Nant Gwrtheyrn quarry village opens after £5m revamp

Quarrying cottages at Nant Gwrtheyrn, Gwynedd
Image caption Once derelict, the Nant Gwrtheyrn quarry cottages now boast four-star accommodation as part of the £5m renovations

First Minister Carwyn Jones has officially opened a £5m redevelopment of a Victorian quarry village and Welsh language centre in Gwynedd.

It is hoped the renovation of Nant Gwrtheyrn on the Llŷn peninsula will turn the location into a tourism hub.

Tucked away in a remote blind valley, the village was once home to 200 quarry workers and their families.

Abandoned in the 1970s, it now boasts four-star accommodation, conference facilities and a heritage centre.

"Nant Gwrtheyrn is a centre of national and international significance, as well as an important local employer," said the first minister as he officially opened the renovated village.

"The new facilities will attract many more day visitors, tourists and local visitors for learning and to enjoy its unique location, bringing greater economic benefits to the area."

Image caption Quarry houses were built in the late 1800s but by the 1970s the village was derelict.

The assembly government and European grants have provided £3.8m of the project funding.

The investment in the picturesque valley is the latest step in Nant Gwrtheyrn's remarkable history.

The area has been inhabited since the Iron Age, with two ancient hillforts high above the present day village.

In the 1850s, Britain's demand for granite cobblestones saw the first quarry opened in the valley.

At its height, the quarries employed 2,000 men.

It led to the original village being built, with rows of cottages housing the quarrying families, along with a chapel, school and co-operative shop.

But with a slump in demand for granite, the quarries closed in 1939, and one-by-one the villagers left.

In the 1970s the valley was taken over by a hippy commune, and many of the buildings left derelict and damaged.

However, the vision of a local GP was set to turn around the fortunes of the abandoned village.

Dr Carl Clowes was determined to open a national Welsh language learning centre, and was convinced Nant Gwrtheyrn was the ideal location.

The village held its first language lessons in 1982, and has continued to develop over the last 30 years.

Speaking at the official opening of the renovations, Dr Clowes said: "The rebirth of the village provides a much-needed boost for local employment and confidence.

"Significantly, we now have a local and national facility for Welsh learners and an attraction, second to none, for residential and day visitors."

The renovation of Nant Gwrtheyrn has seen the original quarrying cottages turned into four-star accommodation, new conference and wedding facilities, a cafe and a heritage centre.

The once difficult single-track road that led to the village has been substantially upgraded.

Paths linking the village to the beach, and former quarry port have also been enhanced.

Image caption The remote valley became home to thousands of men working the granite quarries

Last year, the valley attracted 25,000 visitors and now employs 15 full-time staff.

Dan Clayton Jones, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, which invested more than £550,000 into the project, said: "We supported this project to help local people and visitors alike to learn more about Nant Gwrtheyrn's heritage, from the area's quarrying industry past to the history of the Welsh language.

"Funding has also created new opportunities for local volunteers, including skills training in building conservation, oral history, customer care and film making.

"These skills give people the power to help take what matters to them locally and make sure that it lasts into the future."

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