In the shadow of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), its spectacular sister mountains and foothills is a quaint Grade I listed gardens, that while small in stature, hides some brilliant vistas and beautiful sights well worth a morning's explore - coupled with a great little café, if you find yourself out and about near Porthmadog, then this one is a great stop off that we ended up loving. Plas Brondanw is a 16th-century house which would be the home of Clough Williams-Ellis, carries all the beauty of a Welsh manor home with some of the charm and Italian design associated with Portmeirion, the town which he was created, as a cherry on top, giving the chance to discover unexpected surprises around every corner. A split between well-manicured lawns and gardens and a woodland walk with a wonderful surprise, this is a nice and fairly accessible walk for all ages and fitness levels, so with that said, let us get you there.
As mentioned previously, Plas Brondanw is just a short drive away from Porthmadog, around a 10-minute drive away via the A487 and A4085 and just a little bit longer from Beddgelert via the A4085. You will know when you are getting close, as buildings will start to all share a similar theme - gleaming white-washed walls with turquoise accents. Both routes will see you turn off the major roads, past a little gatehouse building and onto a single track, but there isn't too much to worry about here, the entrance to the sizable car park is almost immediately on your left. The car park is marked as pay-and-display, but on our visit, the ticket machine was covered; the car park fee is listed as recoupable at the café, a nice touch encouraging you to enjoy the great on-site café. Its convenient location makes it an excellent quick stop for those venturing between the likes of Porthmadog and Beddgelert and beyond, looking for a quick walk in nature or to tack onto a grand day out. The gardens are also fairly easy to reach via bus as a bus passes through the nearby hamlet of Garreg at the Brondanw Arms - from here you should be little more than a 10-minute walk from the house and gardens.
The house itself at Plas Brondanw is beautiful, its interior is now a contemporary art gallery free to explore for all visitors. As you approach from the car park up the hill the café, through which you can enter the first section of gardens, will be on your left, and the entrance to the house is straight ahead. Even if you don't plan to go inside the house, you can still grab a picture of its lovely facade. Once ready, head through the café - you can pay for admission at the café till, something we didn't realise at the time! We even grabbed a couple of coffees to walk the ground with, without realising the mistake we had made... Of course, I am not one for such thievery, When we returned to grab some food I admitted our faux pas and rectified it. The first gardens are the pristine type befitting a manor house, with perfectly cut lawns, well-shaped hedges and tidy borders that I am sure glow with colour in spring - our visit later in the summer was still lovely, with the rainy weather giving the gardens the enchanting smell of nature I just adore. A straight shoot towards a small encircled area with a fountain is lined with little nooks and crannies, each having ornate pieces to enjoy as you venture forward. Crossing the lawn and down the hill, a seat encircles a tree where you can relax a moment before continuing on down the side of the entrance building where another little extension to the gardens waits to be explored - Italian-style statues, befitting the house's original creator, hide up every corner. It is a great place for a calming and peaceful saunter.
The grounds at Plas Brondanw are into two, with a larger section of land accessible across the road via a gate, before we carried on, however, we decided to grab a bite to eat in the café. The menu was impressive, offering a nice selection with a clear dedication to local produce - additionally, we were notified that only toasted sandwiches would be available for the time being, as the fresh bread delivery hadn't been received yet, which to me is a great sign that they clearly take pride in producing good food. Naturally, I wasn't disappointed, a great toasted sandwich loaded with Welsh cheddar with a coffee on the side soon came to our table, and we were well-fueled to continue onward...
Admittedly, when we first arrived I hadn't known the layout of Plas Brondanw, but thanks to the map hanging in the café pictured above I spotted the extension to the grounds across the way. Just across from the café entrance is a gate, through which you can join the woodlands and continue exploring this marvellous space. Plenty more ornaments line the woods, but then as you venture a little way in, the highlight of the visit should pop into view atop a hill - just beyond a gate and up the grass banks is the outlook tower, a rather generous wedding present to Clough Williams-Ellis and his bride, Amabel Strachey, in 1915 - a rather charming little castle-like folly, openly accessible and free to explore at your leisure. The ground floor appears to be the domain of the local sheep, so we gave that one a miss on account of the smell, but ascending the narrow stairs all the way to the top opened up some breathtaking views that really made the visit complete. We spent quite some time here, our slightly rainy day finally turning to a bit of sun so we could really enjoy the peaceful panoramas of this perfect monument to the owner's love. We retraced our footsteps back down the hill and through the gate, back towards the main gardens of Plas Brondanw, but took a detour down the hill and past the final stop on our journey - adjacent to the car park is a pool with a trickling waterfall, a wonderful way to conclude the visit before returning to the car to continue on.
Before we wrap this up, a touch of history at Plas Brondanw. Built in the 16th century by John ap Hywel, the house and grounds have slowly grown to the sprawling grounds and complex of buildings we see today. Eventually, the house would move into the Williams lineage and eventually pass down to the ownership of Clough Williams-Ellis in 1908. Clough, aged 25 at the time, inheritance was quite run down, but he set about restoring the house and the gardens. I recommend taking a look at the Plas Brondanw website to see the full complex of buildings on site. The house now belongs to the Clough Williams Ellis Foundation which maintains and allows it to be accessible to the public.
Plas Brondanw is a great stop for just about anyone, it is a charming house and full of history, coupled with perfect grounds, nature walks, the folly and its stunning views, it is hard to imagine that visitors couldn't find something to love here. Drop by for a quick walk in the woods, take some time to explore the gardens or turn it into a perfect half-day stop by adding on the house interior and stopping for lunch - it is pretty perfect for all needs, and I am sure if we find ourselves in the area again and looking for something to do, we will, at the very least, be dropping by for a coffee again. Those looking for add-ons nearby are certainly in luck, such a centralised location makes for easy additions, with hikes in the area including Moel Y Gest and its beautiful views out over Black Rock Sands & Porthmadog, Ffestiniog's gorgeous Rhaeadr Cynfal and of course Cwmorthin and Stwlan Dam just up the road. If you don't fancy a hike then the Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Osprey Project is right nearby and offers a great opportunity to see some wildlife and learn about these amazing creatures. Of course, no matter what your day entails, Plas Brondanw is sure to end up being a highlight.