By Sharon Whitley Larsen
Talk about downsizing! During a recent trip to Wales I couldn't miss visiting the smallest house, chapel and pub in Wales.
I started my tour in North Wales with my driver/guide Anthony. In Conwy, a town that originated in 1284, I stopped to peek inside the smallest house in Britain. Located near another tourist draw, Conwy Castle, this tiny, bright-red cottage was built in the 16th century and has a pretty waterfront view of docked boats.
"One of the biggest attractions in Conwy is ironically also the smallest in size," wrote Margaret Williams in her guidebook, "The Smallest House in Great Britain." The building is a mere 6 feet wide and 10 feet high.
As I stood in front taking photos, a guide wearing a bright-red traditional Welsh costume explained, "It was built in the 1590s, one of 10 cottages built here. And it was in the same family for 150 years. People come from all over the world to see it."
After I paid my nominal admission and purchased the guidebook, I entered through the small doorway. In the tiny, dark living room with black-and-white photos on the wall there was room just for me. Everything was compact, including a seat bench that opened up to reveal stored wood. Then I climbed halfway up the wooden ladder to take a peek at the second level, noting the bed and nightstand.
"The interior is an object lesson in how to manage with the minimum of space," wrote Williams, "for there is a tiny fireplace where the cooking was done, a settle with a lift-up seat which also doubled as a coal bunker, small round table, water tap hidden behind the stairs, and a minute bedroom with a long single bed and small dressing table and washstand. In fact, everything that was needed was here."
Except the toilet, which used to be housed at the rear of the house.
It's a mystery why the house was built so small. During the late 19th century, an elderly couple lived here. In 1900, Robert Jones, a 6-foot-3-inch fisherman, was the last person to reside here, paying 1 shilling weekly for rent. That was the year the tiny cottage was among other nearby waterfront houses tagged for demolition by the local authorities as unfit for habitation. When an inspector arrived, the story goes, Jones told him, "I'm afraid I shall have to step out so that there will be room for you inside."
But the tiny cottage was saved. The local newspaper editor, believing it to be the smallest house in the country, insisted that he and the property's owner visit all the tiny houses in Great Britain that they could find. After measuring the square footage of each, they proved this one to be the smallest. For this notoriety, it avoided demolition and for the past century has been visited by thousands each year.
My guide, Anthony, next drove me a short distance to see reportedly the smallest chapel in Wales. St. Trillo's Chapel, Rhos on Sea, is so small — and hidden below street level — that many visitors to the area probably are unaware of its existence. Yet it has been here near the sea since St. Trillo founded it in the early sixth century. Reportedly he was thirsty and prayed for water, and he stumbled upon a well of natural spring water on this very spot. He founded the little chapel, built with the altar over the water, which has been said to have healing powers and is used for baptisms to this day.
Located near Colwyn Bay, St. Trillo's measures about 11 feet by 13 feet and has wooden chairs to seat only six. (Three lined up on each side.) The medieval stone and mortar chapel with a stone floor is unlocked most of the time so people can visit to pray, reflect, leave a donation or attend a twice-weekly service. In the late 19th century the exterior walls and roof were restored.
The altar — with a stained-glass window featuring St. Trillo on the wall behind it - is adorned with a cross, flowers and candles. Prayer requests are pinned onto a bulletin board hanging on the wall. Another small stained-glass window on the side wall features St. Elian. I was intrigued to see glowing reviews about this tiny worship center on TripAdvisor. Several wrote that they not only enjoyed the reflective and prayerful interior, but they also liked to sit on the outside bench, gazing at the sea and relaxing.
To complete my tour, I popped into Wales' smallest pub, a former garage. Bar Bach, near Caernarfon Castle, opened in 2014 and has become a local legend. Customers sit on small stools or benches at tables near the stone fireplace. The colorful bar is adorned with hanging character mugs and wine glasses, and water bowls are set out for canine customers. In this small pub I ordered a large glass of Chardonnay and toasted to charming Wales and its quirky sites.
WHEN YOU GO
The Smallest House In Great Britain: www.thesmallesthouse.co.uk
The Smallest Chapel in Wales: St. Trillo's: 43-55 Marine Drive, Rhos on Sea
The Smallest Pub in Wales: Bar Bach, 37 Castle Square, CaernarfonSt. George's Hotel, Llandudno: www.stgeorgeswales.co.uk
Private driver/guide: Bespoke Tours of North Wales: www.bespoketoursofnorthwales.co.uk
We had lunch at the 15th-century Tu Hwnt I'r Bont Tearoom: www.tuhwntirbont.co.uk
Visit Llandudno: www.visitllandudno.org.uk
Visit Wales: www.visitwales.com
Sharon Whitley Larsen is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
A tour guide stands in front of the smallest house in Great Britain, located in Conwy, Wales. Photo courtesy of Sharon Whitley Larsen.