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If there was one place I knew I wanted to visit in Betws-y-Coed on my visit to Snowdonia National Park, it was The Ugly House Wales or Ty Hyll.
Despite its rather unfortunate name, it may surprise you to know that this historic home is not very ugly at all! In fact, it’s downright charming!
But, I have to admit, the unattractive name does give this house an air of mystery and it was like a siren pulling me in. I simply had to find out more about this cottage that was tucked away on a roadside near Capel Curig.
So, when I found out that it was open to the public and there was an Ugly House tearoom or Pot Mel, I instantly booked myself in for a visit!
I was pleasantly surprised by how splendid it was and now I don’t believe any visit to Betws-y-Coed is complete without it.
Here’s my complete guide for The Ugly House Wales with the history and why this gorgeous dwelling has such a curious name!
What is The Ugly House Wales or Ty Hyll?
The Ugly House is a traditional rustic home in North Wales that sits in the heart of Snowdonia National Park.
Located just a few miles from Betws-y-Coed in Capel Curig, you’ll most likely pass this house on many occasions while driving on Betws Road in the area.
But, as it’s hidden away on a bend in the roadside, you’ll have to be looking out for it in order to catch a glimpse. As it’s a national speed limit road, you may whizz by it without a second thought!
However, beyond just peeking over the hedge, I would highly recommend making a pitstop here to investigate. You’ll know you’ve arrived from the adorable Pot Mel tearoom sign that hangs over the bend!
The questions that usually always sit at the forefront of any visitor’s mind are, who built this house, how old is it and why is it called ugly anyway?!
Well, it’s a historic tale that’s shrouded in an air of legend and mystery…
The Ugly House Wales history
You see, no one really knows exactly who built this house or when. So, these unrecorded accounts always make way for rumours and exciting local legends!
One such legend is that this home was built in the 15th-century by two outlawed brothers in the area.
Back then, Snowdonia was wild and unruly with barely any inhabitants at all. So, it was the perfect hideout for the two of them.
They then decided to build their home according to a Welsh Law called Ty Unos. This was the concept of a ‘house of the single night’.
The Ty Unos law stated that if you could build a rough house with four walls and have smoke coming out of the chimney by sunrise – you claimed the house and freehold of the land.
Furthermore, you could stand at all four corners of your new house and throw an axe outwards from it. Wherever that axe landed, you got to keep that surrounding land too! Great if you’re a good thrower, eh?
Apparently, after that, the house remained a meeting place for outlaws and vagabonds. It had a sinister reputation and became a dark palace of disrepute!
Where highwaymen would remain hidden waiting for coaches to cross over the Betws-y-Coed to Bangor route. They would then relieve the travellers of their valuables.
It contained all sorts of ‘ugly people’ until around the 19th century when Thomas Telford started building the famous bridge over the Llugwy river. The Irish labourers then used this cottage for shelter!
Later, the structure was then fortified with Welsh stone from the local quarries. It was made waterproof and plugged in with moss to block out the draught. This made it more inhabitable for families.
But, why is it called ugly then?
Well, you could put it down to the ‘ugly people’ who used to live here and gave it a bad reputation. However, in actual fact, it comes down to the interpretation of the local language!
As the stone house sits just over the river Llugwy, it may have gained the name Ty Llugwy. ‘Ty’ is the Cymraeg or Welsh word for house.
As the word Llugwy was too difficult for English visitors to pronounce, it eventually transformed into ‘The Ugly House’.
In later years, the name has slowly been translated back in the local language to Ty Hyll.
‘Hyll’ in Welsh translates to ‘ugly’ but also can mean ‘crude’ and ‘rough’ as well.
So, the name may have derived from its rather rustic appearance, rather than its ugliness. As it’s actually extremely pretty to look at in its wild woodland setting!
Who has lived in The Ugly House?
Before the 1900s, very little was known about The Ugly House. But, eventually, there are some recorded accounts of a shepherd called John Roberts who lived here with his wife until around 1928.
They would have lived a simple life here with a single room, a fireplace, and a bedroom on top which you could only access with a ladder.
After that, the home belonged to an Edward and Lillian Riley. Edward was a gardener at The Towers and then serving in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. But, while serving, he became ill with malaria and was withdrawn from service.
The couple renovated the property into a cosy home and ran it as a popular tearoom after the First World War. If you can believe it, it gained a reputation for its rather bad-tempered cockatoo who would spew out all manner of insults at the patrons!
They lived here until the 1960s. Then, with various new owners, it became an antique shop and a popular tourist attraction within Snowdonia National Park – much like it is today.
Eventually, in 1988, the Snowdonia Society decided to buy the property when it fell into a state of disrepair. It was then sensitively renovated and became the new headquarters for the volunteers.
In 2012, when the headquarters moved to Llanberis, they reopened the cottage as a tearoom. The bottom floor was entirely dedicated to serving up delicious meals and a honeybee centre was placed on the top floor.
This room was dedicated to giving visitors an insight into the lifecycle of the honeybee and seeing them make their own honey with resident pollinators!
Why you must visit the Ugly House Wales in Snowdonia National Park
Nowadays, The Ugly House Wales has been sensitively restored into a popular tearoom that sees over 35,000 people step inside its walls every year!
This scrumptious reason alone should be enough to tempt you in but there are also countless other reasons to schedule a stop.
As well as a cosy traditional tearoom, The Ugly House acts as an educational resource. Here, you can find out about the wildlife, gardens, and ecosystems of Snowdonia National Park.
You can learn about the lifecycle of the honeybee in their Honeybee Room and even buy some of their very own honey preserves.
Plus, they also have a wildlife garden and protected woodlands to explore. Where you can identify local wildflowers, plants, and wildlife indigenous to the area!
There are so many reasons to visit The Ugly House Wales.
The Ugly House Tearoom or Pot Mel Ty Hyll
The top reason why I would recommend stopping here is because of their amazing traditionally Welsh tearoom.
Not only is it incredibly cosy – the low ceilings, exposed beams, and flagged floors make it an absolute delight!
As well as the hotchpotch of traditional decor like copper kitchenware, photos, and a cast iron fireplace. They have quaint farmhouse tables to take a seat for a spot of tea.
Make sure you clock a gorgeous calligraphy piece with the story of Ty Hyll or The Ugly House that they have framed as you walk in the door! It adds a nice historic touch and allows you to find out more about it.
The staff here are super friendly and love to have a chat with you, all the while telling you tales of this incredibly charming Ugly House.
What’s on Pot Mel Ty Hyll’s menu?
The Ugly House tearoom has a delightful selection of traditional Welsh treats to sink your teeth into.
You could try their traditional ‘secret recipe’ Welsh Rarebit or why not try a slice of their Bara Brith with lashings of salted butter?
Bara Brith translates to “mottled bread” in Cymraeg and it’s a spicy-sweet fruit loaf cake! The fruit is left to soak overnight in the Ugly tea they brew here and so every slice is plump with flavour and heaven to taste!
They also serve up a fully Welsh afternoon tea with a selection of homemade delicacies like Welsh cakes and generous slices of baked goods.
I had one that was similar at Tu Hwnt I’r Bont that is run by the same owners and I absolutely loved it.
You could treat yourself to one of their light bite sandwiches which comes with crisps and a colourful salad on the side.
Or, if you’re not feeling too hungry, a loose-leaf pot of their Ugly home blend tea is just the ticket for a pick-me-up and their coffees are great too!
My super tasty Ugly Sausage Sandwich
When I was browsing the menu, I simply could not resist trying their ‘Ugly Sausage Sandwich’ in The Ugly House!
I mean, when in Snowdonia right?!
After I had been on a rather strenuous and rainy hike around Betws-y-Coed, I was in desperate need of some energy and this was just the ticket!
When it arrived, again, my Ugly Sausage Sandwich was not very ugly at all! In fact, it was so prettily presented, I felt bad eating it.
So, after I had taken a few photos, I chowed down and it was amazingly tasty. It came with a good helping of their chilli infused-caramelised onions as well.
It was utterly delicious so I would definitely recommend it!
The Ty Hyll Farm Shop & souvenirs
As well as buying some homemade products in their tearoom, they have a little farm shop tucked in the corner where you can take some produce home with you!
They serve up loaves of Bara Brith, some honey from their local farms, potted preserves, and even little packets of their house blend loose leaf tea.
As the house is owned by the Snowdonia Society, they also had some great local souvenirs to take home like magnets and coasters if you’d prefer.
It all looked very sweet with little Ugly House stickers all over everything – it’s worth browsing to see if something catches your eye.
The Honeybee Room
As before, the bottom floor of the Ugly House is solely dedicated to the Ty Hyll Pot Mel Tearoom. But, if you go upstairs, you can enter their educational Honeybee Room.
This will explain the lifecycle of the bee and why our world and ecosystems crucially depend on pollinators!
Unfortunately, due to modern farming practices and the use of insecticides, bees and pollinators are under threat and slowly dying out.
So, The Ugly House has become a bit of a ‘paradise for pollinators’ and aims to educate on what you can do to protect these important creatures.
Here, you can also learn about their queen-rearing project where the Snowdonia Society supply local queen bees for beehives!
Don’t forget to explore their Ugly Garden & Woodland too!
Although The Ugly House tearoom and Honeybee room are open from Easter to October and then only open on weekends during the winter season. You can guarantee that the Ugly Garden & Woodland remain open at any time, all year round.
They even have some dedicated trails that you can take and, along the way, there are signs to guide you. They explain what sort of plants and herbs grow here, what pollinators are in the area, and what wildlife can be spotted too!
It’s really rather sweet and a great stop if you have children with you. Here, you can teach them about plant life and how these change with the seasons.
I found it to be very peaceful wandering about the grounds and the autumn flowers were so colourful and dewy from the heavy rains.
Where is the Ugly House in Wales & How to get there?
The Ugly House is located on a tight corner of Betws Road (A5) which is around 3 miles from the tourist hub of Betws-y-Coed. So, it makes the perfect pitstop if you’re visiting the area!
It can be a little hard to locate as it’s tucked away in some woodland. So, I would definitely prepare your SatNav or Google Maps with a pin before you set out so you know when to turn off!
Ty Hyll’s address is: Betws Rd, Capel Curig, Betws-y-Coed LL24 0DS
Driving: By far the easiest way to access The Ugly House Wales would be to drive. This area of Snowdonia has very little infrastructure. It’s located around a 7-minute drive from Betws-y-Coed and a 40-minute drive from Conwy. There is limited free customer parking just opposite the house.
Bus: There is a bus stop that sits just outside Ty Hyll. You can catch this bus from either Llanberis or the Pont-y-Pair Bridge in Betws-y-Coed. The ride will take about 8 minutes.
Walking: If you are hiking around Betws-y-Coed then a walk to Ty Hyll will take around an hour. You could add Swallow Falls onto your walk which is around half a mile down the road. It will take you around 20 minutes to reach The Ugly House from there.
The Ugly House opening times
The Pot Mel Tearoom and the Honeybee Room are open seven days a week from Easter to October from the hours of 10.30 am – 5 pm.
I would highly recommend making a booking if you plan to have lunch or afternoon tea as it’s such a tiny place with limited tables!
Then it’s only open from Friday to Monday between October and early December. After that, it’s open from mid-January to Easter from Fridays until Mondays.
But, you can visit the Ugly Garden and Woodland, at any time, all year.
Why not visit Tu Hwnt I’r Bont next?
If you are interested in unique properties and tearooms here in Snowdonia, you may want to visit the incredible Tu Hwnt I’r Bont tearoom next.
It’s another historic property that is completely covered in a blanket of Virginia Creepers! So, in the autumn time, it changes to ruby red. It’s become quite the icon and photography spot in recent years.
It’s only located a few miles away from The Ugly House and it’s well worth making a stop in the quaint market town of Llanrwst.
I treated myself here to their full Welsh afternoon tea and it was such good value for the quality of the food and setting.
If you were interested in knowing the exact time of when this tearoom turns red & what it’s like having afternoon tea here – Make sure you read my complete post all about it!
Looking for more things to do in Betws-y-Coed?
I fell head over heels in love with the charming Victorian village of Betws-y-Coed. You can’t help but swoon over all the gorgeous stone buildings in amongst the lush trees!
And I’m not the only one who thought that either, in fact, it became famous after an art colony settled there.
Ever since the 19th-century, it’s consistently been mentioned in travel guides as one of the most charming villages in Snowdonia and Wales.
It has since become a popular tourist hub with an endless choice of accommodation and facilities to boot.
You can go shopping around the area, visit the historic Railway Museum, cross the Sappers Suspension Bridge or pop inside one of the delightful cafés and art galleries.
Personally, my favourite part of the village were the views to be had from the iconic Pont-y-Pair Bridge which is like something out of a postcard