While on holiday here, it’s well worth visiting some of our many historic houses to absorb some of the area’s history. Here are our recommendations of the 8 top historic houses to visit in West Wales. Each house has a unique history and different aspects to spark your imagination and show you a view of the past, offering a fascinating day out.
1. Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire
Picton Castle and its magnificent gardens are an ideal day out for all the family. Awarded the 2014 and 2015 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, this large attractive building is an unusual combination of castle and fortified manor house. Its RHS Partner gardens are a must-see, and the house has many attractions as well as now housing Pembroke’s Museum of the Home.
The Castle was owned by the Wogans since the 13th century and their descendants the Phillipps, once one of the most powerful families in Pembrokeshire. Seasonal events include a Children’s Easter Egg Hunt, Tapas Nights, viewing the Picton Renoir painting, and a Victorian Christmas Tour.
Amenities include Picton Galleries and its exhibitions, shop selling locally-produced items and plants for sale in the courtyard from Picton Castle Nursery. A restaurant and deli are open throughout the year selling lunch and afternoon teas, with evening events detailed on their website.
For opening times and prices visit the Picton Castle website or phone 01437 751326
2. Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion
Llanerchaeron is a Georgian Villa which was designed to make the most of the beautiful landscape and its panoramas. Built in the Palladian style by John Nash in the 1790s, it remains amongst the least altered of his early works. The beautiful setting also includes the working farm and gardens open to the Llanerchaeron, a Georgian Villa public.
The small farmhouse and formal gardens were bought in 1634 by Llewellyn Parry, a descendant of Welsh princes. 20th-century renovations included new fireplaces, and internal electricity powered by a waterwheel on the estate!
Some of the most interesting features include a dairy, brewery and salting house, laundry and cheese press room. A further feature is the Edwardian kitchen range, where homemade Welsh cakes are baked for you to try!
Events include storytelling, geocaching and quilting workshops, as well as festivals and plays. Conti’s Cafe sells refreshments, and the Farm Shop sells produce from the farm. Baby-changing and disabled facilities available, with some disabled access. See website for opening times. Only guide dogs allowed.
For opening times and prices visit the Llanerchaeron website.
3. Newton House, Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo
Visit Newton House and go back in time to before WWI! Run by the National Trust, this striking house with its four corner towers is set in a beautiful wide valley surrounded by ancient trees and 18th-century parkland. Expect ghostly encounters in the cellars, or the spirit of the strangled Lady Elinor Cavendish on the staircase!
The medieval Deer Park, Wales’ only parkland National Nature Reserve, is skirted on one side by the River Tywi valley. Originally built in 1660, it has later 1850s Gothic additions which form the majority of the current house. The estate was landscaped by George and Cecil Rice (Rhys), aided by Capability Brown, and very little has changed since.
The house was owned by the Rhys family, descendants of the ancient princes and kings of Deheubarth, who once ruled the area from Dinefwr Castle on a nearby hilltop. It was sold by Richard Dynevor in 1972. The name derives from the former location of a medieval “New Town”, constructed for the English to trade.
There are guided rooftop tours, exhibitions on the first floor and events throughout the year, listed on the website. A National Trust shop and Art Gallery are also on site, with plants for sale, a Second Hand Bookshop and a Farm Shop selling the extremely local venison!
Facilities include the Billiard Tea Rooms where you can enjoy fireside lunches and teas, or the Castle Walk Cafe, designed especially to be dog- and muddy-boot friendly. Dinefwr Castle is also open to visitors.
For opening times and prices visit the Newton House website.
4. Tudor Merchant’s House, Tenby
The Tudor Merchant’s House is in the heart of Tenby. Visit this late 15th-century historic house for a trip back in time to Tenby in the Tudor period. This is a small treasure in the middle of a beautiful seaside town and harks back to the days when Tenby was an important centre for trade.
The site is a middle-class town house, furnished in a c1500 style. It was originally built for a merchant who would have traded in various goods including cloth, coal and spices. Interesting features include a garderobe within a tower on one wall of the building, and a herb garden to the rear of the house.
This is a great interactive experience, with guides on hand to show you how the family once lived and ate, and children’s costumes to try on. Whilst there are no facilities attached to the house, there are a variety of places to find refreshments around Tenby, as well as a host of other attractions.
For opening times and prices visit the Tudor Merchant’s House website or phone 01834 842279
5. Scolton Manor Museum and Country Park, Pembrokeshire
Scolton is a Victorian manor house set in 60 acres of parkland currently being managed to encourage wildlife, as shown in the Visitor Centre. There are many reasons to visit the property, whether you are interested in history, wildlife or beekeeping.
Built in 1842 for the Higgon family, once Sheriffs of Pembrokeshire, this is a typical house for the country squire. It became a convalescent hospital in WW2, and remained a private house until bought in 1982 by Pembrokeshire County Council to house the county museum.
Features to look out for in the house include the great cantilevered staircase, a portrait of Lucy Walter, mistress to King Charles II and mother to his son James, Duke of Monmouth, and a painting of the “Battle of Fishguard”, the last invasion of Britain, by the French at Carreg Wastad. There is also the Walled Garden, currently under restoration, and the Pembrokeshire Beekeeping Centre with live demonstrations.
Open from Spring to Autumn, facilities include a Tea Room with homemade refreshments, and a Gift Shop selling the local honey.
For opening times and prices visit the Scolton Manor website.
6. Ffynone Mansion, Boncath, Pembrokeshire
This attractive Grade I listed house is in a beautiful setting looking out across the Pembrokeshire countryside. Named after the springs around the site, it is set in a peaceful 20 acre landscaped estate. This is a perfect day out for those wanting a quiet and relaxing day.
Created in 1793 by John Nash and thought to be one of his best earlier creations, the house was constructed roughly on the site of its medieval predecessor. The estate was purchased from the Morgan family by Colonel John Colby in 1752 and the present house commissioned by him.
Early 1900s renovations included a ballroom and dining room in Italianate baroque style, leaving Nash’s work intact. The gardens were landscaped at the same time. In 1987 the house was bought and restored by the third Earl Lloyd-George.
Please book in advance to view the house and for guided tours. Large groups are welcome. The house and gardens are open May to September, Thursday to Saturday, with an NGS garden day on 1 May.
Refreshments are available from the tea Shop serving homemade cakes and hot drinks. There is limited disabled and pushchair access to both house and woodlands.
For opening times and prices visit the Ffynone Mansion website or phone 01239 841610
You can even stay at Ffynone Mansion in one of the self-catering apartments. South Flat sleeps 4 and Stable Flat sleeps up to 6.
7. Stradey Castle, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire
Stradey Castle is a Grade II listed historic house which has been opened by the Mansel Lewis family for all to enjoy and as a way of preserving the castle and its contents. Apart from drawing in visitors, it is also a popular location for filming and photoshoots, including the 2011 Doctor Who Christmas Special!
Currently under the process of restoration, the present house dates to the mid-Victorian period and includes a tower and a secret passage around the basements. The original Stradey House was built in the 17th century, but has since been demolished. It is set in 100 acres of farmland and woodland, and the Woodland Gardens are also available to explore (please enquire when booking).
Opening times and guided tours are available every 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month, please check the website for further details. The heritage, educational, garden and Christmas tours are generally conducted by the present owner, and the house is also available for wedding receptions. Disabled and pushchair access to the ground floor only.
For opening times and prices visit the Stradey Castle website or phone 01554 774626
8. Cresselly, Pembrokeshire
Cresselly is a grand house, an epitome of the country house, set a short distance from the Cresswell River Estuary to the east of Pembroke. With links to the Wedgwood family, the estate was also once visited by Coleridge. Visit this site for a peaceful, relaxing and historic day out.
Owned by the Allen family, the current Georgian house was built in 1769. Prior to this, the Cresselly estate had been owned by the Bartlett family since 1564. John Bartlett Allen, a descendant of the Bartletts and the Irish Allen families, commissioned the rebuilding of the new house away from the coal mines to which the family owed much of its income.
The new house was higher up the hill, overlooking the Cresswell River and onwards towards Milford Haven. It has many period features, including original solid oak furniture, and a glass chandelier. Open 10am-1pm, 3-16 May and 1-14 August. Visitors are welcome for guided tours, please see website for details. No dogs or children under 12 permitted.
For opening times and prices visit the Cresselly website or phone 01646 651992
If you are looking for somewhere to stay near any of these historic houses, we have a wide variety of self-catering accommodation in the area for you to choose from. See our full collection of holiday cottages.