This is a delightful small 17thC stone manor house set high on the wooded hillside above Porth Neigl beach, hidden from the road by a stone wall and tall box hedge.
The house was bought by the three Keating sisters in 1938 who lovingly restored it from a ruinous condition and planted the garden. They donated the house to the National Trust and continued to live in it until their death. They are buried in the churchyard at Llanfaelrhys (see review).
The car park is just down the road from the house. The only sound was the crows in the trees above. We walked up the secret driveway through fuchsia, azaleas, camellias and ferns for our first glimpse of the house, a simple stone building with slate roof and slate veranda along the front.
There is a small lawn in front of the house with flower borders. The gardens drop down the hillside in a series of terraces with paths and neatly trimmed box hedges. The air was scented with old fashioned roses. The gardens were a mass of colour with irises, sisyrinchium, foxgloves, aquilegia, pink corydalis, geraniums, helebores, yellow Welsh poppies, allium… The garage was covered with the lilac blooms of Wisteria.
It is an interesting house inside as is a mix of late Georgian meets early 20thC, avoiding the over the top clutter of the Victorian age. It is left untouched since the last Keating sister died in 1981.
Inside the door is a lovely late Georgian style living room with wooden posts supporting the ceiling. Furnished with dark wood furniture it has a gate leg table, chairs, chests, dresser with blue and white china, display of pewter, grandfather clock, spinning wheel, log fire place…
Behind it is the kitchen with beamed ceiling and stone floor with a peg rug. Facing north this must have been a cold and damp room once the open fire had been replaced by a small gas hob and oven. There was a stone sink but no water supply to the kitchen. In the centre is a large table set for a meal with blue and white china. Under the window is a scrubbed work table with rolling pin, mixing bowls, lemon squeezer. Next to it is a folding tea table with an old electric kettle, toaster vintage 1920s, biscuit tins. There is a treadle sewing machine and old fashioned pressure cooker which may have been used for canning. On either side of the fire place are two wooden chairs. One has a small wood footstool to keep the feet off the cold stone floor. There is a wireless and another copper electric kettle on a window ledge.
On the other side of the doorway is a room with huge fireplace with iron cauldron and remains of spits. There is an old pantry built into the thickness of the wall. This was later used as a sitting room and now has a drop top desk, tables, chairs, gramophone, small sewing table with a lift off top containing reels of thread. There are brass candlesticks and china on display.
Stone and wooden steps with a grandfather clock lead to the first floor with its splendid shoe rack. The room at the back was used as a small office and is lined with books. It has a table with inkstand and typewriter and an old fashioned electric fire in the fire place.
There is another sitting room at the front of the house with easy chairs, bookcase, drop leaf desk, folding table, radio and wooden corner cupboard. There is a chest of drawers inlaid with two lions holding round shields. In the corner of the wall above the pantry is a stone spiral staircase to the floor above.
Next to it is a small single bedroom with a patchwork quilt on the bed and a hand knitted bed jacket. There is a fur coat hanging up. There is a bookcase, chest of drawers, easy chair with an embroidered cushion and handbag casually discarded on it. The dressing table set is inlaid with mother of pearl. There are hat pins stuck in a cushion, glove stretchers, shoe horn and oil lamp. By the bed is a small table with a small biscuit tin with a pattern of violets on it (Mother in law had one just like it used to hold her bedtime rich tea biscuits). Over the bed is a rather risqué print of St George rescuing a damsel.
Stairs with water colours painted by the Keating sisters lead up to the second floor. This has another single bed with a patchwork quilt cover. Furnished with a large cupboard doubling up as wardrobe and shelf space as well as a chest of drawers, small settee and two easy chairs. There is a teas made and an old fashioned gas cylinder fire in the fireplace.
The former Gardener’s Cottage is now a holiday let through the National Trust.
In many ways, there is nothing special about the house in the way of furniture or paintings. It is a well loved family home and many of us will recognise things used by our parents. The house is a time warp set in delightful gardens. My only criticism is that photography is not allowed in the house, hence the detailed description.