Anglesey Towns and Villages
Anglesey (Ynys Mon in Welsh) is situated off the north west coast of Wales near the Snowdonia mountain range. It is reached by two bridges, the Menai Bridge and the Brittannia Bridge.
Anglesey has quaint towns and villages as diverse and interesting as its landscape. Anglesey also has the village with the longest place name in Britain: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllantysiliogogogoch, thankfully it’s abbreviated to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair P.G. by the locals.
The towns and villages of Anglesey are as diverse and interesting as its landscape. From sleepy villages to a bustling port town, Anglesey has it all.
Amlwch is situated on the north east coast of Anglesey and is a major draw for those interested in industrial heritage. Walking around this peaceful town with its three windmills, it’s hard to imagine that in its mining heyday, it was one of Anglesey’s busiest ports and home to an amazing 1,025 pubs!
The old harbour at Amlwch Port is well worth a visit with its exhibition of memorabilia from Amlwch’s shipbuilding and mining days. You can walk round Parys Mountain amid amazing open cast remains often linked to a lunar landscape. For other activities Amlwch has a leisure centre, shore and golf at Bull Bay Golf Club.
Beaumaris is a captivating seaside town with lively cafes, pubs, restaurants and hotels with good food to suit every taste and some excellent shopping, marked by quality independent traders. With a mix of Medieval, Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, visitors can stroll along the seafront, taking in the pier and the views over the Menai Strait and Snowdonia, continuing through the charming streets with its picturesque cottages, many painted in soft pastel colours.
Beaumaris Castle is a United Nations World Heritage Site which was built as one of the iron ring castles of North Wales by Edward I to stamp his authority on the Welsh. It was never finished but is nevertheless called the “most technically perfect Medieval Castle in Britain.” Opposite Beaumaris Castle is the Court House, constructed in 1614 and renovated in the 19th Century. Here visitors can walk through the large rectangular courtroom, stand in the original dock and view the splendour of the grand jury room. Beaumaris Gaol was built by Hansom (famous for the Hansom Cab) in 1829 and features the only working tread wheel in Britain.
Nearby in Church Street stands the 14th Century Church of St Mary and St Nicholas which houses the empty coffin of Princess Joan, wife of Prince Llywelyn Fawr and daughter of King John of England. The location of her body remains a mystery but her effigy is carved into the coffin lid. There are two more very well preserved historic buildings – the Court House, constructed in 1614 and the Victorian Gaol in Steeple Lane. A popular visitor option is a two-hour cruise around Puffin Island, with a chance to see puffins, seals and other wildlife at close quarters.
The award winning main beach at Benllech is a long stretch of rich golden sands backed by cliffs. Benllech is a prime spot for long seaside walks or across the cliff path to the neighbouring village of Moelfre. A short walk round the headland at low tide takes you to Red Wharf Bay. Alternatively head north from Benllech to Traeth Bychan, a water sports centre with a slipway for launching boats.
The most northerly village in Wales, Cemaes is set on Anglesey’s wildest and most unspoilt stretch of coastline, most of which is now cared for by the National Trust. Originally a fishing village, it became a centre for shipbuilding and exporting marble and limestone, used to build many of Liverpool’s buildings. Maritime activity is at the old stone pier where boat trips to Skerries Lighthouse and the Isle of Man can be arranged with local boat owners.
At the eastern entrance to the bay is Llanadrig and St Patrick’s Church and cave where it is said Patrick set off to Ireland from. Further east is Dinas Gynfor prehistoric hill fort and the atmospheric small port of Llanlleiana from where China clay was once exported. A major attraction is the Wylfa Nuclear Power Station which has been generating electricity since 1971 and has a visitor centre which is open daily and is free of charge.
Holyhead is the busiest UK Irish ferry port and home to the fastest and largest catamaran and largest roll on, roll off ferry in the world. There are good views over the port from the grounds of St Cybi’s Church from where there is also a good view of Skinner’s Monument on Alltran Rock. This obelisk was erected by the people of Holyhead in memory of Captain John McGregor Skinner, a benefactor to the town’s poor who was washed overboard from his ship in 1832.The award winning Ucheldre Arts Centre is housed in an impressive old chapel, originally the convent chapel for the Roman Catholic order of nuns, the Sisters of the Bon Sauver. The centre spearheads cultural life with art exhibitions, craft displays and a lively programme of arts and theatre workshops and performances.
For a taste of local culture visit Holyhead’s male voice choir during rehearsals at Llanfawr School on Tuesdays from 7-9pm. There are many sports and activity facilities available in and around Holyhead including an impressive new 500 berth marina. Fine views of the town and its dramatic setting can be had from among the sheer cliffs at North Stack or Holyhead Mountain.
A visit to South Stack Lighthouse should not be missed as it is possibly one of the most spectacular and exciting locations on Anglesey and is the only attraction of its kind in Wales.
South Stack acts as a waymark for coastal traffic and a landmark and orientation light for vessels crossing the Irish Sea to and from the ports of Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire. South Stack is accessed via a bridge and a steep flight of 400 steps and was reopened to the public in 1998.
There are excellent beach and coastal walks at Penrhos Coastal Park and Breakwater Country Park which include themed walks and history trails. These parks, together with the RSPB visitor centre in Elin’s Tower at South Stack are popular bird watching centres. Summer is peak season when you can expect to see Guillemot, Chough, Grebe, Puffin and Peregrine Falcon.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – Llanfair, Llanfairpwll and even Llanfair PG are all names used locally for this village with the longest place name in Britain, the translation of which is: St Mary’s Church by the white hazel pool, near the fierce whirlpool with the church of St Tysilio by the red cave. The village was the birthplace of the British Women’s Institute in 1915.
The James Pringle Weavers Centre features a huge range of woollens, crafts and specialist Anglesey foods, plus a restaurant. Transport buffs will want to see both the original octagonal Holyhead road tollhouse with its 1895 tariff rates at the entrance to the village and the restored railway station which also features the village name in full.
Just outside the village is the Marquess of Anglesey’s Column. The Column commemorates the first Marquess of Anglesey who lost his leg while fighting alongside the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. 115 steps take you up to 88.5ft/27m for spectacular and breathtaking views over Anglesey and Snowdonia.
The Marquess’s home, Plas Newydd is now an exceptional National Trust property with 18th Century Mansion set on the banks of the Menai Straits with breathtaking views. Visitors can enjoy the Rex Whistler Exhibition, military museum, stunning gardens and historical cruises. Special attractions are a Rhododendron garden, an Australian arboretum and an Italian style garden terrace overlooking the Menai Strait, plus a wide programme of music, cultural events and family fun days.
Llangefni is Anglesey’s county town and principal administrative centre as well as a major cultural centre. Leading the way is Oriel Ynys Mon Anglesey Museum and Art Gallery. The free entry art gallery hosts an annual calendar of leading art, while the museum houses some fine historic treasures. The gift shop offers souvenirs and local art and crafts and hosts an evening programme of music and other performing arts. There’s also amateur theatre at Theatr Fach and monthly Celtic song, music and dance evenings at St Cyngar’s Church Hall.
There are excellent sports and fitness facilities at the leisure centre and a nine hole public golf course. Nearby attractions include Easter Bunnies Angora Farm, Stone Science and Llyn Cefni Reservoir which is excellent for bird watching or fishing.
Menai Bridge’s two impressive bridges provide Anglesey’s physical links with the mainland. Thomas Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge (Port Menai) opened in 1826. The world’s first iron suspension bridge, it is 1,265ft/305m long with a central span of 579ft/177m with its roadway set 98ft/30m above the water to allow tall ships to sail beneath. The Britannia Bridge (Port Brittania) opened in 1850 and is a magnificent prototype of box-girder design by William Fairbairn and Robert Stephenson. Originally built to carry rail traffic, this bridge was converted to a double-decked structure following a catastrophic fire in 1970. It now carries both rail and road traffic.
A short walk from Menai Bridge town centre brings the visitor to the base of the Menai Suspension Bridge from where the true scale of this remarkable structure is best appreciated. The Belgian Promenade (built by Flemish refugees from the Great War between 1914-1916) leads south west reaching a causeway that links Church Island and the ancient Church of St Tysilio to the shore. A short walk around the church cemetery affords wonderful views of the Menai Strait, both bridges and Ynys Gorad Goch Island, whose residents once made a living from the fish caught at the traps built there.
Close up views of the Britannia Bridge can be had from the car park of the picturesque St Mary’s Church. There is also a monument to Nelson on the shore of the Strait, a short stroll away. Menai Bridge has a selection of interesting shops including antiques, books and ironmongers as well as the Tegfryn Art Gallery and hosts two races in the annual Menai Strait Joint Regatta. The town’s male voice choir, Cenorion Menai, welcomes visitors to rehearsals (Tuesdays 7.30-9.30pm at Capel Mawr Schoolhouse) and early March sees the Menai Bridge Urdd Children’s Eisteddford celebrating traditional Welsh culture.
The village of Newborough is in the south-western corner of Anglesey was created in 1294 when King Edward I cleared the local population from Llanfaes, near Beaumaris in order to build his castle and town.
Newborough is a peaceful village with attractive environs that provide the visitor with excellent walking opportunities, not least at Newborough Warren, one of the largest areas of sand dune found in the British Isles.
Newborough Forest is a 2,000 acre woodland dedicated to forestry and conservation and was originally planted to protect the wheat crops across the Island from being covered in sand blown in from the beach. Most of the area around Newborough has been declared a nature reserve.
Visitors should not miss the village’s expansive sandy beach at Llanddwyn and from there walk to Llanddwyn Island (tide permitting) where you can find the remains of the 16th Century church of St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers.
At Llys Rhosyr is the site of one of the main royal palaces of the medieval princes of Gwynedd. The site is unique in that the palace has been preserved as a whole having been buried in the sand since 1320.
Rhosneigr lies on Anglesey’s western shore and is a popular resort due to its two broad sandy beaches making it an ideal centre for water sports. It is also home to Anglesey Golf Club as well as horse riding, tennis and bowling and is a good location for sea and freshwater fishing.
There are two ancient burial centres nearby; Ty Newydd and Barclodiad y Gawres and Llyn Maelog, a reed-fringed lake known for its bird life.
Trearddur Bay enjoys a wonderful setting on the west coast of Holy Island, a sheltered and sandy bay suitable for families set into a rocky coastline and cliffs, two miles south of Holyhead. The resort has a selection of hotels, pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops, together with a seafront promenade. It is a very popular destination for sailing, diving and other water sports and there is fine sea fishing to be had at nearby Mackerel Rock. The Holyhead Golf Club is also situated at Trearddur Bay.
Trearddur Bay is surrounded with many attractive small beaches, coves and bays offering excellent walking with a low coastline around the bay as well as low level cliffs to the north and south of the resort. An established walk for nature lovers is the two mile stretch from Trearddur Bay to Rhoscolyn with its large sheltered beach.