Island Life – Anglesey

Wales is a wonderful country to visit – just not right now!
Once Covid restrictions are lifted we’re sure you’ll enjoy its beauties.

Here’s the latest in our Island Life series – Anglesey.

Tŵr Mawr Lighthouse, Anglesey Wales © Richard Banton, Flickr
Tŵr Mawr Lighthouse © Richard Banton, Flickr

Historic Anglesey
Beautiful Anglesey
Independent Anglesey

Like all island dwellers the people of Anglesey are proud of their heritage.

Ynys Môn, as it’s called in Welsh, is an island off the north-west coast of Wales.
At 26 square miles it’s the largest in Wales and the seventh largest in the whole of the British Isles.

Celtic cross, Llanddwyn Island Anglesey © Brian Deegan
Celtic cross, Llanddwyn Island © Brian Deegan

Separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait it’s long been a place of myth and mystery.

Megaliths and menhirs dot the landscape, testament to the powerful druids who once held sway.

Even the Romans had trouble subduing the locals when they invaded in 60 C.E. – mainly because a woman called Boudicca was causing them problems further afield and they had to give up. It took until 78 C.E. before the Romans were properly in charge.

Penrhos Feilw Standing Stones (Meini Hirion Penrhos Feilw) Anglesey © Crown copyright
Penrhos Feilw Standing Stones (Meini Hirion Penrhos Feilw) © Crown copyright

After that Anglesey was over-run by Vikings, pirates, Norwegians, Scots, Irish, Saxons and Normans before becoming, nominally at least, English in the 13th century under Edward 1.

Today it is decidedly Welsh.

Best things to do on Anglesey

Menai Bridge, Anglesey © Neil Mark Thomas, Unsplash
Menai Bridge, Anglesey © Neil Mark Thomas, Unsplash

Cross the Menai Suspension Bridge

Well you can’t miss it really. Chances are you’d have driven over it on your way.
Built by Thomas Telford it was opened in 1826, making it the first modern suspension bridge in the world.

Before then it was boats for all, but if farmers wanted to get their cattle to market on the mainland, they’d have to get the herd to swim across the Straits, not an easy task in such fast-running, treacherous waters.

Walk the Coastal Path

Porth-y-Nant, Anglesey © Crown copyright
Porth-y-Nant, Anglesey © Crown copyright

Or at least part of it, as it stretches for more than 125 miles.

Running through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which covers 95% of the coast, it passes through farmland, coastal heath, dunes, salt-marsh, foreshore, cliffs and a few small pockets of woodland.

It’s a geologist’s dream with 100 or more different rock types and a large collection of ancient sites.

Visit nearby islands

The region of Anglesey includes several smaller islands the best-known being Holy Island, or Ynys Gybi, which is on the western side of the larger Isle of Anglesey, separated by a narrow, winding channel.

Trefignath Burial Chamber, Holy Island Anglesey © Crown copyright
Trefignath Burial Chamber, Holy Island Anglesey © Crown copyright

It is called “Holy” because of the high concentration of standing stones, burial chambers and other religious sites that can still be found here.

Tŵr Mawr Lighthouse, Llanddwyn Island Anglesey © Richard Banton, Flickr
Tŵr Mawr Lighthouse, Llanddwyn Island Anglesey © Richard Banton, Flickr

And don’t miss Llanddwyn Island, its lighthouse and the ruined chapel of Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers whose true love Maelon was turned to ice.

Discover Amlwch, the Copper Kingdom

In the 1800s this was home to around ten thousand people, working and supporting what was then the largest copper mine in the world.

Parys mountain, Amlwch Anglesey © rhianjane, Pixabay
Parys Mountain (Mynydd Parys) Amlwch © rhianjane, Pixabay

Originally a small fishing village it became Anglesey’s own “Copper Rush” town, just as unruly as the gold rush towns of the wild west.

Today you can wander the colourful paths of Parys Mountain, whose ore-rich stones are reminiscent of life on Mars. Then head for the harbour to find out how the Copper Lady, Miner, Smelter, Mine Manager or Assay Manager of old Amlwch lived and worked.

Amlwch harbour, Anglesey © Sterim64, Wikimedia
Amlwch harbour, Anglesey © Sterim64, Wikimedia

Bird-watching

You don’t need to be an expert to spot the varieties here.

Puffins, choughs, razorbills and guillemots come to nest in some of Anglesey’s most spectacular scenery while peregrine falcons soar overhead.

Puffins, Puffin Island, Anglesey © Mrs Airwolfhound, Flickr
Puffin Island © Mrs Airwolfhound, Flickr
Penmon Lighthouse (Trwyn Du Lighthouse), Anglesey © Neil Mark Turner, Unsplash
Penmon Lighthouse (Trwyn Du Lighthouse) and Puffin Island © Neil Mark Turner, Unsplash

From South Stack Cliffs in the west to Puffin Island in the east, the rocky promontories, heathland and skies teem with birdlife.

Plas Newydd House & Gardens

Slightly less bracing is these 18th century gardens managed by the National Trust.

Plas Newydd House and Gardens, Anglesey © Crown copyright
Plas Newydd House and Gardens © Dan Struthers, Crown copyright

Plas Newydd is home to a military museum, an Australian arboretum and an exhibition of Whistler paintings from the 1930s.

The grounds have spectacular views across to Snowdonia on the mainland.

Dingle Nature Reserve

Dingle means steep wooded valley and here you’ll find kingfishers, woodpeckers and moorhens. The reserve is 25 acres, carpeted with bluebells in the spring and teeming with wildlife all year round. Eight of the sixteen species of bat found in Britain can be seen here at dusk.

Rule at Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey © Crown copyright
Beaumaris Castle © Crown copyright

Edward 1 really tried to hang on to Anglesey, building, but never finishing, the fortifications at Beaumaris Castle. Four concentric rings of defences were constructed including a water-filled moat with its very own dock.

But lack of money and trouble with the Scots meant work ceased and the gatehouse and the six great towers never reached their intended height.

Now a World Heritage Site it’s gloriously incomplete.

Bathe at some of the best beaches in the UK

Blue flags and seaside awards abound on Anglesey and most beaches are fabulously clean and welcoming.

Lligwy Beach is worth a special trip as you may be lucky enough to spot seals and dolphins while you picnic.

Lligwy Beach, Anglesey © Robin Leicester, Wikimedia
Lligwy Beach © Robin Leicester, Wikimedia

The ruined chapel of Din Lligwy stands a few miles inland near the remains of a Bronze Age settlement which includes a Neolithic burial chamber.

Try your hand at learning Welsh

Anglesey is a stronghold of the Welsh language with more than half of the population speaking it, especially in the town of Llangefni and parts of the south coast.

And of course you can practice reading Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch from the railway station sign.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Anglesey © Crown copyright
© Crown copyright

It’s the longest place name in the UK, contrived in the 1860s as a publicity stunt to attract visitors. It works!

You may never master the Welsh tongue but it is a beautiful language to listen to, so sit back and soak it up on Anglesey.

Getting to Anglesey

Fly, take the train or drive – there’s plenty of choice.

There is a small airport served by flights from Cardiff which has connections to the rest of the UK.
Fast trains operate from London Euston and Glasgow to Holyhead with many other services available and fast ferries link Dublin and Holyhead.
But most people take the road as it’s quick and easy. The A55 North Wales Expressway links Holyhead with the network of UK motorways.

Staying on Anglesey

Anglesey relies heavily on tourism so there are dozens of hotels and self catering options. Cottages, B&Bs, guest houses, campsites, caravan parks and glamping with every luxury.

Once known as the ‘bread basket of Wales’ for its fertile soil, foodies will love the fresh produce, including locally caught seafood seasoned with salt drawn directly from the crystal clear waters of the Menai Strait. There are farmers markets if you’re self-catering and a range of restaurants from fine dining to laid-back pub food.

For up to date information see the Visit Anglesey website


Where next?
Fuller’s Follies
Beautiful places in Britain
Quirky and unusual things to see in Prague

 

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