Unlike the many that visit the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel to conquer Snowdon or contemplate life’s vagaries and wonders, it was that god-awful site of the bottom of the barrel that found me there. I needed to work and make money to continue my European travels.
It was a desperate situation—but not serious. I had a job and so a means to an end; but never did I imagine that I would actually grow to love and later miss such a peculiar and wonderful place.
While the lush dewy mountains of North Wales are well known and admired, it was the characters—residents and staff alike—that grace the Pen-y-Gwryd that made it my home away from home.
The Pen-y-Gwryd is a travelers’ inn. It is remote. It sits neatly and confidently on the toes of Mount Snowdon and is embraced by the seemingly boundless lichen green-grey outcrops of the Glyders.
After traveling from London to Bangor Railway Station I was greeted on the platform by the lady of the house, Jane Pullee, a no nonsense business-women with soft classic tastes equally matched with a stern love of formality. At the hotel I was briefed on the daily tasks, handed a lace trim apron … and a feather duster … and shown my room.
Her two sons, Nick and Rupert, managed the everyday runnings. To my surprise neither of them looked anything like the hobbit-like creatures one might expect to find in a place like ‘the Gwyrd’.
I quickly learnt that for the next year from 7am until 7pm 6 days a week I would be busy washing mops, drawing the curtains, turning down the sheets, ‘hoovering’ (which antipodeans call ‘vacuuming’) scrubbing the baths, preparing a local Welsh cheese board selection for after-dinner and much later swanning with the best of them in the Smoke Room.
With staff that comprised of 2 Polish girls, 2 Danish chefs, 2 British boys and 2 Australian travelers, it made for an interesting octo-dynamic. We all worked hard and we all worked well.
Under the watchful eyes of Jane, Rupert—a somewhat eccentric gentleman dreamer and Nick a well-traveled not-so-long ago retired alternate with purpose, directed us through the everyday verse and chorus of hotel work.
There was something still and peaceful in the madness of the Pen-y-Gwryd’s relentless routine—especially Friday to Sunday, mid-term break and bloody bank holidays.
Somewhere in between brassing the door knobs and hanging tea-towels in the drying room, and of course polishing the ancient oak furniture, setting the coal fires and mopping the slate, there would be time to segue across the frost-tipped grass to the cedar sauna by the pond. And there … ‘to sleep, perchance to dream’ — and soak up the ample simplicity that only comes when you … stop.
Savoring the quiet moments was one of many things I learnt during my Gwryd tour of duty; that and how to roll a cigarette like an English champion and an appreciation of the function and purpose of old-fashioned white bread—without a trace of fibre or goodness.
The double-decker-daily bus that ran to the sea town of LLandudno was our day-off staff routine—a weekly dose of reality that reminded us that we lived in a modern time, with Myspace and Cadbury.
No matter what way you pick up the Gwyrd, and no matter what angle you see it from, when I close my eyes, at any moment, I’m back in front of the fire in the Smoke Room, at the end of a long shift, with the never say die late night patrons and an ample gin and tonic.
Featured in: The Pen y Gwyrd Hotel- Tales from the Smoke Room
Compiled and edited by Rob Goodfellow, Jonathan Copeland and Peter O’Neill
Photos by Nicola Maysmor