A couple from London have quit the life of finance and fashion to relaunch the £1 million Snowdonia backpackers hostel dubbed the UK’s poshest.
Proud North Walian Christian Wynne gave up his financial services career in London along with his fashion designer wife Annie to buy the luxurious five-star Plas Curig hostel in Capel Curig.
It is now been relaunched as ‘The Rocks at Plas Curig’ and Christian has been back to his hometown of Denbigh to hire vans and containers from Lock Stock Self Storage to transport and store new fittings and property during the lengthy move back from London.
The couple hosted a ‘business warming’ event for more than 100 people, including staff from Take Stock van hire, to officially launch the rebranding of the hostel.
Christian, who started his career as a financial adviser with Rhyl-based Buckles Investment Services before moving to London to further his career seven years ago, has already welcomed his first guests to the dog-friendly hostel back after completing the purchase.
He said: “We like the deep end approach! Seeing all the changes taking place here I knew moving back was the right thing to do and it had to be sooner rather than later.
“We viewed a few places but once we saw this there was no real competition.
“We wanted to protect what’s already been built. The biggest thing was getting up to speed with how it runs.
“We also made a conscious decision to ask the guests how we could improve. We’re aware it’s the first time we’ve stepped into this industry so we’re not pretending to be experts.
“We’re learning all the time. Thankfully the guests came back with suggestions and there was nothing big but we listened and invested money that way.
“A lot of it is convenience. Having shelving in the bunks or a dehumidifier in the wet room – that kind of stuff.
“We’ve also now got an alcohol license. It may be a simple thing but it all comes from breweries in North Wales. People love it – they get to sample a taste of Wales.”
Although Christian enjoyed his working life in London and his wife Annie had forged a successful career as a clothing designer, his heart remained in North Wales and a return was always inevitable.
He said: “It’s always been our plan to do something together. I worked in the City of London but was always coming back to see family.
“Returning home was mainly a lifestyle choice. No other areas were considered. It was only ever going to be North Wales and Snowdonia in particular.
“I always thought about working in the tourism industry. I’m a very proud Welshman and incredibly proud about the place thriving and fulfilling its potential.
“My father owns a very successful B&B, Plas Coch in Llanberis, so we’d been noticing more and more that people are coming up here.
“When we were staying with my father and meeting all his guests, having breakfast with them and chatting, you would hear a mixture of their passion and surprise about what’s on offer here.
“We are from a very beautiful part of the world. People from London go away for weekends and they don’t realise how big it is and how beautiful.
“I love showing people around Wales. So we thought why not pick it all up and do it full time.”
Christian was delighted with the service provided by Take Stock, who have now helped him in both his moves – away from the region and his recent return.
He said: “They’re a Denbigh firm and I’ve always seen their vans in the area, which is the best advertising going.
“I’ve used them previously. They moved me down to London and seven years later they’ve helped me move back.
“We have a lot of stuff to bring back and because we hadn’t fully completed on the purchase we had some of it put in storage for nearly three weeks. It was perfect.”
Nick Powell, of Lock Stock, said: “We’ve been happy to help out. It’s a great venture by Christian and Annie and helping people move is one of the things Take Stock do.
“The Rocks is a brilliant venture and they have the skill sets and the commitment to make it a real success.”
Both Christian and Annie intend to use their expertise to not only make The Rocks at Plas Curig a thriving business but also help attract more people to the region, particularly from the London area.
They believe North Wales is in the middle of a tourism boom and see travellers swapping European city breaks in favour of UK destinations like Snowdonia.
Christian said: “From a branding perspective we thought long and hard about it. We didn’t want to change the name or remove it.
“The hostel has been around for many years. With our ideas and passion we wanted to put our stamp on the building.
“People know Plas Curig but using ‘The Rocks’ helps cast our net a bit further.
“To reach people who don’t know the beauty of Snowdonia. The Rocks is synonymous with the area and fits in well.”
He added: “The potential the region has was encapsulated in a conversation we had with people living in the South East who had come to Festival No.6 last year.
“They said the place was amazing, hadn’t realised what was here and wished they could have stayed longer.
“In this day and age people take to social media and share that experience. They go home and they show friends and family their pictures.
“Our success goes hand in hand with the attractions like Zip World and Surf Snowdonia which bring people in.
“Zip World for instance brought in 300,000 extra visitors last year and that is expected to increase.
“There is a buzzword at the moment – ‘staycation’. People aren’t looking to the Continent for trips away, they’re looking for new places in the UK.
“There’s programmes on the TV now such as Coast that have shown North Wales in all its glory and this type of holiday is growing. And a hostel is recession-proof. It doesn’t cost the earth.”
It’s not just holidaymakers in the UK that are becoming aware of what’s on offer in North Wales as Christian has already found out.
He explained: “We’ve had Chinese students here and a French school holiday.
“They wanted to visit Snowdonia and we offered exactly what they were after for their trip.
“We’ve also recently had an Amazon UK team building trip. As long as it’s clean and tidy and warm, people are happy. It’s a comfortable and vibrant space.
“Hostels are sociable places. Our visitors are a melting pot from different places with one common interest – the national park.”