Monday, January 19, 2015

Ogwen Cottage: Dreaming of Wetherspoons!

The National Trust recently purchased the historic Ogwen Cottage mountain centre in Snowdonia at auction, for £450k.  For once a reasonable figure for such an imposing building given the Trust’s history of paying way over the odds for other north Wales purchases. Noticeably the eye watering £4.5m they paid for a Snowdonia estate which included part of Yr Wyddfa’s summit and the £1m plus they paid for a farm in Nant Gwynant. I’m confused as to why the trust needed to add Ogwen Cottage to its portfolio though and I’m none the wiser what their plans are for the centre? So far the NT have not issued-as far as I know- any detailed statement?

The Trust do have a base nearby at Craflwyn near Beddglert so I’m not sure if this will be an environmental studies centre, exhibition centre, accommodation block or regional office? Og Cott does, of course, have a significant place in north Wales mountaineering culture. Originally a stage coach inn with accommodation provided for those travelling from the south to Ireland via the port of Holyhead, the inn became a popular destination for climbers visiting Snowdonia as the new sport of rock climbing began to take off in the late 19th century.

Iconic figures like the Abraham Brothers, Cecil Slingsby and Geoffrey Winthrop Young all used the inn to base their activities with local activist, Archer Thomson famously borrowing the Og Cott kindling hatchet from the coal house to make a winter ascent of The Devil’s kitchen!

Ogwen Cottage in its previous incarnation as an inn in the 1920's.
In the 1950’s, the centre was purchased by Ron James, Trevor Jones and Tony Mason-Hornby who set up a mountaineering centre. The centre was purchased by Birmingham Education department in 1964 who kept Ron James in the driving seat where the prolific explorer and creator of Snowdonia first ascents ran the centre until retirement in the 1980’s. Recently, the cut backs in education budgets inflicted by our neo liberal governments in the UK, has seen centres like Ogwen Cottage sold off by the relevant authorities as they find themselves unable to fund what traditionally have been non profit making, public services. There are now a staggering number of former outdoor centres as well as YHA hostels which have fallen victim to the economic climate and of course, social and cultural changes in mountain visiting habits.

I have to confess a certain lack of excitement in the NT’s purchase of Ogwen Cottage. Given the history of the building and its prime mountain location, I did harbour hopes that perhaps it might have once again returned to its former role as an inn. Preferably –and this will be controversial- part of the Wetherspoons chain!  Despite the reputation the chain enjoys in the urban areas, my own experiences in particular, of its Ruthin pub here in north Wales, is that it offers a huge range of ever changing excellent real ales from home and abroad at two pounds a pint and furthermore,offers reasonable cheap pub food fare . For those stumbling down from Tryfan or the Carneddau in the depths of winter, I’m sure the inn would have become a real mountain mecca.

As it stands it's just become another piece of National Trust real estate. What a shame.


  1. I’m with you on that one. In fact, I’m all for Wetherspoons going a step further and buying out the National Trust. Or is it just me who is repelled by the atmosphere of smug mediocrity that seems to envelop a property and suck the life out of it once the trust has taken over?

  2. Can we get a campaign going to get Weatherspoons to take it on?

  3. If you look at what the NT have done in Langdale - an NT pub with mountain history and culture - then you might have a bit more hope.