accommodation would have been basic: a single living room with the large fireplace for heat and cooking and a ladder up to a sleeping loft under the roof.
The people who lived here longest were the Rileys, from 1928 to 1961. Edward Riley was a groom at The Towers which is above our car park. He gradually ‘improved’ The Ugly House – installing an upstairs with bedrooms and a bathroom and a separate parlour and scullery downstairs. Edward and his wife Lilian welcomed visitors into the house over the years, entertaining them with tales and their pet cockatoo, starting a long tradition which you are now part of as a visitor yourself!
The Ugly House was bought by the Snowdonia Society in 1988 following a number of different owners who ran it as a tea room, antiques shop and tourist attraction. It was rescued from a very run down state and renovated by teams of tireless volunteers to provide a small visitor centre and offices for the Snowdonia Society until 2010. It still remains within the care of this small charity and its hard-working volunteers.
Where can we go?
You can explore the delightful garden and woodland, both full of wildlife – not only honeybees (learn about these here), but also the elusive pied flycatcher, various species of bats, common frogs and newts in the pond and small mammals including weasels and shrews. Walk along our network of winding paths to discover the world behind the Ugly House…