Looking back, it was a mauve sort of a day, the day we went to visit the old Welsh farmhouse of Plas yn Rhiw on the Llyn Peninsula. The sea in the bay below the house was peaceful, and the air still and dreamy. If you listened hard you might hear echoes of the past along this ancient pilgrims’ path to Bardsey Island, the place the Welsh call Island of Currents. It was late September, and Wales was very much in end-of-season mode with many places closed; or if they were open, then looking as if they wished they were closed. It’s often like that in Wales. Even the stalwart National Trust, that now has care of Plas yn Rhiw, was slow to open up. We had to go away and come back. In fact that was a bit of good luck. Further down the peninsula in Aberdaron we were taken by surprise at Y Gegin Fawr, The Big Kitchen cafe, where the owner was enthusiastically hospitable.
It turned out that she was keen to uphold a 700 year-old tradition of feeding pilgrims. We had some very excellent hot chocolate there, not something the saints would have recognised. Or if they had, and if they had seen Graham’s mug overtopping with whipped cream, they would surely have pronounced it a sin of the flesh, and to be eschewed at all costs.
Back at Plas yn Rhiw we stepped into another time-warp.
Here, the seventeenth century farmhouse had been lovingly restored from ruin by the three Keating sisters, who at the urging of friend and architect, Clough Williams-Ellis (he of Portmeirion fame) scraped up the funds to buy the place in 1938. They lived there until they died, filling the house with personal treasures. When you wander from room to room, there is a feeling of benign, if eccentric spirits. They don’t seem to mind us peering at their books and nick-nacks…
copyright 2015 Tish Farrell
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