Created in honour of a strange, reclusive uncle, the Cilwendeg Shell House Hermitage is an extraordinary folly, its interior decorated with a profusion of seashells, minerals and coloured glass fragments, arranged in primitive patterns and pressed into lime mortar panels.
Outside, the walls are made of grey Cilgerran stone and roughly hewn white quartz. Inside, the floor designs are made using the knucklebones of sheep and oxen, the by-product of a once thriving estate farm.
Ceiling panel from Cilwendeg Shell House Hermitage
Built in the late 1820s by Cilwendeg Estate owner Morgan Jones the Younger, this ornamental grotto was restored to its former glory in 2004 by the Temple Trust Partnership. Located in a woodland on the estate, it was used by his family as a cool amusement in the summer and as a contemplative reading room in winter.
Open on Thursdays only from the first week in April until the last week in September, the Cilwendeg Shell House is free to visit and tricky to find. It is located off the B4332 road between the villages of Boncath and Newchapel in Pembrokeshire. Enter the gates for 'Cilwendeg Mansion' and follow the drive to the very small car park, signposted as such for Cilwendeg Shell House Hermitage. On foot, follow the sign for the Shell House and watch out for a small gate in the woodland to your left. Enter the gate and a short distance along the path is the Hermitage.