Monday, 30 January 2012

Valentine's Menu

Love is in the Air.....

Is your love "like a red, red, rose....." as our old friend Mr Burns proclaimed, or is it more like an onion "that will blind you with tears" as our current poet laureate Carole Ann Duffy grimly declares?

Well, whatever form your love takes, what better way to show someone you lurrrrve them than with a fabulous dinner at the Oakeley Arms restaurant?

We've got a delicious menu lined up for all the love-birds who stumble over our romantic threshold, and here's a sneaky peak just for our lovely blog readers......

We're serving this lovely menu all of Valentine's week (13th - 19th February), so come on - earn those brownie points!

Cost is £22.50 per person; call or e-mail us to book

01766 590 346 or

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

National Breakfast Week

Rise and Shine!

What did you have for breakfast this morning? The full-works fry up, or a banana on the go?

This week is Farmhouse Breakfast Week - the perfect excuse to make it a week of hearty, healthy breakfasts! As the old saying goes, you should always "breakfast like a king!"

The event is run by the  Home Grown Cereals Authority but also supported by the Farmers Union of Wales, and it aims to highlight the importance of a good breakfast to set you up for that day.

image by friedandy on

Of course, the healthier the better, and don't forget to add lots of local Welsh produce on your breakfast plate too.

There are loads of reasons why eating breakfast is a good idea; here are just a few:

  • people who eat breakfast are usually slimmer than those who don't.
  • people who eat breakfast have been shown to be less prone to depression and stress than those who skip it.
  • eating breakfast helps keep you mentally alert and focused all morning.
  • and a balance, healthy breakfast can help to provide more essential nutrients and vitamins.
You needn't tell us twice! We're off for breakfast now - the Oakeley Arms Welsh breakfast is one of the best, yum!

We're open to non-residents too. Breakfast is served every day between 7am and 11am.

Find out more about Farmhouse Breakfast Week here

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Oakeley Arms History

Slate Expectations
We've been the proud owners at the Oakeley Arms now since 2003, but we've often wondered about the history of this magnificent Grade II listed building.

After doing some research we've found, of course, that the Oakeley's story is inextricably linked with that of the renowned Oakeley family of nearby Tan-y-Bwlch estate.

So, in the first of our series about the story of the Oakeley Arms, here's a short history about the Oakeleys, and the rise, and fall, of their fortunes.......

From a distance, the quiet mountains that surround the Oakeley Arms stand calm, proud and magnificent, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find a noisy industrial and destructive history; one that was defined by Wales’ grey gold – the valuable Welsh slate that was dug from the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog in thousands of tonnes and exported all over the world.

The story of slate holds the key to how a local family became one of the wealthiest families in the country; all thanks to an underground treasure trove. The family would remain one of the most important and influential in the area for almost 200 years. 

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the daughter of wealthy local landowners and heiress to the estate of Plas Tan-y-Bwlch (which had originally been built by her predecessors around 1630) married a business man from Staffordshire named William Oakeley.  

File:Plas Tan-y-Bwlch.jpg
Plas Tan-y-Bwlch
Photo: David Medcalf
William Oakeley, known as “Oakeley Fawr” (Great Oakeley) was popular and soon became well-loved by local residents and the tenants on his land. As farming provided the main sources of income for local people, he made important improvements to the pastures below Plas Tan-y-Bwlch. He built embankments to save the land from the tidal waters, and created much more land for the farmers and their families.

Although this work was appreciated by local communities, it wasn't until the estate was passed to Oakeley Fawr's son, William Griffith Oakeley in 1811, that the fortunes of the family were cemented.
William Griffith spotted the potential of farmland he owned at nearby Rhiwbryfdir. In 1819 he rented it to a slate dealer from Liverpool and within three years the land had been transformed from a small hole that employed three men, to the largest subterranean slate quarry in the world.
The hungry demand for the best slate in the world was growing quickly as the industrial revolution gathered speed and vast quantities of building materials were required across the world.  By the end of the 19th century the Oakeley quarries were producing 60,000 tonnes of slate a year; each tonne transported from the hills down to Porthmadog by the Ffestiniog Railway and shipped across the globe.
Come back later in the week for the end of the story.... What happened to the Oakeley family? And did their good fortune survive the dawn of the 20th century? And what of the fate of the famous Oakeley Arms?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Seeing Stars

Stargazing in the Forest

Callling all budding stargazers and astronomers; don't miss this star-tacular event in North Wales this month.

As part of the BBC's Stargazing Live events, this forest spectacular is not to be missed! If you have an interest in astronomy and the night sky, or simply if you want an informative evening with a difference, you'll love this event at the Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre.

You'll have the opportunity to stargaze from the balcony, with guest speakers from the North Wales Astronomy Society, and then there's the indoor planetarium to explore.

Thursday 26th January
17:00 to 21:00
suitable for any age; cost is £5 (includes a bowl of soup). Tickets essential.
Weather dependant.......

The event is run by the Forestry Commission Wales. For more details and tickets contact the Visitor Centre - 01341 440 74

Coed Y Brenin Forestry Commission Visitor Centre, Dolgyfeiliau, Dolgellau. LL40 2HZ

photo by bradimarte on


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

If you go down to the woods today....

Haw-Haw to History

Did you know that the Oakeley Arms' little patch of Snowdonia is packed full of history, folk-lore and local legends? The Oakeley Arms itself lies at the edge of one of the oldest forests in Wales. The ancient Coed y Bleiddiau (or Forest of the Wolves) is named after the fearsome wolves that made their home among the dense, dark trees. It's said to be one of the last places in the country where wolves roamed free.

But, there's some slightly more recent history that has intrigued and surprised many of our guests and customers. Any of our readers who enjoyed our walk last week will have walked past a very special little cottage, deep in the forest.

It was built in the 1860's by the Ffestiniog Railway for use by the Superintendent of the line; at the time a Mr Hovenden, so the cottage became known locally as Ty Hovenden (Hovenden's House). No-one knows why such a remote location was chosen; there's no road access here so a railway halt was built here especially to serve the cottage.

During the 1920's the cottage  took the name of the eerie forest that surrounded it and became known as "Coed-y-Bleiddiau". It was rented by Sir Granville Bantock, the famous composer and conductor, where he lived with his family until 1937. Memoirs written by Sir Granville's family recall the brilliant method of acquiring groceries and shopping - as the morning train approached, Lady Bantock would hold out a large wicker basket with a shopping list and money for the train guard to grab as he passed on the moving carriage. The afternoon train would return with a full basket of groceries, which would be heaved out of the carriage as it passed the cottage.

After the Bantock family left the cottage, it was rented to the well known British Fascist, Harry Philby, and it is these connections that are thought to have led William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw Haw, to stay at the cottage during the war.

William Joyce became an infamous fascist, known for his broadcasts that promoted Nazi propaganda and beliefs in the 1940's after he fled to Germany to escape from the British authorities. It is claimed that he often mentioned the little cottage and the local area and residents during his radio broadcasts. After the war, Joyce was captured for his crimes and tried for treason; he was executed in 1946.

As for the remote little cottage, it was rented in 1951 by Mr & Mrs Johnson who lived there for over 50 years. When the Ffestiniog Railway re-opened in the 1980's, the couple were often spotted in their garden waving to passengers as the train shuffled by.

Today, sadly, this fascinating little cottage is in desperate need of restoration and a little TLC, but it's certainly worth a walk into the forest for a glimpse of this enchanting house in a bewitching location. And keep your eyes peeled for wolves!!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Russell's Academy Plans

"There's no business like Show-Business"

All of us at the Oakeley Arms have absolutely loved watching Russell and his fancy footwork and brilliant dance moves every Saturday on Strictly, but even though the fabulous journey has sadly now come to an end, Russell certainly isn't giving up on the business of "showbiz", which is where he first started his career.

It has recently been revealed that Russell is involved with plans to unveil a new Showbusiness Academy in association with nearby Coleg Harlech. Russell, who lives close by, is a loyal advocate of Snowdonia and our beautiful area, and it is hoped that the new academy will bring plenty of opportunities for prospective students.

“Plans for the academy are in the early stages", says Russell, "but the intention is that it would cater for people of all ages. It’s not true that theatre workshops are for young people as everyone, whatever their age, should fulfil their creative potential.”

Although the precise details and curriculum are still being discussed, the proposed academy would be an enormous boost for the area, and will hopefully encourage people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to learn skills or further their careers in the world of entertainment.

Russell has revealed that the course will offer a variety of musical theatre, drama and even broadcasting. He wants the proposed academy to bring something "which has never been done anywhere else - we don't want to cut across anything which is already being offered".

The plan promises to be a great boost for the undiscovered talent of the local area, and what better mentor and specialist than our very own brilliant Strictly star!

We wish Russell heaps of good luck with the plans, and we'll be excited to hear all about it when everything is finalised. You never know, we might even enroll ourselves..... (dig out your ear-plugs....hehe).

Image: ChIandra4U

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Oakeley Winter Walk

Ffestiniog Valley Walk
We love a bracing winter walk here at the Oakeley Arms, and we don't need much of an excuse to drag the walking boots from the cupboard, fill up the thermos and head out for an amble.

The forecast's pretty good this weekend, so what are you waiting for? Try our brilliant walk along the Ffestiniog Valley - there are some cracking views and stunning scenery.

This walk leaves straight from the Oakeley. See you in the bar afterwards for a well-earned drink!

Distance:               approx 5 ½ miles
Start:                       Oakeley Arms, Maentwrog
Maps:                     OL Explorer 18: Harlech, Porthmadog and Y Bala


1: Leave the pub and turn left onto the main road; follow pavement round corner towards bridge. Just before bridge over Dwyryd, turn left through gate (at a footpath sign) and walk along top of grassy mound. Ahead are stunning views of the Ffestiniog valley.
2: When you get close to the river, the path swings left. Go through gate, turn right and stay on the quiet lane for over a mile. The river is parallel to the lane at first, then it veers away from it. Finally you will reach a small bridge, cross it and continue ahead to follow lane to a road.
 3: Turn right to soon reach a junction, then turn left and very soon cross over for footpath sign turning right over stone stile. Follow path up through trees and over stile. Walk besides wall for short distance and at a corner of wall where the stones have fallen go through gap and turn left (the wall should now be on your left) towards road.
4: Over stile, turn right on road and walk for almost 200metres. At a footpath sign turn left, through gate and along path. Go through gate then steeply downhill to gate at bottom.
5: Go through small boggy land and head to right, walking along field edge towards the corner. Here head upwards along right edge of field, passing way-marker. At top of field go through gap and stay straight ahead, keeping wall on left. Cross stile and turn left along a track heading downhill.
6: At the road turn sharp right and at end of parking area on the right cross road and turn left down narrow path. Go through gate and soon track will veer to left, but as it ends stay ahead on path through trees which curves left to gate.
7: Through gate and into nature reserve and follow path uphill by river. Turn left to cross bridge and climb steeply. Walk past another information board and follow main path. Go over small stream and through gap in broken wall.
8: At top of woods go over stile and continue straight on to walk alongside wall then through ferns. Over stile then turn left and soon head right up track following edge of trees. At a fork, stay left.
9: You’ll soon reach the old railway track (look for the ruined bridge ahead. Turn left here and walk along the old track; you should be able to see wooden sleepers to mark the track.
10: At Dduallt station go through gate and cross railway line to pass railway buildings. Just after old house on right look for stile over fence on the other side of the track. Opposite the stile, cross the track again and over stile, turning left.
11: After going under bridge follow path through more ferns and go through two gaps in the broken stone walls to stile. Over stile, cross railway, over another stile and turn right. Follow path that heads downhill.
12: At a track by a house, continue ahead and the track will start to go steeply downhill. At a very sharp bend to left keep straight on over stile at footpath sign. Go downhill and cross stream, then carry on descending through woods to gate.
13: Through gate, turn left to follow steeply path down to track. Turn uphill to right, passing house and cross bridge. Go half left along path then through gate to follow windy path through trees. When you reach lane, turn right and then at main road turn right again to reach Oakeley Arms.

**Please note that appropriate clothing and shoes should be worn for this walk, and it should not be attempted in bad weather. It is also recommended that you take a map with you, as well as adequate food and drink supplies.
All directions are correct at the time of writing but the Oakeley Arms cannot accept responsibility for errors, omissions or changes or any damages caused as a result of following these walk directions. Please notify us if you find any errors and we will do our best to rectify them.

Ask a member of staff if you'd like help with directions or advice on the route.