The island of Anglesey, off the north coast of Wales, is 300 square miles of rock, history, and stunning views. There is far too much to see in a day trip, with much of the coast being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With a couple spots picked out, we set off on the 50 mile journey with our trusty sidekick, Ozzy.
Before crossing the historic Britannia Bridge, a major tunnel construction project had traffic limited to one direction. Good timing had us zipping past a 3 mile long line of cars waiting to go in the opposite direction. Being held up for indeterminate lengths of time is a nightmare for us. We were groaning as we thought of the poor people trapped in their cars. Karen chuckles, though, when she says, “Ah, well, you know how the British like to queue.”
Our first stop, after crossing the from the mainland was Llanfair PG. That’s me, speaking like a local. You will understand why a shortened version of the town’s name is used, but the full deal is much more impressive!
Just in case you thought I was making this up:
More of my rather sketchy online searches lead me to believe that the 58 character name was simply a publicity stunt from the 1860s, a way of drawing tourists. It translates to “The Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel near the Fierce Whirlpool and The Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave.” Catchy! I’m sure Llanfair PG is a perfectly nice place to live, but there didn’t seem much to keep visitors in town. We checked out the souvenir shop/shopping centre, I took pictures of a few signs, and we were on our way.
Our main destination was the South Stack Cliffs, named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for a reason. Actually, 220 square miles of the island of Anglesey enjoys the designation, but the cliffs were what drew us.
The sound of birds drew our attention long before we could see them perched along the cliff faces. In the spring and summer, colonies of guillemots, razorbills, and puffins nest and raise their young in the area.
Well, hello. What’s that lighthouse I see way down there? We should go!
Karen, “You know it’s closed, right? They’re not giving tours until spring.”
No matter. Let’s just see how much closer we can get!
This was as close as we got; the scary looking little bridge was closed (thank goodness). A new twist on an old classic came to mind: What goes down, must go up. I counted 353 steps. By my calculations, that’s 27 flights.
Ozzy was running up those stairs like it was a stroll on the beach. We stopped to *ahem* check the view from time to time; our little buddy kicked our butts every step of the way.
No sooner had we made our way back to the top, and I spotted this little hut high above us. Again, Karen suggested the ‘tours’ might not be operating, but Ozzy and I insisted we check it out.
This curious little hut wasn’t much bigger than an outhouse, but it’s position high on the hill, overlooking the water, piqued my interest. It turns out, this was a lookout station during WWII. Author and historian, Warren Kovach, tells me this was one of several stations set up to detect larger ships as well as German bombers flying “under the radar”. I asked about the broken metal disc in front of the hut which seems to have directional markings. Kovach says, “The lookout station had a smaller aerial mounted on that metal plate. The book “Defending Anglesey” has a photo from the 1950s showing the aerial…”. Such an ideal location for spotting bombers on their flights to the vital shipyards and docks of Liverpool and Barrow-In-Furness.
The Island was also an important safe haven during the war. Over 2,500 school children, mostly from Liverpool and Manchester, were sent to Anglesey. Teachers were sent along with the children, but space was an issue. Even with the island schools running double shifts to accommodate the influx of students, more room was needed. Chapels were used as temporary school houses, but religious differences caused problems. The English could use the chapels, but only if none of their Roman Catholic teachings were included in the lessons. I suppose hospitality can only be extended so far!
After all these years of living and travelling with Karen, I should have known that, while I was trying to imagine the purpose of a little stone building high on a hill, she was plotting a route home that would avoid traffic delays. I swear, she’d rather drive for 2 hours than sit in traffic for 20 minutes. This is how I found myself a passenger on an unexpected detour south east, into Snowdonia, before we wound our home. No queuing on the highway, just very pretty mountain scenery, a stop at a waterfall, and plans to return another day.