Nature’s Majesty Unveiled – Exploring the Isle of Anglesey

Shipwreck on Anglesey (nailzchap)

“I wouldn’t want to be on that boat,” said my companion as we sat on the rickety bench, staring westwards across a turbulent Irish Sea. She pointed towards the small fishing boat that was pitching this way and that, trying its best to make limited progress through the tidal rip several hundred feet beneath us.

“Nor me,” I agreed. “This place, Anglesey, has a serious history of shipwrecks. There are several hundred within a few miles of where we are now.” When I spoke, I felt privileged, as I had stumbled on the Isle of Anglesey by accident, a passing suggestion from a friend when I asked where I might go on holiday. Two days into my three-day visit and I wondered why I even bothered to look overseas for my holidays, when there was so much to see in the British Isles. Anglesey, an outpost of North-West Wales, was somewhere special and certainly Nature’s friend. Environmentally I could not fault it.

The South Stack Lighthouse: Guiding Lights Amid the Elements

South Stack Lighthouse

Our rickety bench was high above the scenic South Stack Lighthouse, a gleaming white, 28-metre column 400 steps below us, that is now remotely operated to warn of the dangerous rocks and tides around it. Built in 1809 to warn passing vessels of dangers ahead, the lighthouse – it is haunted by the ghost of John Jack Jones – completes a ring of caution around the coastline of Anglesey. Even so, the shorelines nearby were littered with disaster.

The Royal Charter: A Tragic Tale of Nature’s Fury

One of the worst, barely two hours’ sail from where we sat, was the Royal Charter, a clipper nearing the end of its 60-day journey from Australia’s Melbourne to England’s Liverpool. On board were 375 passengers and 112 crew. By the early hours of 26 October 1859, thanks to the Great Storm of the previous day, the vessel had foundered on Anglesey’s rocks, and 450 souls had perished. This tragedy of tragedies, remembered to this day, led to the introduction of the nation’s gale-warning service, and was written about by many, including Charles Dickens in his final non-fiction book, The Uncommercial Traveller:

“… they saw the ship’s life-boat put off from one of the heaps of wreck; and first, there were three men in her, and in a moment she capsized, and there were but two; and again, she was struck by a vast mass of water, and there was but one; and again, she was thrown bottom upward, and that one, with his arm struck through the broken planks and waving as if for the help that could never reach him, went down into the deep.”

Coastal Erosion at Eglwys Cwyfan: A Tale of Continual Change

Tiny Eglwys Cwyfan that once stood on a promontory before erosion took its toll

One reason for Anglesey focussing on the environment and sustainability is the danger it faces. Work has shown that one million UK properties are at risk of inundation by 2050, while parts of Anglesey will simply vanish. Coastal erosion is the problem and a good place to see it is Eglwys Cwyfan, the little church in the sea. It is the loneliest of buildings sat atop small Cribinau Island off the west coast of Anglesey. An early map, dated 1611, shows the church proudly standing on a promontory, not an island. The promontory has now disappeared, leaving an island behind, which is only reachable on foot at low tide, twice every 26 hours. There is no avoiding Nature in Anglesey.

Subtle Artistry of the Natural World

Sand patterns on Angelsey’s Llanddwyn beach (Philip Silverman)

Even without the shipwrecks, Anglesey awaits with open arms. It is a lesson in sustainability, environmental protection, and the artistry of Nature. From the enchanting beauty of Llanddwyn Beach, itself a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and where shifting sands have created mesmerising shapes, or the patterned cliffs of Trearddur Bay, Anglesey’s tranquillity is remarkable. I had gone there to escape, as had my companion, and to bask in the delicate ecosystems of open sea, birdlife aplenty, wildlife reserves, lakes, and forests. Somehow Anglesey is an away-from-it-all destination, despite the 1.68 million people who visit annually.

Connecting with Nature

The peace of Anglesey’s Beaumaris harbour (Daniel Tomlinson)

For UK travellers especially, who seek to reconsider their carbon footprints, Anglesey makes a mockery of flying anywhere. Why pollute the planet when there is so much to offer nearby? Anglesey is an understated jewel in the Welsh crown, as it extends a warm, Celtic invitation that reinforces the Welsh word “Hiraeth”. This has no direct English translation, but think homesickness tinged with sadness, a yearning for home, and you have it.

A visit to Anglesey presents not just the gift of lower emissions but an opportunity to celebrate the raw power of Nature while leaving only the faintest footprints in the sand. Why trot halfway across the globe when Anglesey is just around the corner?

***

If you go…

Llangefni is Anglesey’s county town and principal administrative centre. It is also a major cultural centre.

It is at:

W3W: disarmed.cursing.squad

GR: SH 45902 75697

Co-ordinates: 53°15’21″N4°18’41″W

Getting there

Distances

London (292 miles); Edinburgh (324 miles); Cardiff (203 miles); Manchester (123 miles), Liverpool (96 miles).

Rail

Anglesey has several railway stations, including one at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, the village with the longest name in Europe. Why not give it a go?

Air

Anglesey Airport does exist and in 2018 saw nearly 15,000 passengers. It forms part of RAF Valley but is presently closed to civilian traffic.

Bus

For the latest bus timetables, see https://www.traveline.cymru

Bicycle

Anglesey forms part of the National Cycling Network. See https://www.visitanglesey.co.uk/en/things-to-do/activities/national-cycling-network/

Parking

Do look at https://www.anglesey.gov.wales/en/Residents/Parking-roads-and-travel/Parking/Car-parks.aspx

Accessibility

The Isle of Anglesey County Council does have accessibility guidelines (https://www.visitanglesey.co.uk/en/accessibility/), but not all places will be accessible. For example, there is no chance of a wheelchair making it to the South Stack lighthouse, although the nearby RSPB Visitor Centre has a disabled toilet.

Places to eat

There is plenty of choice. I ate at:

1. RSPB Visitor Centre – I found this to be excellent

Location: South Stack, Holyhead LL65 1YH, Wales

Tel: +44 1407 762100

Web: https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/south-stack-cliffs/

2. The Harbourfront Bistro, Newry Beach, Holyhead LL65 1YD, Wales

Tel: +44 1407 763433

Web: http://www.harbourfrontbistro.co.uk

3. Pete’s Burger Bar

Location: Newry Beach Promenade, Holyhead Layby by Maritime museum, Valley, LL65 1YB, Wales

Tel: +44 7810 672313

Email: intrudertrike@yahoo.co.uk

Do also have a look at: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurants-g186442-Anglesey_North_Wales_Wales.html

Places to stay

1.Orient B&B

Location: Porth-Y-Felin Road, Holyhead, LL65 1PL

Tel: +44 1407 239598 

Web: https://theorient.wales/Orient

Email: hello@theorient.wales

2. Sandy Mount House

Location: High Street, Rhosneigr, LL64 5UX

Tel: +44 1407 253102

Web: https://sandymounthouse.co.uk

Email: info@sandymounthouse.co.uk

3.Premier Inn

Location: Parc Cybi, Holyhead, North Wales, LL65 2YQ

Tel: +44 330 1281627

Web: https://www.premierinn.com/gb/en/hotels/wales/anglesey/holyhead/holyhead.html

Do also have a look at: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/SmartDeals-g186442-Anglesey_North_Wales_Wales-Hotel-Deals.html

Ideas of what to see

1. Beaumaris Castle

Location: Castle St, Beaumaris LL58 8AP

Web: https://www.visitanglesey.co.uk/en/things-to-do/activities/beaumaris-castle/

W3W: even.preparing.blazing

GR: SH 6072 7624

Co-ordinates: 53°15’53.4″N 4°05’22.9″W

2. South Stack Cliffs RSPB reserve and South Stack Lighthouse

Location: RSPB South Stack, S Stack Rd, Holyhead LL65 1YH

Web: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186443-d1469303-Reviews-South_Stack_Cliffs_RSPB_Reserve-Holyhead_Anglesey_North_Wales_Wales.html

For the lighthouse, look for:

W3W: unrealistic.rates.skylights

GR: SH 2029 8229

Co-ordinates: 4°41’55″W; 53°18’25″N

3. Eglwys Cwyfan

Location: Church in Tŷ Croes, Wales, LL63 5YR

Vicar and Ministry Area Leader – 07519 319269

vincesmorris@outlook.com

W3W: trades.wishing.diplomas

GR: SH 3359 6828

Co-ordinates: 4°29’31″W; 53°11’8″N

Access to the island is on foot along an irregular sandy and stony surface. Great caution is needed. The church is inaccessible once the tide is in. Please wear sturdy shoes. There are no toilets on the island.

4. Holyhead mountain hut circles

Location: Trearddur Bay, Holyhead LL65 1YH

Web: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g186443-d8042061-Reviews-Holyhead_mountain_Hut_Circles-Holyhead_Anglesey_North_Wales_Wales.html

W3W: umpires.instincts.dome

GR: SH 2112 8197

Co-ordinates: 53°18’15.8″N; 4°41’09.5″W

5. Plas Newydd House and Garden (National Trust)

Location: Llanfairpwll, Anglesey, LL61 6DQ

Tel: +44 1248 714795

Web: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/wales/plas-newydd-house-and-garden

Email: plasnewydd@nationaltrust.org.uk

W3W: oath.scribbled.luck

GR: SH 7863 8091

Co-ordinates: 3°49’23″W; 53°18’40″N

6. Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path

https://www.visitanglesey.co.uk/en/about-anglesey/isle-of-anglesey-coastal-path/

Official start point: St Cybi’s Church, Holyhead

W3W: cubes.centrally.shook

GR: SH2470 8277

Co-ordinates: 4°37’58″W; 53°18’46″N

12 days to complete, covers 95% of the coast, and falls within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)

7. Visit the village with the longest name in Europe – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

Web: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

W3W: error.smile.remaking

GR: SH5285 7165

Co-ordinates: 4°12’20″W; 53°13’17″N

More information

  1. https://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/lighthouse-visitor-centres/south-stack-lighthouse-visitor-centre
  2. https://www.visitanglesey.co.uk/en/things-to-do/activities/
  3. https://discovernorthwales.com/st-cwyfans-church/
  4. https://www.anglesey-history.co.uk/places/churches_and_chapels/Llangwyfan/index.html
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Richard Villar

Travel writer, doctor & international mountain leader

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