Plas yn Rhiw is pronounced ‘plass-in-rheeoo’ with the ‘h’ also pronounced in the last word if you can master that kind of Welsh tongue twister!). It was built in 1634 and remodelled in 1820 and while it is certainly not what you could call a ‘stately’ home, it is a pretty house with its stone façade and verandah and also benefits from a lovely terraced garden and spectacular views across Hell’s Mouth Bay. But it is perhaps most important to the Trust in that it is a clear example of how even fairly ordinary people have been instrumental in preserving property for future generations.
By 1938 when it was put up for sale for £600, the house had fallen into neglect and it was the Keating family, originally from Nottingham yet familiar with the area from family holidays, who managed to scrape together the funds and step in to save it. The three sisters – Eileen, Lorna and Honora Keating – along with their mother Constance, moved into the property in 1939 and invested time, love and money in restoring the building. They opened parts of the house to the public very quickly and then donated surrounding land to the National Trust in 1946 before handing over the house itself and further land in 1952. They continued to live at the property until the last of the sisters died in 1981 and were actually strong advocates for the Trust, helping to recruit new members when they came to visit. In fact, in one of the early years, it is reported that Plas yn Rhiw recruited more new Trust members than any other property in the country, no mean feat for a small house located an hour’s drive down a peninsula.
The house is today presented as a lived-in family home, standing as a monument to the Keatings and filled with many of their belongings,including a lot of Honora’s watercolour paintings of the area. There may not be any significantly valuable artefacts in the house but it is something of a time capsule across different ages, with an old spinning wheel sharing house space with an antique typewriter and even a Teasmade that reminded my Mum of how my Grandma sometimes forgot to put the teapot under the water spout of her own Teasmade with damp consequences and a lack of morning tea!
The gardens at Plas yn Rhiw were ideal for a gentle stroll at the end of our visit. They are not huge in size but are cleverly stepped down the slope in front of the house and have a real cottage garden feel, with a current splash of colour from camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas. At the same time, when you reach the bottom of the garden, you can soak up the views of the bay below.
There is a small tearoom at Plas yn Rhiw that has outside ‘seats with a view’ for better days. We decided to go indoors, as did an adventurous robin who ended up exploring the cake stand, the kitchen, and a nearby window ledge before leaving a small ‘deposit’ on the floor and making his way back out again. He may not have mastered tearoom etiquette, but we can’t blame him for loving a National Trust scone as much as the rest of us!
Highlights: The azaleas (as I said to my Mum – only around three hundred times! – I do love an azalea); the views
Refreshments: Pot of tea and (half of) a chocolate caramel shortbread
Purchase(s): Short guide