The elegant manor house, Plas Newydd, is the ancestral seat of the Marquess of Anglesey. Situated on the banks of the Menai Strait on Ynys Môn (the Isle of Anglesey), the stately home boasts superb views of Snowdonia National Park and is surrounded by park and woodland that’s home to an array of wildlife, including rare red squirrels.
The large, grey stone house was originally built in the 16th century, but much of what we see today is the result of a major 18th century redesign. Inside, the interiors hark back to the 1930s, to the time of the 6th Marquess of Anglesey, who decided to make Plas Newydd the family’s main base. Today, the estate is owned by the National Trust.
For the past few years, the house has been undergoing extensive restoration – removing asbestos and replacing many of the mechanical services, such as the electrical and heating systems, that date from the 1930s.
The house was still open to the public when I visited in August 2019, although some rooms were periodically closed, or being used as storage areas or as part of the ‘Behind the Stage’ experience, which explained the work being carried out to the visiting public.
On the day of my visit, much of the upstairs of the house was open, and as I strolled through the rooms, I was particularly taken by the bedroom of Marjorie Manners, the 6th Marchioness of Anglesey (above).
The delightfully delicate pink boudoir was filled with soft pink furnishings by the renowned 1930s interior designer Sybil Colefax, and was a striking and unusual confection, quite unlike anything I’ve seen in a stately home.
The 6th Marquess’s bedroom (above) also impressed with its enormous four-poster bed that dominated the room, and I enjoyed having a sneaky peak at a few of the house’s 1930s-style bathrooms, too (below).
A lot of stately homes don’t show visitors the bathrooms, which I always think is a shame as I quite like seeing the not-so-grand rooms, such as the bathrooms and kitchens, alongside the lavishly-decorated boudoirs and drawing rooms. They give you a better, more realistic sense of how these houses functioned as family homes.
Downstairs, a number of the rooms had been taken over by the ‘Behind the Stage’ exhibition or were being used as storage while the house was undergoing its restoration. There was a lot of information about the work being carried out and how the team at Plas Newydd was protecting the house’s many fragile objects, furnishings and artworks during the substantial upheaval.
The music room (above) was being used as a storage room and you could see how the team stored and categorised all the objects. The saloon, meanwhile, had an asbestos removal chamber (below) you could walk through and information about the process of removing asbestos from the house.
As I continued through the house, I found myself in the 7th Marquess of Anglesey’s study (below), which was cluttered with thousands of objects that had been left exactly as they were when the Marquess died in 2013.
The Plas Newydd team was in the process of painstakingly recording every object in the room, so they could be removed during the restoration work and then put back in exactly the same spot afterwards. I was awe-struck by the extraordinary lengths the team was going to to preserve the house and its artefacts during the restoration project.
I visit a lot of stately homes and castles, and as a visitor, you don’t always appreciate how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep these incredible buildings in good condition. It’s only when you see exhibitions like this that you fully understand what’s involved and it was an eye-opening experience.
Towards the end of my tour, I made my way to the dining room, the highlight of which is an enormous mural by Rex Whistler – the largest of his paintings – that stretches the length of the room. The curious mural, which was painted in the 1930s, is an extraordinary combination of Italianate scenes that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Pompeii and the brooding landscapes of Snowdonia National Park.
Having seen everything there was to see in the house, I decided to explore the extensive grounds. The estate’s gardens are made up of almost 130 acres of woodland and parkland, including Italianate terraces (above), a rhododendron garden and wildflower meadow.
I made my way around the gardens in a loop, strolling up and around the large arboretum, then making my way through the Church Wood and back towards the house via a trail close to the shore of the Menai Strait.
I then ambled past the house and continued along the path to the rhododendron garden and the woods beyond it (above). Plas Newydd is home to a number of red squirrels, which were reintroduced to the estate in 2008.
I was keen to spot one of the elusive creatures and kept my eyes peeled throughout my walk. Luckily, as I was strolling through the rhododendron garden I heard a sound to my left and turned to see a red squirrel amid the bushes. The little critter ran off quick sharpish, but I was delighted to have seen it and it made my day.
I continued my wander through the woods and at one point got quite lost as I followed a trail that seemed to peter out deep in the woods. So I turned back and headed towards the house, where I stopped to look around the Italianate terraces (below), before finishing my journey with a cheese scone at the café next door.
I enjoyed my visit to Plas Newydd House and Garden. The house was fascinating, and I loved learning about the restoration project and the work that goes into looking after and preserving an old stately home of this size. Having seen the work in progress, I’d love to go back in a few years’ time once they’ve finished to see the house in all its newly-restored glory.
The gardens at Plas Newydd were also delightful. They’re so extensive, that even though there were lots of people there the day of my visit, I was able to wander off on a solitary stroll and my walk through the woods was a peaceful, relaxing experience. Seeing one of the estate’s red squirrels only added to its charms and made my visit all the more memorable.
Plas Newydd House and Garden, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey LL61 6DQ
Note: I visited Plas Newydd House and Garden pre-Covid in August 2019.