Abbey Cwm Hir Hall from the gardens
Abbey Cwm Hir Hall from the gardens

Abbey Cwm Hir Hall is a Grade II* listed Victorian Gothic Revival mansion overlooking the ruins of a 12th century Cistercian Abbey (and incorporating carved stones from it). Each of the 52 rooms is open to owner-led tours and is carefully conceived to make a separate style statement. It is one of the finest 19th-century houses in Wales, an outstanding example of Victorian style.

History

The Hall was built in 1834 by Thomas Wilson. It was later purchased by the Philips family, who extended the house. In 1997 the Hall was bought by Paul and Victoria Humpherston, who restored the house and gardens and now offer regular tours of the house interior.

The interior features 14 marble fireplaces, Gothic windows and stained glass, rococo ceilings, and a vaulted cellar. There is stunning gilded plasterwork detail and exquisite tiled floors by Maw & Co of Worcester.

One highlight is the staircase, topped by a richly decorated lantern ceiling. Another highlight is the Garden Room, decorated with old advertising signs. More old signs decorate The Snug, while the Master Bedroom holds a four-poster bed decorated in rich, red colours.

Each of the 52 rooms holds intriguing collectable items. Eclectic collections include old clocks, china, glass, vintage vehicles, railway memorabilia, phonographs, and eccentric oddities like enamel signs and packaging. Look for the Arthurian bedroom, a bathroom themed with trains and castles, and collections of children's memorabilia. The interiors are hand-painted, with sumptuous soft furnishings. Thousands of antique and vintage objects are used to compliment individual room design, including a Victorian dictaphone.

The art collection includes a painting showing Abbey Cwm Hir in 1644, and another depicting the autumn harvest in 1912. Look for the collection of old boys and girls annuals and the children's adventure library.

Abbey Cwm Hir Hall is one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic domestic architecture in Wales.

The Hall from the south
The Hall from the south

Gardens

The Hall is set in 12 acres of landscaped grounds incorporating walled garden, a lake and waterfall, woodland walks, 4 courtyards and terraced formal gardens. Climb up the terrace behind the Hall for wonderful views across the grounds at over the village.

Visitors can opt to buy a 'gardens only' ticket, or book a tour that includes the house and garden access.

Immediately opposite the Hall is the medieval abbey, famous as the burial place of Llewellyn the Last.

Visiting

On our last visit, we just missed the last tour of the day so we opted for a garden ticket. This enabled us to go wherever we wanted around the grounds, so we explored the woodlands where we ran across a huge statue of a bear rearing on its hind legs; rather a startling sight.

At the top of the woodlands are several restored gypsy caravans, and from the gardens a path leads to the small lake and waterfall. The gardens are a lovely mix of formal and informal quirkiness, with wonderful views afforded by the sloping hillside.

Abbey Cwm Hir Hall is a delight, a journey into the best - and most peculiar - features of Victorian architecture and style. The Hall is well signposted from Rhayader and the Crossgates roundabout on the A483.