On Thursdays, Visit the Cilwendeg Shell House: Warpool Court Hotel’s Peter Trier Suggests a Must-See

“If you’re looking for something different on your Pembrokeshire holiday, why not visit a curious architectural relic from the early 1800s?” says Warpool Court Hotel owner Peter Trier.

Mr. Trier is referring to the Cilwendeg Shell House Hermitage, in the northern part of the Pembrokeshire countryside, about an hour from the hotel. The Cilwendeg Shell House is part of the Cilwendeg House woodland estate. Described as one of the most important mansions in Pembrokeshire, in earlier days it was both a working agricultural estate and an elegant home. The house itself dates from the late 18th century and at one time encompassed a laundry, dairy, farmhouse, counting house, barn, stables, pigeon house, cow and cart sheds, lodges and a bath house. The estate was privately purchased in 2015, and the house has been restored as an event venue.

The ornamental shell house is sometimes referred to as a “grotto” - a man-made structure resembling a small cave.  Since Greek and Roman times, grottos have been used for many different purposes, from storage for wine and perishable goods to religious artifacts, statues and other works of art. Artificial grottos were popular in French and Italian gardens in the mid-16th century. In the 1800s, people constructed large elaborate grottoes to entertain in opulent gardens, and some – like the Cilwendeg shell house - still exist today in historical gardens. 

The shell house was constructed in 1826 by Morgan Jones the Younger in his dead uncle’s honour from whom he inherited the property. Carefully restored in 2004, the Shell House is the only one of its kind to survive in Pembrokeshire and it’s a spectacular example of a garden building. Although it was common for shells to be sourced from the Caribbean when building a grotto, many shells used in the original structure are from Welsh beaches. The inside floor is unusually striking as it’s made of the knuckle bones of sheep and oxen and the vertebrae of horses – the by-products of a thriving estate farm.

When you’ve finished exploring the nooks and crannies of the shell house, take a few minutes to follow the signs on the marked public footpath to Capel Colman church. This Medieval site has been abandoned, rebuilt and restored over the course of a few hundred years.

Admission is free to each building but donations are welcomed. Before you visit, it’s usually best to check opening dates and times as the Cilwendeg Shell House and the Capel Colman Church are limited to public viewing on Thursdays. It’s also handy to note that the car park is restricted to cars only.

After a long day exploring the northern border of Pembrokeshire, you can return to Warpool Court Hotel for a rather apt meal of fresh shellfish at our Sea View Restaurant!

Warpool Court Hotel is the perfect home base for excursions throughout the Pembrokeshire countryside. Book one of our luxury rooms or a stay in our private, self-catering Garden Cottage here at Warpool Court Hotel. Send us an email, or give us a call on 01437 720300. We look forward to welcoming you!

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