Anglesey: Will and Kate’s island home
Published 16/05/2011 | 16:59
As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge return home to Anglesey, Simon Calder finds that this far-flung British island has plenty to keep the newly-weds busy.
Since Prince William has been stationed at RAF Valley, near Holyhead, he and Kate have lived in a remote — and easily secured — farmhouse on the western shore of Anglesey, one of Britain’s most beautiful islands.
Tucked away in the most farflung corner of Wales, it’s packed with beauty and intrigue. Its ancient name is Mam Cymru, ‘Mother of Wales’.
In the 21st century, some regard this island county as somewhere to get through as fast as possible from the ferry port at Holyhead.
But turn off the main road and you soon discover an island enticingly out of step from the rest of the UK. The pace of life dwindles and wandering the country lanes — ideally by bike — takes you through landscapes steeped in history. You're never far from the sea, which usually means deserted beaches and all kinds of activity options.
Holy Island, at the north-western tip, offers much more than the boat back home to Ireland: it is one of the best locations in Britain for birdwatching.
The attractions do not stop at the shore.
While Anglesey is undulating rather than mountainous, the south east of the island offers sublime views of the the ranges on the north Wales mainland.
“Far to the eastward, over there/Snowdon rises in pearl-grey air,” wrote John Betjeman.
You can share his appreciation in the harbour town (and Unesco World Heritage site) of Beaumaris, which also offers boutique accommodation and excellent shopping and dining.
From Dublin Port, it’s a short hop across the Irish Sea to Holyhead. Irish Ferries (0818 300 400; irishferries. com) sails from there up to four times a day, port to port, in just under two hours.
One-way fares cost from €69 for car and driver.
Stena Line (01-204 7777; stenaline.com) sails from Dublin (3hrs 15mns), and from Dun Laoghaire, in just under two hours.
By road, the highlight is one of the finest examples of early 19thcentury engineering, the 579ft-long Menai Bridge, which connects Anglesey with the mainland. It was built by Thomas Telford, and when it opened in 1826 it was the world's first large iron suspension bridge.
At 2pm on Sundays and Wednesdays, you can take part in a guided walk (£5/€5.57) that reveals the bridge's history and significance. For more information contact 0044 124 871 5046; prosiectmenai.co.uk.
The only commercial flight to Anglesey is currently from Cardiff on Manx2 (manx2.com), twice a day from Monday to Friday in both directions, with fares from £49 (€55) each way. It lands at RAF Valley, the base where Prince William is assigned as a search and rescue pilot.
From June 1, there will also be flights to and from the Isle of Man, also on Manx2.
In Beaumaris, the five-star Townhouse adjoins a traditional inn, Ye Olde Bulls Head (0044 124 881 0329; bullsheadinn.co.uk). Yet it is an imaginatively created boutique hotel with bedrooms as stylish as they are hi-tech — plasma screens and Wi-Fi as standard.
A special offer costing £155 (€173) for two includes a double room with Welsh breakfast and £25 (¤28) a head to spend in the Brasserie.
Nearby, a novel alternative is The Windmill, which is 270 years old and recently converted into a property with two double bedrooms (0044 124 849 0011; whitebeach holiday.co.uk), which has a nightly rate £143 (€159), with discounts for full weeks.
At present it is fully booked until October, but most of next summer is up for grabs.
For a traditional seaside retreat, overlooking a Blue Flag beach, the w 14 May 2011 Irish Independent Weekend 37 TRAVEL Trearddur Bay Hotel (0044 140 786 0301; trearddurbayhotel.co.uk) delivers. A standard double with breakfast costs £155 (€173).
Trearddur Bay happens to be on the Anglesey Coastal Path, which takes in 125 miles (201km) of the island's coast, and offers a fascinating week or two of walking.
Anglesey Walking Holidays (0044 124 371 3611; angleseywalk ingholidays.com) has a range of itineraries, typically costing around £120 (€134) per person per day, which includes accommodation and luggage transport.
If you don't have that long to spare, then the Holyhead to Trearddur Bay segment is a challenging 12-mile (19km) day, including a 700ft ascent that takes you past an Iron Age fort before reaching South Stack's lighthouse and levelling out at sea level along Porth Dafarch beach.
Tal y Foel Riding Centre (0044 124 843 0977; www.tal-y-foel.co.uk), based near the southern tip of the island, offers a beach ride at low tide, while water-based activities include fishing Starida Sea Services (0044 124 881 0251; www.starida. co.uk), based in Beaumaris, offers a range of day excursions, from two hours (£25/€28, with the prospect of herring and mackerel) to eight hours (£55/€61, with the possibility of fishing a wreck).
If you prefer your fish swimming around in tanks, the Anglesey Sea Zoo at Brynsiencyn is Wales's largest aquarium (0044 124 843 0411; angleseyseazoo.co.uk; 10am- 4pm daily). A family ticket for two adults and three children costs £29.99 (€33.39).
It is home to more than 150 native species, and daily shark feeds plus a shipwreck brimming with conger eels are among the highlights.
One of the most exciting waterbased activities is kite-surfing. At Rhosneigr, on the windy west coast, the FKS enterprise (0044 140 781 0598; fks.me.uk) offers a private one-day beginner course for £120 (€134) and a two-day group session for £175 (€195), including equipment.
Anglesey was the last part of Wales to fall to Rome, and is arguably home to Wales' greatest concentration of ancient sites — 20 in all, from prehistoric ruins to Roman buildings. Perhaps the most significant is Bryn Celli Ddu (‘the mound in the dark grove’), a Neolithic burial mound two miles to the west of Llanfair PG (cadw.wales.gov.uk).
Anglesey Guides (0044 124 871 3177; visitanglesey.co.uk) comprises 25 trained guides who can offer bespoke tours from one hour to a full day.
Industrial archaeology is plentiful, notably on the north coast at Amlwch, at one time the biggest copper producer in the world. You can find out more — including the origin of the phrase ‘copperbottomed’ — at the Sail Loft visitor centre (0044 140 783 2255; copperkingdom.co.uk; 10am-5pm daily, admission free).
Across in Holyhead, the Maritime Museum (0044 140 776 9745; holyheadmaritimemuseum.co.uk; 10am-4pm daily except Mondays; £3.50/€3.89) is based in the oldest lifeboat station in Wales and tells the story of the port in war and peace.
In the 21st century, the cultural hub of Anglesey is the museum and art gallery of Oriel Ynys Môn, nearthe administrative capital of Llangefni (0044 124 872 4444; kyffinwilliams.info; 10.30am- 5.30pm, admission free). It was created by the notable Welsh artist Sir Kyffin Williams and includes work by Charles Tunnicliffe, a leading wildlife artist.
The natural climax to many visits is South Stack on Holy Island, the spectacular cliff-top location for one of the RSPB's finest reserves (0044 140 776 4973; rspb.org.uk; 10am-5pm daily; free). Guillemots and choughs are among the appealing residents, but puffin-breeding season is the ideal time to visit.
What Google will tell you
“The undisputed longest valid domain name in the world is llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrn drobwllllantysiliogogogochuchaf. org.uk”, for the Anglesey village more concisely known as Llanfair PG.
What Google won't tell you... until now
The Friday afternoon flight from RAF Valley to Cardiff departs an hour earlier than on other days, at 4.40pm, to enable the airport to close early for the weekend.