Sharon Chilcott views a beautifully presented Victorian property perched in the hillside above the River Wye.
Of all the captivating views of the River Wye as it wends its way down the Lower Wye Valley, the front terrace at Ty Bryn must command one of the best!
The symmetrical, double-fronted Victorian property is set in an elevated position in Llandogo, from where its five large front windows also each have their own unique bird’s eye view over the glistening river below. Yet, somewhat incredibly, owner Nickie Moore doesn’t remember these stunning views even being mentioned in the brochure when she and her husband, Phil, decided to view the property eight years ago.
“I remember walking up the drive to the house, turning and my jaw hit the floor! I was definitely not expecting such a beautiful, unspoilt view. It really did take my breath away. Also, I clearly remember watching a tree trunk floating gently upstream with the incoming tide. Llandogo is eight miles from the coast yet we have the privilege of still being connected to the sea, and visibly so, and I just loved that,” says Nickie.
The couple, newly returned from travels around the world, were renting in Bristol and looking for somewhere that Nickie could run as a Bed and Breakfast. Ty Bryn, with its well-proportioned, high ceiling rooms, sash windows, lovely original features and, of course, those views, struck them as the perfect solution. It had not been run as a Bed and Breakfast before, even though it had rooms designated in the original plans as “luggage rooms”. Nevertheless, it lent itself well to the purpose, especially with one of the luggage rooms converted into an en-suite and the other providing space for a staircase up to a roomy loft conversion. “This became our quarters, whilst we used the three en-suite bedrooms on the first floor for guests,” says Nickie.
Originally called Tighnabruaich, Nickie relates that the property was built about 120 years ago by trout and salmon fishery owners the Miller brothers, who came from the banks of Loch Fyne, in the west of Scotland where there is a pretty little town of the same name. Who knows why they chose to build on this exact spot in Llandogo, but is it a coincidence that you can spot fish jumping in the river below right from the house?
“They moved here and called the house by the name of the village they had come from, which in Gaelic actually means “the house on the hill”. Nobody here could pronounce it, so we changed it to Ty Bryn, which is a simplified Welsh version – it means Hill House.”
There are nods to the Miller’s Scottish heritage in some of the property’s features – something Nickie has incorporated too. “There are some lovely border edging tiles in the garden with thistles, roses and daffodils on. I don’t know for sure if they are original to the house, but I have also introduced Scottish thistles on the ends of the stair rods up to the loft conversion.”
Whether or not the edging tiles were installed by the original owners, the property certainly boasts some lovely, late Victorian features. Arched alcove bookcases in the sitting room frame a cast iron fireplace with an eye-catching tiled surround, which Nickie went to great lengths to reinstate. “The green sunflower tiles had been removed but we found a handful of them in the old Smithy in the back garden and over the course of nine months we found another and another until we were, rather frustratingly, just one short! I sent all sorts of emails to try and find something similar and we even thought of trying to intersperse the original tiles with others. Then we found the last one under an old tin shed in the garden. I was so delighted to find the full set of ten and they were, surprisingly, still immaculate!”
Across the hallway, the elegant dining room has recessed arched alcoves either side of an equally impressive original fireplace, with a marble surround and a cast iron fireplace inset with tiles featuring that popular Victorian houseplant, the aspidistra, known in its heyday as the cast iron plant for its ability to withstand draughts and neglect. But there are no draughts in this house today, with its cosy ambience enhanced by wood burning stoves in each of the fireplaces in the two elegant front reception rooms and also in the cosy snug, tucked away at the back of the property.
Ty Bryn’s original features also include a Victorian staircase, with a mahogany balustrade. This leads up to three stunning double bedrooms, each with a lovely period fireplace. The two front bedrooms benefit from those breath-taking views of the river and the bedroom at the back of the house looks out on a carefully landscaped back garden. Nickie and Phil have transformed this outdoor space, creating a sheltered entertaining area laid with purple slate chippings and then steps, lined with kitchen garden plants, leading up to a second level. The path passes a former Smithy, where metal hoops were once made for the large wooden barrels used to transport goods on the river-going vessels from Llandogo. This two-storey, stone-built building is in need of renovation but currently very useful as a storage space. On the top garden level there’s a pretty area of lawn and a summer house, positioned in the top corner to capture views towards the river. This charming retreat has a wood burning stove and glazed doors opening to a raised deck where Nickie loves to relax, dangling her legs into the carefully nurtured wild flower meadow below.
It’s hard for her to decide whether this is her favourite place. It could equally be the loft conversion, created to provide stylish and comfortable accommodation separated from the rest of the main house. Stretching across the whole of the top floor, it includes a large walk-in dressing room and is served by the family bathroom, at the bottom of the stairs, divided from the rest of the first floor by an inner door.
In renovating and rearranging the property in order to run it as a B&B, Nickie and Phil brought all the electrics and plumbing up to date, updated the existing en-suite and bathroom and introduced two new en-suites. The spacious kitchen already had a comprehensive range of units and an attractive tiled floor and needed no more than a slight rearrangement to make it into a practical working space.
The couple installed new carpets throughout the property and decorated the guest rooms in neutral colours. “I wanted to make a hero of the views and I wanted to use colours and décor which celebrate our love of wildlife and wild and natural places,” says Nickie. “So I used natural hues, leafy curtains, Voyage Maison cushions and gathered together work by local artists for the walls.”
In the dining room, she chose stunning Anthropologie statement wallpaper for a feature wall, selecting it for its pattern of bugs and butterflies. “For the B&B I also had Anthropologie plates which matched the wallpaper and which became a real talking point,” she says.
With Ty Bryn currently on the market, whilst Nickie and Phil plan a move to enlarge their business, Nickie has temporarily stopped letting the rooms. She and Phil have enjoyed the novelty of having the whole place to themselves and it’s made them realise what a lovely family home Ty Bryn would make. “There would even be potential to turn the master suite into a self-contained annexe and, subject to planning, to develop the Smithy and garden further,” suggests Nickie.
Get the Look
These old railway sleepers came from Warehouse 701, Rotherwas Industrial Estate,
5 Fordshill Road, Hereford, 01432 375510, www.warehouse701.co.uk
The stone trough is from The Yard, 1, Wyeside Commercial Centre,
Hadnock Road, Monmouth, 01600 719605, www.theyardreclamation.co.uk.
The runner on the stairs to the loft conversion was supplied and fitted by
Abbie Carpets, The Old Garage, Llandogo, 01594 530885, www.abbiecarpets.co.uk
The thistle design of these Voyage Maison cushion is a reminder of Ty Bryn’s Scottish connections.
Nickie bought them from Nicholls, 19 High St, Crickhowell, 01873 810370, www.nichollsonline.co.uk
Get the Lifestyle
Ty Bryn, Llandogo is on the market for offers in excess of £600,000 with
Powells Chartered Surveyors, Singleton Court Business Park, Monmouth, 01600 714140, www.powellsrural.co.uk