Island Adventures – Anglesey

We all dream of an island adventure and Anglesey is a magical place to have one. As soon as you drive across the iconic Menai Suspension Bridge spanning the dramatic Menai Straits, (Afon Menai in Welsh), a narrow stretch of tidal water about 16 miles long, you know you have arrived somewhere very special.

Menai Bridge
The stunning Menai Bridge with Snowdonia National Park in the background

The bridge was once a strategic link between London, Holyhead and Ireland. The famous civil engineer Thomas Telford was appointed in 1819 to design and build this ground-breaking piece of civil engineering, and it only served to enhance his reputation even further.

Covering 276 square miles, Anglesey is England’s and Wales’ largest island and a very popular destination with people returning year after year. The miles of gorgeous coastline, hidden beaches, lovely countryside and a plethora of ancient sites are an irresistible draw. It was also recently home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with the Duke serving at the RAF base in Valley.

Anglesey can often cast a spell on you, and you don’t have to venture far from the bridge to find a unique stretch of coastline filled with sites of historical or scientific interest. The Strait was carved during the ice age about 20,000 years ago. It sits on a major fault line and is still the most seismically active place in Wales. The ‘Swellies’ are the infamous tidal currents which can reach speeds of 4 metres per second during the spring tides. Make sure you check the tide tables if setting sail!

The tranquil Menai Straits in slack water
The tranquil Menai Straits in slack water

The waters are home to unexpected marine life, and if you’re lucky on an evening walk in June or July you may witness the bioluminescent plankton which is one of the most magical natural sights you’ll ever encounter.

Treborth Botanic Gardens, developed to grow plants from all over the world in the mild North Wales coastal climate is another unforgettable sight. At Plas Newydd look up to see the top of the Marquess of Anglesey’s Column, a 27 meter high monument dedicated to the valour of Henry William Paget (the first Marquess of Anglesey) at the battle of Waterloo.

Minutes from Menai Bridge town centre in a stunning location are Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens, an award-winning project restoring historic gardens to their former glory. The three gardens: a walled garden, valley garden and upper woodland garden are thought to be amongst the finest in Wales and a wonderful day out with a lovely café.

Anglesey’s largest settlement, Bangor, a city since 1886(and once the only city in Wales until Cardiff was established in 1905) boasts a lovely restored pier. It’s a perfect setting for a stroll with glorious views across the bay of Conwy.

Beaumaris is a delightful seaside town with a trail starting at the pier, then through the charming streets with pretty cottages painted in soft pastel colours. The castle is a World Heritage Site and boasts a moat and dock, both used by supply ships many years ago. The gaol is no longer in use, either but is now a museum providing a fascinating insight into the life of prisoners in the 1800s.

Stay in Ty Nach CC611027 just 1 mile from historical Beaumaris
Stay in Ty Nach CC611027 just 1 mile from historical Beaumaris

History and culture enthusiasts should make a bee line for Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, set amidst breathtakingly beautiful scenery with stunning views of the Snowdonia Peaks and particularly appealing in springtime. The house has seen many changes and has been transformed from a Victorian party house in the days of the 5th Marquess of Anglesey in the 1880s to a now very comfortable family home for the current 8th Marquess.

To relive the seafaring history of the island go to the Holyhead Maritime Museum in the old lifeboat station at picturesque Newry Beach. It’s a great family experience where you can learn about shipwrecks, gallant rescues and pirates. Also visit the WW2 Air Raid Shelter to peruse WW1 & 2 memorabilia and test the Air Raid Siren!

All Anglesey’s beaches are high quality, offering great parking and allowing dogs (with some restrictions at certain times of the year). Some of the most popular are Newborough, Benllec and Traeth Beach, but get off the beaten track on the coastal path to discover some real hidden gems! You’ll find yourself on sand more golden than you could ever imagine where you can build sand castles with the children or go rock pooling and in the evening watch glorious sunsets across a glistening ocean.

Surfers can catch that elusive perfect wave and enthusiastic scuba divers can enjoy crystal clear water. Sailors, kayakers, paddle boarders, jet skiers and coasteering addicts will have plenty of opportunity to pull on that wetsuit at outdoor activity centres all over the island.

Benllech beach
Benllec Beach, very popular with fine golden sand and clear blue water

The coastal path around Anglesey is 130 miles long, and is a wonderful way to explore and discover the true character of the island. It is split into 12 sections and is mainly for walkers but cyclists and horse riders can enjoy certain sections too.

You’ll pass through farmland, coastal heath, dunes, salt-marsh, foreshore, cliffs and small wooded areas, enjoy wonderful seascapes and discover amazing bird life, wildflowers and marine life. If you want something wilder, the Anglesey Sea Zoo is home to octopus, lobsters, seahorses, conger eels and catsharks plus lots of family friendly activities such as crazy golf and a pirate’s playground.

There are many circular walks on the island as well as heritage routes, wildlife walks and geo trials. The highest point is Mynydd Bodafon at 180 meters; Holyhead Mountain is higher, 220 meters, but actually on Holy Island. Another great viewing platform is South Stack lighthouse, built in 1809.

The historic lighthouse is on a small island reached by descending 400 steps down the steep mainland cliffs on Holy Island. Visitors can see the former engine room before climbing to the top of the lighthouse. From here you can watch thousands of breeding birds in spring including guillemots, razorbills and puffins, the rare chough can also be seen swooping along the cliffs all year round.

South Stack Lighthouse at sunset
South Stack Lighthouse at sunset

Parts of the countryside inland are quite lunar like in parts, with some beautiful and interesting landscapes. Anglesey’s largest fen, Cors Erddrieniog, is brimming over with wildlife, as is Llyn Cefni Reservoir, which is a bird watchers paradise.

Anglesey loves cyclists with two of the UK’s nine cycle routes found here. The NCN566 is a circular tour taking in the only working windmill and the moonscape of the Parys Mountains with some invigorating climbs. There is also a 13 mile cycle path, perfect to enjoy with all the family and all traffic free and rich in nature and wildlife!

Action lovers will be drawn by one of the many annual sporting events hosted on the island. Try the challenging Anglesey leg of the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series, a tough 15.5 mile trail race with 2000ft ascent, taking in Holyhead Mountain and Trearddur Bay beach.  The popular annual Walking Festival is a two week event suitable for all abilities and for the brave the Tour de Mon is a 106 mile cycling sportive starting at Newry Beach in Holyhead.

The lovely Trearddur Bay with protected bathing areas, cafe and facilities
The lovely Trearddur Bay with protected bathing areas, cafe and facilities

With one of the best sea fishing coastlines in Britain, plus a great choice of golf courses, there really is something to suit everyone on Anglesey. This is a place that has real appeal with one of the most distinctive, attractive and varied landscapes in the British Isles and plenty to see and do. Don’t take our word for it, find your perfect Anglesey adventure on cottages.com.


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