Set in the foothills on the edge of the Cambrian Mountains on the western coast of Wales, this converted Victorian schoolhouse takes in sweeping views of the tree-lined valley and Cardigan Bay beyond. Dating back to the mid-19th century, the house overlooks the renowned Llangrannog Beach and its captivating wild coastline, dotted with coves, rock formations, and cliff walks. The home spans 1,017 sq ft across two floors, has three bedrooms and has undergone a loving renovation by its current owners. Despite its rural coastal setting, the house is close to the popular towns of New Quay, Aberaeron, and Aberporth, as well as some charming nearby villages and beaches.
Setting the Scene
Built in 1846, this remarkable house holds historical significance, as it was initially conceived as a navigation school for Sarah Jane Rees, a prominent figure in the 19th century. Rees, also known by her bardic name Cranogwen, was a celebrated writer, reformer, and master mariner. Her certification as a master mariner, a rare achievement for a woman at the time, granted her the authority to command a ship anywhere in the world. In addition to her maritime pursuits, she contributed significantly to Welsh literature and served as an editor for a Welsh-language journal. To honour her extraordinary life, a statue commemorating her achievements stands in a nearby village close to her former Llangrannog schoolhouse.
The notable Carreg Bica, an impressive Ordovician stone that protrudes from the beach, is visible from the house. This stone holds a place in local folklore, believed to be the lost tooth of the Welsh giant, Bica, who supposedly inhabited the nearby caves of Llangrannog. Today, the peaceful cottage and its idyllic surroundings are a tranquil retreat unaffected by the mythical giants of Mabinogian fame. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
Nestled into the hillside, the house is tucked into a wooded vale facing the seafront. A paved parking area and terrace have been carefully designed to maximise the astounding views. The rendered cream façade of the house peeks charmingly through the surrounding ash and oak woodland.
Entry is immediately to a useful boot room, strategically placed to handle sandy beach trips and woodland adventures. This leads to the wonderful L-shaped open-plan living area, which is full of natural light that streams in through a multitude of windows that capture sweeping vistas of the lush valley and the sea beyond. Originally the site of the schoolroom, most of the room has double-height vaulted ceilings. First-floor windows flood the space with light. The walls are lined with traditional tongue and groove panelling, creating a timeless backdrop. The original slate fireplace surround remains intact, and features faintly etched 19th-century student graffiti. Sliding glazed doors, a later addition, grant access to a patio terrace that has its own breathtaking views. During warmer months, when fully opened, this space seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor living.
A neat kitchen, with a breakfast bar tucked alongside, allows for easy entertaining. Deep windows set into the thick stonework frame views of the mossy hillside. Towards the rear of the plan on this level, a peaceful bedroom provides the perfect guest accommodation.
An open-flight staircase leads to the first floor. Here, a gallery level creates a lovely reading nook with some of the best views in the house. Two airy bedrooms extend along the central hall, both with sea views through deep-set cottage windows adorned with whitewashed internal shutters. The rooms are painted in creamy tones, contrasting beautifully with the original darkened pine floorboards underfoot. A charming family bathroom is complete with a Tubby Tub, perfect for a languid bath accompanied by a good book.
The Great Outdoors
Perched above a tree-lined road that winds its way down to the beach, the house has a terraced, multi-level garden. A spacious patio stretches along the front of the house, creating the perfect spot for entertaining. From the patio, a short flight of stone stairs leads up to an enchanting area dedicated to meadow lawns and native borders. During the summer, the space comes alive with vibrant purple foxglove spires intermingled with yellow cowslip flowers. Ascending a further set of stone steps is a larger area above the house. This section of the garden has been allowed to rewild, supporting a diverse range of flora and fauna, adding to the natural beauty and ecological value of the space.
Out and About
Llangrannog, once known for shipbuilding and fishing, is a charming village steeped in history. Today, it caters to a more leisurely crowd, with a range of options for beachgoers and walkers. The seashore is dotted with establishments such as the Pentre Arms, Y Caban café, and Tafell a Tân pizzeria, all excellent spots for eating and drinking.
Llangrannog Beach itself is a stunning stretch of sand flanked by dramatic cliffs, with a hidden cove called Cilborth that can only be accessed during low tide. The village has immediate access to the spectacular Ceredigion coastal path. To the north is the distinctive hill fort of Pen Dinas Lochtyn, with its panoramic views from Cardigan Island to the Llyn Peninsula. To the south, a fern-clad valley leads to the secluded National Trust cove of Penbryn, accompanied by the excellent Plwmp Tart café.
Stretching from Aberaeron to Cardigan, this section of coastline has some of Wales’ most distinctive and romantic beaches. From the dramatic Tresaith waterfall to the serene seclusion of Mwnt, the coastline has a range of natural wonders to explore. Llangrannog’s sheltered west-facing cove is perfect for swimming and surfing, and hopping in a kayak gives an alternative view of the coastline, revealing the hidden coves and thriving wildlife along the shore.
Inland, the expansive Cambrian Mountains lie to the east, Snowdonia to the north, and the intimate Preseli Hills and deep Gwaun Valley to the south. These areas are known for a slower pace of life, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquillity of nature. Nearby, the Dyffryn Arms pub pours Bass bitter from a jug.
Pontgarreg and Aberporth, situated close by, have further amenities, including primary schools. Cardigan, a 25-minute drive away, has a range of shops, cafes, and the well-preserved Cardigan Castle. The Fforest team have two restaurants in the area, the relaxed Pizza Tipi and the recently renovated Albion Aberteifi, both situated by the River Teifi.
The Victorian university town of Aberystwyth can be reached within an hour’s drive, while the cities of Swansea and Cardiff are accessible within two hours. The closest train station is Carmarthen, with direct connections to London in approximately four hours. It also provides services north to Aberystwyth and Manchester, as well as southeast to Swansea, Cardiff, and Bristol.
Council Tax Band: Awaiting Council Assessment
Rhiw Gam, the nautical school built in Llangrannog, holds a significant place in the life of Sarah Jane Rees, also known as Cranogwen. Cranogwen was a remarkable figure, embodying various roles such as sailor, teacher, poet, writer, editor, and temperance activist. Growing up in Llangrannog, she defied societal expectations and pursued a career as a master mariner instead of following the traditional path of dressmaking.
After three years at sea, Cranogwen returned to continue her education, attending navigation schools in New Quay and London. In 1859, she established her own navigation school in Llangrannog, where she taught navigation and seamanship to young men, affectionately known locally as “Crangowen’s captains.” At the young age of 21, Cranogwen took on the position of head teacher at Pontgarreg school, a bold move for a woman during that era.
During her time as a teacher, Cranogwen honed her poetry skills and became the first woman to win a prize at the National Eisteddfod. Her poetry explored a wide range of themes, from marriage to Welsh patriotism. Her writing career expanded to include the editorship of Y Frythones, a Welsh language women’s magazine intentionally curated for women by women.
Cranogwen’s personal life was as progressive as her professional endeavours. She had two long-term female partners and spent a significant portion of her adult life living with Jane Thomas in the Llangrannog area.
A renowned orator, Cranogwen delivered lectures as part of the temperance movement. She founded the South Wales Women’s Temperance Union, called Undeb Dirwestol Merched y De, which grew to have 140 branches throughout South Wales by her passing. Her legacy carries a strong feminist message, as the union went on to establish Llety Cranogwen, a shelter for homeless women and girls in the Rhondda, named in her honour.
Professor Deirdre Beddoe, a respected writer, broadcaster, and historian of women, described Cranogwen as “the most outstanding Welsh woman of the 19th century,” emphasizing her immense contributions and impact on Welsh society.
- A Home with a History: an interiors maven’s Georgian house in Kent
- Singular Appeal: five one-bedroom homes for saleHomes
- A Private View: from beige to beautiful in south-west LondonHomes / Interiors
- Inspiration of the Week: a picture of the simple life, deep in the Welsh countryside
- Inigo Revisits: Charles and Romilly Saumarez Smith’s art-filled 18th-century townhouseHomes / Interiors