The Royal Victoria Hotel: a short history

If you’re reading this blog, more than likely you already know about the Royal Victoria Hotel and what makes it such a treasured landmark in Llanberis. But what you might not know is the fascinating history around this amazing place that makes it a top choice for a stay in North Wales. Read on to find out more…

With 30 acres of beautiful gardens and a location between the twin lakes of Llanberis, the hotel is exceptionally scenic.

The area the hotel was built on was called Dolbadarn, or Padarn’s Meadow, after a saint from the 6th century who chose the area to live for its tranquillity. In fact, it has been inhabited since around the year 3000 BC; standing stones from this time still sit atop the hill behind the hotel. History buffs will be in their element here, as there are numerous sites and relics scattered across the landscape from centuries past – not least the ruins of Dolbadarn Castle, situated in the hotel grounds, which likely predates Llywelyn Fawr’s death in 1240.

Origins of the hotel

In 1830, plans were drawn up for a ‘dwelling inn’ to sit close by Dolbadarn Castle, with the site to include stables, coach houses, greenhouses, chamber rooms, attic rooms and lounges. The hotel was built by Thomas Assheton Smith, who also owned the Dinowig slate quarries. Although the quarries have long since ceased production, signs of the workmen and their legacy can still be viewed at the Electric Mountain and National Slate Museum, both in Llanberis.

As tourism to North Wales increased, the Royal Victoria Hotel too grew in popularity. The opening of the road through the Llanberis Pass in 1831 meant more visitors were able to visit the area to see the slate industry and to climb Snowdon.

In 1832, Princess Victoria (later to become Queen) embarked on a visit to North Wales. Although she was too ill to journey to Llanberis herself, her royal party did in fact visit this very hotel.

Adventurous Victorian visitors

By the late 1840s visitors were flocking to Snowdonia and Snowdon, heading to the summit either by foot or with a guide and pony. Wooden buildings with sleeping quarters and food were erected at the top of the mountain to provide a place to stay for those visitors who had made the steep climb – one of these was owned by the Royal Victoria Hotel.

Towards the end of 1894 the hotel was taken over by the Snowdon Mountain Tram Road & Hotels Company, that also funded the Snowdon Mountain Railway. The directors of the company threw a grand banquet at the hotel to celebrate. 200 distinguished guests dined on a six-course meal that included Snowdon Pudding, which is still a famous and beloved item served at the hotel to this day.

With such a prestigious location so close to Snowdon and nestled between Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris, the Royal Victoria Hotel went from strength to strength, attracting visitors from across the United Kingdom and beyond.

More secrets of Snowdonia

The hotel goes from strength to strength

By the 1890s visitors to the hotel found 38 guestrooms, a bar, parlour, more than a dozen sitting rooms, a spacious coffee room, ladies drawing room and a billiards room. Among the other facilities were a laundry, a dairy, stables for around 30 horses and cellars for wine, beers and spirits.

Leisure facilities were added to enhance the hotel’s spectacular surroundings. There were six stage coaches that transported guests to and from the hotel each day, and carriages and boats could be hired for sightseeing excursions.

By 1919, the hotel was also managing a 9-hole golf course located between the hotel and Llanberis station. Today, the car park opposite the mountain railway is still managed by the Royal Victoria, and used to be tennis courts.

In 1996, renovations took place at the Snowdon station. In a secret cavity hidden inside a wall, old ledgers and records were found detailing the guests who stayed at the hotel between 1882 and 1896. Among the names, researchers found the signature of one William Ewart Gladstone, former Prime Minister.

The hotel today

Today, of course, the hotel is as popular and scenic as ever. Visitors from across the globe come to North Wales for adventure, scenery and plenty of culture, and the Royal Victoria’s proximity to many of  the region’s best attractions makes it a fabulous place to stay. The hotel is also a sumptuous wedding venue, with sprawling Victorian gardens and the Snowdonia Moutain Range as a backdrop for photos.

For over 100 years, the Royal Victoria Hotel has been a fixture and landmark in Llanberis. To add your name in the guestbook – alongside a former Prime Minister and the future Queen Victoria’s party! – book a stay and fall in love with Llanberis.

Images courtesy: Royal Victoria Hotel in the snow 2017 by Sevy. Snowdon Summit c. 1880 courtesy of the National Media Museum.