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A Visitors Guide to Holyhead Wales
A Town With History
Holyhead situated on the North Western Coast is not actually on Anglesey, it is situated on Holy Island , this piece of land is separated from Anglesey by a small strip of water running adjacent to Penrhos Nature Reserve and the village of Valley. Four Mile Bridge, named for its distance from Holyhead, was the only access on and off Holy Island up until the 19th Century. It was then that Lord Stanley, which back then was a local philanthropist gave funds to build a large “Causeway” known locally as “The Cob” it was constructed directly from Holyhead to Valley. Today, it carries the A5 Trunk Road and Railway Line, with a new modern “causeway” built adjacent where the new A55 Expressway is situated, this being part of “Euroroute E22” that leads directly to the main motorway network of Britain. Holyhead is thought to have been part of a three walled Roman Fort, with the Irish Sea being the fourth wall, the church of “St Cybi” which stands in the Town Centre is situated within these Roman Walls, the church itself being well worth a visit. The Roman influence can be seen on Holyhead Mountain (Mynydd Twr), here they built a Watchtower to watch over the Town, with this in turn showing a prehistoric influence. It is believed that many thousands of years previous a prehistoric Hillfort had been built inside the Mountain itself, a major engineering task back then.
Over the years Holyhead has become home to one of the largest Ferry Ports in the UK, Stena Line and Irish Ferries operate the port which carry passengers to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire in Ireland. Holyhead boasts a deep water port which enables Ferries to come virtually into the town itself, and in addition a new £4 million foot bridge was constructed in 2010 so passengers and day trippers could walk directly into the centre of town. The Port has had a vast impact on Holyhead’s culture and lifestyle, with the majority of people having direct and indirect links to maritime activities, either as work or leisure.
At the foot of Holyhead Mountain is “The Breakwater Country Park” where you can walk along the Break Water itself. The Breakwater begins at “Soldiers Point” and runs for 1.7 miles (2.7 kms) and ends at the Lighthouse. On calm days it is possible to walk along the Breakwater, there is even a promenade, this is a great place to explore for the whole family, though caution is needed if children are in attendance. At the far end of the Breakwater stands the lighthouse which is black and white, it is (63ft) 19 metres in height, and the most unusual thing about it is, that it is square this was chosen to have square rooms for comfort for the occupants. The Breakwater and Lighthouse both were completed in 1873 to great accolade. Holyhead Breakwater in its day was a feat of engineering for its shape, design and the mammoth task of the actual construction itself, having to withhold staggering weight and pressure from the ocean that surrounds it. The actual construction of the Breakwater cost many lives, probably too many, with an estimated 40 deaths occurring during its construction. In saying this the design has worked, with the waters inside the Breakwater being calm in stormy conditions, a safe haven for many ships and sailors over the decades.
Holyhead Breakwater a Feat of Engineering
Scenery and Rugged Coastline Dominates
For a change of scenery head in a South Westerly direction along the foot of Holyhead Mountain you will reach “South Stack” the famous lighthouse standing at (91 feet) 28 meters high, its lantern can shine a light for 28 miles to warn passing vessels of the perils that lay around this unforgiving coast line. Visitors can visit the lighthouse, though you will need energy to get down to the very small island where it stands, and once there you can climb up to the engine room itself. Access is down a stone step stairway which has 400 steps in total, although it was used to be said that it was 365 steps that led down. Once at the bottom there is now an aluminium foot bridge to cross the treacherous waters below, this was built in 1997, after the two previous bridges had to be closed due to safety reasons. This is an ideal location for not only maritime enthusiasts but also Bird Watchers as the variety of birds, especially sea birds is staggering. And if that is not enough history all around the foot of the mountain there are remains of “Circular Huts” dating back to prehistoric times, these are visible and can clearly be defined on top of the ground, with burial chambers and standing stones all dating back to the same period in history.
If you carry on and head towards “Porthdafarch” you will then reach the small beach resort of “Trearddur Bay”, it is situated to the south of Holyhead and has strong connections with the town. They share the same Golf Club both Lifeboats of Holyhead and Trearddur Bay work together, as Holyhead has the main lifeboat, with Trearddur Bay having a brand new Inshore Lifeboat. And Trearddur Bay had a huge honour on 24th February 2011, Prince William and his then future wife Catherine Middleton came and participated in their first official function as an engaged couple to the official launch of the new lifeboat. This being in recognition of the local crews and the commitment and passion they have towards saving the lives of many people out at sea. Trearddur Bay has always had strong links with Holyhead going back hundreds of years and this bond is visible today. As local people know that in the past Trearddur Bay was called “Towyn Capel” and some would argue that it was “Tywyn y Capel” who’s to believe, the debate still goes on to this day. And it is the centre of the beach which holds most of the clues, here lies an ancient burial ground which carries the old names, these were excavated in late 2003 into early 2004 with many facts being layed to rest.
Trearddur Bay is your best bet for somewhere to stay and eat, with “The Trearddur Bay Hotel” being right by the beach, it is a bright modern Hotel which oozes quality, refurbished two years ago and is a 4 Star Hotel. It caters for the whole family, there are tennis courts and a swimming with a small gymnasium and the beach is directly across the road 200 metres at the most, they serve excellent food all day with evening entertainment on some nights during the summer months. Or “The Beach Hotel” and “The Cliff Hotel” both are of excellent value, not quite as rated as “The Trearddur Bay Hotel” but both highly recommended to stay and eat, and all these hotels boast locally sourced and bought produce in all their menu’s. Some people prefer to holiday self catering, and the standard of property available to rent is excellent, from caravans to two, three even four bedroomed bungalows, houses, flats whatever your needs you are sure to find it in “Trearddur Bay”, and wherever they are situated you are nearly guaranteed to get a sea view, which just adds to the whole experience.
Holyhead is a modern busy Port Town with Car Ferries and Ships docking every day, it has moved on with the times, although in some places it hasn’t and could do with a face lift. When you visit you might think it is just another small Welsh town, but look deeper and you will see it has a wealth of history going back thousands of years, some being natures creations and others being man made. Either way you will find something that will interest everyone with surrounding areas adding that bit extra to the whole experience. Holyhead a “Visitors Guide” it will guide you and you will experience its history, the calmness or the rugged coastline, the church to the hut circles, South Stack and the lighthouse, or the sea birds, or the ocean itself, Holyhead history that is here to stay.