Penrhyn Castle is a 19th Century romantic period castle located between Snowdonia and the Menai Strait. The core of the house is built on and around a medieval manor house. Its large square keep was modelled on Rochester Castle while its interior is richly decorated.
The original castle at Penrhyn was significantly less grand than the fine keep we see here today. It was fortified manor house built by Gwilym ap Gruffudd in the early 15th Century on top of an earlier structure by his ancestor Ednyfed Fychan.
The manor house was built in stone around a square courtyard with a tower house in one corner. In 1438 Gwilym's widow Joan ap Gruffudd was given a licence to crenellate. Despite the crenellations the tower house was probably the only real defensive feature of the castle.
By the early 19th Century Penrhyn Castle had come in to the possession of George Dawkins-Pennant. He employed Thomas Hopper, the notable English architect, to design a fantasy castle.
George's cousin, Richard Pennant, had made a fortune from the Jamaican sugar trade and the local slate industry. He was a wealthy man and poured a fortune into the castle.
Penryhn Castle underwent a total transformation. The square courtyard is now a grand central staircase. Many of the walls in the state rooms around the staircase are not as modern as they look. Under the 19th Century veneer there are still the walls of the old medieval house.
The construction took place between 1827 and 1837 and expanded the castle far beyond its original floorplan.
To the south a five storey square keep was added with battlements at the top. The keep was modelled along the lines of Rochester Castle and it does bear a striking resemblance to that tough fortress, however Penrhyn's massive Gothic windows give the game away.
To the north an extensive service wing and stable blocks were added.
The interior is spectacularly decorated. Much of it too was the work of Thomas Hopper. He designed the interiors in a rich, but restrained, Norman style. He also commissioned a range of Norman-style furniture, including a large slate bed which was made for Queen Victoria's visit in 1859.
The family were also avid art collectors. The paintings at Penryhn Castle comprise one of the finest art collections in North Wales with works by artists like Rembrandt and Canaletto amongst many others.
In 1951 Lady Janet Douglas-Pennant gave the castle and extensive lands to the UK Treasury in lieu of death duties. The castle subsequently became the property of the National Trust.
Today the National Trust has the castle open to the public. Visitors can tour the castle and see the elaborate carvings and fine plasterwork as well as the neo-Norman furniture.
The Trust has a wide range of objects and artefacts on display in the castle. Visitors can also see behind the scenes at the 'Conservation in Action' events where the Trust's skilled restorers demonstrate their craft in front of an audience.
Outside, the castle is home to a model railway museum and an industrial railway museum displaying some of the locomotives from the local slate quarries. The castle gardens cover some 60 acres and include parkland, exotic plants and a walled garden.
Other facilities available at Penrhyn Castle include car parking, a licensed tea-room, toilets, gift shop and a children's playground. Penryhn can also cater for school visits with specially designed programmes for pupils.
Status: Heritage Site / Visitor Attraction
Owner: National Trust
Tel: +44 (0)1248 353 084
Opening Times: March to June Daily except Tuesday 12pm-5pm / July to August Daily 11am-5pm / September to October Daily except Tuesdays 12pm-5pm / Closed for winter 4th Nov to 1st March
The square keep at Penrhyn Castle
Penrhyn's imposing exterior