Monday 21 May 2012

Anglesey – day 3: Menai Bridge

How much mileage can one place get from the length of its name? For the answer you'll have to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, the longest place name in Britain. This small, otherwise anonymous village was renamed in the 1860s to encourage tourists to stop off at the newly built train station, and has been pulling in the punters ever since. Historically speaking, the train is the right way to arrive, but pronouncing your destination to the conductor can only cause embarrassment. Even the abbreviated Llanfairpwll proved impossible for a Welsh speaking novice such as myself.

James Pringle Weavers

Alternatively, if you're very old or a foreign student, you can be driven by coach straight to the tourist landmark that is James Pringle Weavers. Here, you can get your 'tourist passport' stamped to prove that you have visited, before buying any amount of Welsh related tat.


The village never misses an opportunity to promote its name. If you walk down the high street, the pub, the vacuum cleaner hire place and the fish & chip shop all sport a very long sign on their fronts.

After ten minutes we left for the coastal path, passing another local landmark – The Marquess of Anglesey's Column.

We reached the water's edge near Nelson's Statue, close to Britannia Bridge, and followed the Coastal Path eastwards.

Britannia Bridge

The original Britannia Bridge was designed and built by Robert Stephenson. It opened in 1850, providing a rail link from London to Holyhead over the Menai Strait. After 120 years of service the bridge was damaged by fire, and it remained closed for nearly two years. The upper road deck was opened in 1980, giving a second, much needed road link to the island.

Looking down the Menai Strait gives a great view of the Menai Suspension Bridge, with the curious island of Whitebait Island (Ynys Gored Goch) in the foreground.

Ynys Gored Goch (Whitebait Island)

Ynys Gored Goch lies within the fast moving currents of the Menai Strait, and supports a large, white painted house. It used to be a holiday home, available for rent, but has recently been purchased for private use. As we walked by, the buildings seemed to be having a face lift for the new occupiers. The long walls that emanate from the island act as a fish trap as the tide drops. This fishing technique has been used on Ynys Gored Goch possibly as far back as the 13th century to supply local monasteries. We wished we could have visited. Instead, we dreamed of past days when travellers could ring a shore-side bell for collection and wait to be ferried over for a Whitebait Tea.

Ynys Welltog

A short way further on lies Ynys Welltog – a small, but densely vegetated island nicely positioned between the two famous bridges. Looking through the binoculars, a couple of little egrets balanced on the drooping branches of the trees.

On Anglesey Coastal Path

The Coastal Path cuts up to a high road from which you can get a great view down onto Church Island (Ynys Disilio) – another fantastical, slightly gothic island. A walled causeway runs out to the island, which as the name suggests is the site of a small church. A huge yew tree stands guard behind the entrance gate, as tilting grave stones cover the rising mound.

St Tysilio's Church, Church Island

A war memorial stands at the very top of Church Island. From here you can get a great view of both bridges.

Menai Suspension Bridge

The Belgian Promenade, built by WWI Belgian refugees, led us from Church Island to the legendary Menai Suspension Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826. This picturesque stretch is justifiably popular with the strolling, scooting, jogging and cycling locals. Without any foundation, I had always thought that the small town of Menai Bridge would be a bit of a dive. So I was genuinely surprised to find such a pleasant, relaxed place – especially along the charming waterfront.

Ynys Faelog

Four islands attach themselves to Anglesey east of the Menai Bridge. The first is Ynys Faelog. A concrete runway jags across the mud and water, past a rusty tin shed to the island.

A few houses nestle in among the trees that cover the island.

Ynys Faelog

An alternative route onto the island is by the raised private road that reaches out to its eastern end.

Ynys Tobig

A tree tufted islet called Ynys Tobig lies close to Ynys Faelog, but it is too small to warrant any connecting causeways.

Ynys Gaint bridge

Ynys Gaint is the largest island of the four, with a short, straight road servicing the island's two homes.
Ynys Gaint
Ynys Castell

Ynys Castell enjoys a magnificent spot, which can be enjoyed by all who can afford it as the seven bedroom house on the island can be hired as a holiday home.

Ynys y Big

The final island of the group, Ynys y Big is a small wooded island that is part of a private property bearing the same name on Anglesey.

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