Anglesey Coastal Path, Wales (6 to 19 April 2019)

The Anglesey Coastal Path is a 210km complete circuit of Anglesey, the largest island in Wales and 7th largest in the British Isles.  The path is within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which covers 95% of the coast.  The walk traverses coastal cliffs, beaches, farmland, coastal heath, dunes, salt marsh and woodlands.  

We walked the full circuit over a total of 12 days.  Here’s a snapshot of what we saw. 

Day 1 – Moel y Don to Beaumaris:  From the carpark at Moel y Don we walked up country lanes through green farmlands, parallel to the Menai Strait.  

A short walk off the main path, is Bryn Celli Ddu – the Mound in the Dark Grove – a 5,000 year old Neolithic chambered tomb consisting of a long passage leading to a polygonal stone chamber where dead were interred.  There are other similar structures on Anglesey, but this is the only one which is aligned so that at dawn on the midsummer solstice, the first rays of the rising sun penetrate down the passage and light up the chamber.  No one is sure why.

Back on the path, we continued past farms and then took another detour, this time to the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyligogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogoch.  Quite a mouthful.  The name means ‘The Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel near the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave’.  

The village has been around since around 3,000BCE and the name has changed many times.  The full 58 letter, 19 syllable name is the longest one-word place name in Europe, and the second longest in the world (after a New Zealand town whose name has a whopping 85 letters).  

It has been asserted that the full name was made up in 1869 as a publicity stunt to give the railway station the longest name of any in the UK.  But for once the cynical explanation may not be the correct one, as there are references to some version of the long name in ecclesiastical documents at least a few decades earlier.  

Here’s a photo of the train station.  They don’t even try to print that on the tickets.  It’s just Llanfair PG.

Leaving the town we backtracked to the official path and followed the banks of the Menai Strait until we reached the pedestrian-only causeway to Church Island, home to the 15th century Church of St Tysilio.

Continuing on the path, there were great views of the beautiful Menai Suspension Bridge.   It was a glorious sunny day and there were kayakers and motor boaters  enjoying the warm Spring weather.

Almost under the bridge we came upon what looked like an ancient stone circle.  It turned out to be a replica.  

The Welsh tradition of the eisteddfod dates back to the 12th century, and at that time circles of standing stones formed an integral part of the Druidic eisteddfod ceremonies.   After a period of dormancy, the eisteddfod re-emerged in the 18th century and today remains an important part of Welsh culture.  

In modern times, a new tradition has begun of erecting a stone circle – known as Gorsedd Stones – as a commemorative structure signifying that the National Eisteddfod has been held in a place.  This one was erected as a celebration of the Anglesey Eisteddfod held in 1965.

After leaving the town of Menai Bridge we came through the village of Llandegfan.  The higher path provided some excellent views over the strait to Snowdonia where there was still quite a bit of snow on the peaks.

Mid-afternoon we arrived in Beaumaris, considered by many to be the prettiest town on Anglesey.

As well as the Ferris wheel, it has a lovely town centre of stone buildings, a couple of postcard-worthy churches and the enormous Beaumaris Castle.  Built by Edward I between 1295 and 1330, it was never quite finished but nonetheless is described by historian Arnold Taylor as Britain’s “most perfect example of symmetrical, concentric planning”.  

It is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site, described by that organisation as “one of the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe”.  

Total walk distance: 17km

Day 2 – Beaumaris to Llanddona:  From Beaumaris we walked along a pebble coastline for several kms before ducking inland to see the ruins of Castell Aberlleiniog.  Then back to the coast and north to Penmon Priory, a 12th century church and Augustinian monastery.   The monks are long gone but the ruins of the refectory and dormitory are clearly visible.  The church is still a working one.

Then on to Penmon Point at the tip of the eastern peninsula.  Just offshore, the Trwyn Du Lighthouse was built after the sinking of a paddle steamer on a day trip from Liverpool in 1831.  Only 23 of the 140 people on board survived.  

The lighthouse looks out toward Puffin Island.  Once home to large numbers of puffins and guillemots, there are virtually no puffins nesting there now, and none this time of year.

The path then ambles through green, green farmlands slightly inland, passing this tower.  Our walking notes said it was the focal point for a book of short stories called The Tower by Welsh writer, Tristan Hughes.  When Julie expressed an interest, our walk organiser, Eurwyn from Anglesey Walking Holidays, produced a copy the next day, which made for interesting local reading for the walk.

Then back to the coast, finishing the day at Llanddona Beach.

Total walk distance: 17.5km

Day 3 – Llanddona to Moelfre:  This was one of our favourite days.  First we followed the beach from Llanddona to Red Wharf Bay where, in 1947, engineer Maurice Wilks made the first ever drawing of a Land Rover on the sand to explain his concept of an all-terrain vehicle.  

There’s a classic pub and we regretted it was too early to stop for a pint.  Is there a Ship Inn in every coastal town in the UK?

And then it was a long and beautiful walk along the cliffs, with fields to the left and the sea to the right. Peaceful, sunny, a perfect temperature for walking.  

Total walk distance: 14km

Day 4 – Moelfre to Port Lynas:  Leaving Moelfre the weather was once again stunning.  The path around the cliffs passed a number of memorials.  

Richard (Dic) Evans was a volunteer lifeboatman in Moelfre for 50 years, during  which he was involved in 179 launches and the saving of 281 lives.  He is one of only 5 people to receive the RNLI gold medal, the equivalent of a Victoria Cross in the sea rescue world.  A true local hero.  

There is also a memorial to the Royal Charter, a clipper wrecked off this coast in 1859 with the loss of 459 lives, the highest death toll of any shipwreck on the coast of Wales.

There are some lovely, virtually empty sandy beaches further along the coast.  On this one we counted 11 people and 8 dogs.  

The coast becomes rockier, and a promontory leads out to Port Lynas telegraph station, then down to the village of Llaneilian, where we finished walking for the day.   

Total walk distance: 17.5km

Day 5 – Port Lynas to Cemaes:  From Port Lynas the path follows the coast to Port Amlwch.  It’s a sleepy port now, but once boomed as a ship building centre and port for the global export of the vast supply of copper ore mined inland of here.  

Past Port Amlwch,  rocky clifftops are home to colonies of breeding gulls and great views out over the northern coast of Anglesey.

Another relic of the area’s mining past is the abandoned brickworks at Porth Wen, now looking a bit like an abandoned Star Wars set.

We climbed up and down past more ruins and an increasingly rugged coast.

Just outside Cemaes we happened upon Llanbadrig Church, said to have been founded by St Patrick himself when he was shipwrecked off the coast here in 440AD, although the current church dates to many centuries later.  

It’s like a lot of other stone chapels in Wales, except it has blue mosaic tiles and stained glass of an Islamic design, installed as part of a refurbishment funded by Henry, Third Lord Stanley of Alderley in the 1880s.  He had secretly converted to Islam while on diplomatic service in Spain in the 1870s, and upon inheriting his title from his father, became the first Muslim in the House of Lords, albeit few knew.   Curiously, he funded Christian church restorations like this one nonetheless.

Total walk distance: 15km

Day 6 – Cemaes to Church Bay:  The first section of the walk is marred by having to circle the Wylfa Power Station, but after that it’s a pretty walk through woodlands and then around one the most remote parts of the island’s coast.  

Along a flat section of coast we passed shingle beaches reserved for breeding arctic terns.

Later we passed a series of structures which could be a mysteriously aligned signalling system built by aliens to communicate with their home planet.  Or they might just be old ships’ navigation aids.  You decide.

Then along the beautiful clifftops to the charming village of Church Bay.  

 

Total walk distance: 20km

Day 7 – Church Bay to Holyhead:  First up, more rocky coast and shingle beaches.  

There is prolific bird life here, including black-headed gulls, greylag geese, and others we weren’t quite sure of.

Crossing the bridge over the Alaw Estuary we reached Holyhead Island.  The trail passes a lovely little pet cemetery, where a local pointed us to this headstone.  It raised so many questions.  Which member of the Vaughan family did Tiggy Puss kill?  And why the burial honours for the perpetrator of such an evil act?

And then onward around the coast to Holyhead, the largest town in Anglesey and a major port for ferries to Ireland.  

Total walk distance: 22.5km 

Day 8 – Holyhead to Trearddur Bay:  This was another favourite day of ours.  It was cold and the wind was strong as we climbed Holyhead Mountain and wound our way to South Stack Lighthouse.

We climbed down and crossed a link bridge to visit the lighthouse.  You can climb to the top for a great view and an explanation of its history and  operations. 

Then further along the coast are the Ty Mawr Hut Circles, the remains of about 20 houses dating back to 2,500BCE.  Not much left, but remarkable to think there are any remnants at all after all this time.

On to the village of Trearddur Bay, a popular summer holiday destination with a big expanse of sand, some buzzy restaurants and access to lots of coastal walks.

Total walk distance:19.5km

Day 9 – Trearddur Bay to Four Mile Bridge circuit:  The path initially follows the coast, passing some interesting inlets and rock formations.

We passed St Gwenfaen’s Well.   In the Middle Ages, water from wells associated with saints was often believed to have healing powers.  The story associated with this one is that Saint Gwenfaen was a hermit who established a cell here.  She was chased away by druids and climbed a rock stack off nearby Rhoscolyn Head.  The tide came in and she would have been trapped but she was carried away by angels.  

St Gwenfaen’s is one of the best preserved wells on Anglesey.  It has an underground room with stone benches where a spring fed the well and flowed into a second pool outside, then formed a stream which ran to the cliff edge.

 The waters were believed to have the power to cure mental illnesses, and pilgrims would come here to bathe,  throwing an offering of two white pebbles into the well.  

The trail then headed inland through farms and into some woodland where spring flowers were emerging.  

We reached Four Mile Bridge and officially this is the end of this leg of the Coastal Path. From there we circled back to Trearddur Bay for another night, returning to Four Mile Bridge next day to continue on the path. 

Total walk distance: 16km

Day 10 – Four Mile Bridge to Aberffraw:  After an almost-unheard-of nine consecutive March days of no rain, we woke to light drizzle.  But it had all but cleared by the time we started walking, and was gone within the hour.  

From Four Mile Bridge the path passes RAF Valley, with fighter jets constantly taking off and landing for training exercises.  

And then past sandy beaches at Cymyran and Rhosneigr which are popular surfing beaches when conditions are right.  It was calm when we passed, but there were plenty of crazy people in the water paddle boarding and swimming.  

Further south is Cwyfan Church – ‘the Church in the Sea’.  The church was built in the 7th century on a peninsula between two bays, but over centuries the peninsula has been eroded, turning the site of the church into a tidal island.  At low tide it is possible to walk across the beach to the church, but at high tide it is cut off by the sea.   The tide was just starting to rise when we arrived.

The day’s walk ended in the little village of Aberffraw.  For 500 years from the fall of the Roman Empire until conquest by England in the 13th century, Aberffraw was the seat of power of the kingdom whose area we would now recognise as Wales.  Now it’s a village of just 650 people.

Total walk distance: 22km 

Day 11 – Aberffraw to Newborough Forest:  From Aberffraw it is possible to follow the coast but only at low tide, so we detoured inland for a short while along country roads, passing fields of sheep with blooming banks of Spring flowers.

After passing through the village of Malltraeth and across a 19th century dyke, we reached Newborough Forest.  The Forest was established between 1940 and 1970 and consists of 700 hectares of Corsican pine trees.  It’s riddled with walking tracks and horse trails, and is very popular with dog walkers.  

The forest ends at sand dunes, behind which is a very fine white sand beach which gets masses of visitors on sunny days.  It leads also to Llanddwyn Island.  This isn’t really an island at all, more a peninsula jutting out from the end of the beach.  It is named for St Dwynwen, Welsh patron saint of lovers.  

As the story goes, Dwynwen was the beautiful daughter of a local king.  She fell in love with a prince, but her father betrothed her to another.  Furious, her ‘true love’ attacked her and for his sin became frozen in a block of ice.  She fled to the forest where an angel appeared and offered to grant her three wishes.  She asked for her former love to be unfrozen, and for herself, to never again wish to be married and to have the ability to help those unlucky in love.  

She came here, where she lived as a nun, with a well containing eels who could tell the fortunes of the lovesick who journeyed to her in droves..  

The peninsula is a pleasant place to explore, with evocative ruins, a lighthouse and expansive views over the beach.

Total walk distance: 21km 

Day 12 – Newborough Forest to Moel y Don:  Our last day!  Coming out of Newborough Forest, we saw wild horses, which still roam the dunes.

We followed country roads through farms and saw this.  Vegans of the world rejoice.  Now you can eat lamb because …. it’s 100% vegan!

We crossed the Giant’s Stepping Stones which span the tidal Afon Braint.  They are covered at high tide but it was low enough for us to cross.

The weather was perfect.  Warm, sunny and the lanes were filled with flowers.  A great way to finish.  

Total walk distance: 17km  

Wrap up:  The Anglesey Coastal Path is a lovely walk, especially so if you like coastal walking, sea views and sheep.  The paths are good quality underfoot and there are no massive climbs or descents, so it’s easy walking.  The coastal villages are pretty, and people are friendly.  It’s a very relaxing way to spend a couple of weeks.  

We arranged the walk through Anglesey Walking Holidays, a specialist operator based on Anglesey.  We cannot speak highly enough of the service they provided.  We were a last minute booking, but everything worked like clockwork.  The notes were clear and specific, the accommodations were high standard, and for every transfer, Eurwyn was there on time and full of helpful information for our next leg.  His love of Anglesey and Wales really shone through.  And that’s probably why the company has a 5 star rating in 242 of the 246 reviews on Tripadvisor.  (The other 4 are 4 stars).  Don’t think we’ve ever seen a profile like that!  Needless to say, we would thoroughly recommend them if you are looking at a walking holiday in Wales.  

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2 Comments

  1. Therese Bowes
    June 8, 2019 / 2:58 am

    Great name for your next cat – Tiggy Puss – the walk looked spectacular lots of variety and I loved the idea of not climbing hills

  2. HUGH O'BRIEN
    June 8, 2019 / 3:35 am

    Julie. Great report on the Anglesey walk. Loved the quirky signs and history bits. They should hire you as their photo-journalist.

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