In common with many buildings which have enjoyed such a rich history, Gwydir has acquired a reputation for being one of Wales’ most haunted houses. However, lest the sceptical be inclined to dismiss this page and move on, it should be pointed out that stories relating to Gwydir’s various ghosts were recorded already in the nineteenth century and are therefore not, as is so often the case, of recent fabrication. In fact many people (friends and visitors alike) continue to feel, see and even smell a range of paranormal things here, which are always uncannily consistent in terms of location and recorded experiences.
Perhaps the most significant, and certainly most widely reported of the ghosts is that of a young woman who haunts the north wing and the panelled corridor between the Hall of Meredith and the Great Chamber. In the nineteenth century the room behind the panelling was called the ‘Ghost Room’. A white or grey woman was said to have been frequently seen in the room and the adjoining passageway, accompanied by a foul smell of putrefaction. Whilst the apparition has not specifically been seen in recent years, its presence continues to be felt and some have claimed to have been touched on the shoulder whilst at the same time experiencing a considerable drop in temperature. In addition, the extraordinary smell associated with the sightings continues to be experienced, always in the same part of the passageway.
Whilst we are not certain of the ghost’s identity, an account published in 1906 provides a vivid (and rather horrific) explanation for the sightings and their associated smell. Apparently Sir John Wynn (either the first or fifth baronet – this remains unclear) seduced a serving maid at Gwydir in his youth. When the relationship became…complicated, the unscrupulous Sir John murdered the girl and had her body walled-up within a large void in one of the chimney breasts. The smell of the decomposing body, it is said, lingered for months as an unfortunate reminder of his former amour. Significantly, a hollowed-out space was found earlier this century within the large chimney breast which backs onto the Ghost Room at the hall end of the passage. This, long called the ‘priest hole’, is where the body was said to have been secreted; and it is in this area that the smell is always at its strongest.
The fifth baronet is said to have made a deathbed confession to a murder committed at Gwydir during his youth in the mid seventeenth century. But the first baronet (1553-1627) is an equally likely candidate for the girl’s murder. His (much-exaggerated) reputation as a local tyrant was established already in folklore when Thomas Pennant, the antiquary, visited the area in the 1770’s. He recounts a tradition (which continues to this day) that the spirit of the old baronet remains trapped beneath the waterfall near Betws-y-Coed called the Swallow Falls, ‘forever to be purged, purified and spat upon (by the waters) for the evil deeds committed by him in his days of nature’.
Sir John himself ranks amongst the many other reported ghosts. He has been sighted on a number of occasions on the spiral staircase leading from the Solar Hall to the Great Chamber; his portrait hangs in the Lower Hall. A detailed account of all the other sightings would prove exhaustive, but amongst them children have been heard crying, a Ghost Dog has frequently been seen (incredibly, its bones were unearthed in the cellar in 1995), and a procession has been seen at night on the Great Terrace, near Sir John’s arch.
Gwydir Castle is a Grade 1 listed early Tudor courtyard house, set in ten acres of important historic gardens and located in the centre of the enchanting Conwy Valley. The ancestral seat of the illustrious Wynn family, Gwydir was the home, in the Elizabethan period, of Katherine Tudor, ‘Mam Cymru’, the ‘Mother of Wales’ and cousin of Queen Elizabeth I. Amongst the many notable guests who have stayed at Gwydir are King Charles I, Lord Leicester (Queen Elizabeth’s favourite) and more recently King George V and Queen Mary.
The castle is primarily a family home, though Guests are warmly welcomed to share in Gwydir’s tranquil and timeless atmosphere and languish by a log fire in one of the candle-lit halls. The castle is renowned for its peacocks and for its ghosts. Two rooms are available, the ‘King’s Room,’ with its en-suite bathroom, and the ‘Duke of Beaufort’s Chamber’, with its own private bathroom adjacent. Both rooms have four-poster beds, overlooking the gardens. The bedrooms are furnished with antiques and, whilst retaining their historic charm, have all the (discreet) concessions to comfort and modernity that the gentle traveller might require.
- Four Poster Beds
- Log Fire
- Views overlooking Gardens
- King’s Room – £80 per night;
- Duke of Beaufort’s Chamber – £75 per night.
Rates are for two people per room and include Full Welsh Breakfast. Please note: No Smoking
Things to do
Situated in the foot-hills of Snowdon, three miles from Betws-y-Coed and twelve miles from the medieval walled town of Conwy, Gwydir is perfectly situated for the enjoyment of all the natural and historic wonders of North Wales. The castle is within pleasant walking distance of the market town of Llanrwst, with convenient rail and bus connections. There are also several good restaurants and inns in the vicinity for dinner.