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The largest island off Wales and full of ancient relics and monuments

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You'll find Anglesey just off Wales' north-west coast. At 720 square kilometres, it is the biggest of the country's surrounding islands.

The Menai suspension bridge, leading to Anglesey
Photo by The Ancient Brit
The mainland is just a short distance away, across the Menai Strait. At its thinnest point, this strip of water measures just 250 metres across. In the past, people used to make the crossing by boat. However, the waters here are very unreliable, and after a series of accidents, it was decided that a bridge should be built. This plan was completed in 1826, when the Menai Suspension Bridge was opened to the public. It was the first of its kind, and at the time it was a real technical achievement. The architect who came up with the design was Thomas Telford, who had already pioneered new techniques in canal and aqueduct construction. His bridge became a great success, and it went on to influence architects all over the world.

The Anglessey Coast Path near the Menai Suspension Bridge
Photo by The Ancient Brit
Just a few years later, the Brittania Bridge was built, a kilometre-and-a-half to the west. The bridge was originally designed to just carry a railway line, but this changed in the 70s. Some extremely irresponsible teenagers were on the bridge, playing with lighters and paper, when things got more than a little out of control. The flames spread quickly, and within hours the entire bridge had been reduced to ruins. Within the next two years, it was completely rebuilt. The new bridge was much stronger, which allowed the builders to add a second tier above the first. This second layer carries a section of the A55, which gives another route for motor traffic to cross the strait.

The Brittania Bridge
Photo in the Public Domain (PD)
Once you've arrived in Anglesey, you can enjoy the fantastic views back towards the Welsh mainland, with the Snowdonian mountains dominating the horizon. People have been making this same crossing, and enjoying the same view, for thousands and thousands of years. The island is full of ancient relics and monuments, which prove that Anglesey has had a population since prehistoric times.

Looking back towards the Menai suspension bridge, with Snowdonia in the background
Photo by Bencherlite
The most famous historical site, though, dates from the relatively recent 13th century, when King Edward I conquered the country. This is Beaumaris Castle, which was built to enforce English supremacy in their new territory. When building work began in 1295, Edward already had several other huge castles under construction. Beaumaris, though, was to be the last and greatest. Unfortunately, monarchs can be fickle, and before long the King decided to focus his attentions on the conquering of Scotland instead. The castle's funding ran out, and work was abandoned. Despite never being finished, Beaumaris is still an impressive sight, surrounded by a calm moat, green fields, and the mountains of Snowdonia. It is often described as the most beautiful castle in the entire United Kingdom, and it gives anything in Europe a run for its money. Unsurprisingly, the building is now an official World Heritage site.

Beaumaris Castle
Photo by stuart
As an island, Anglesey naturally has plenty of coastline, and this is one of the major draws for tourists. The area contains what is probably the UK's largest amount of high-quality beaches in the same place. Many of these can lay claim to the coveted Blue Flag award, which is an indicator of safety and cleanliness. The beaches range wildly in style, including some with plentiful shops and facilities, and some that are so hidden away you'll only have to share them with the porpoises. Whatever you're interested in, be it fishing, sailing, surfing or jet skiing, you'll find somewhere on Anglesey to indulge yourself.

One Anglesey's fine beaches
Photo by left-hand

Boating and Sailing
Photo by mattbuck4950
One of the best ways to see the shoreline is to hike part of the Anglesey Coastal Path, which circles around most of the island. Almost every single part of this trail is included in Anglesey's official "Area of Natural Beauty", which is the largest in Wales. Altogether, it covers a full third of the island! This ensures that the scenery on display here will remain unspoiled for years, decades, and centuries to come.
The largest town on Anglesey actually isn't on Anglesey at all. It's called Holyhead, and although it's within the official county borders, it is actually situated on Holy Island, off to the west. The town gets a lot of traffic, as its provides the main ferry route between Great Britain and Ireland. But even if you're not heading across to Dublin, it's worth making the trip to Holy Island, if only to see the South Stack Lighthouse. This breath-taking structure has stood proudly on its own tiny little island for over 200 years. The view, especially at sunset, with the lighthouse tower silhouetted against the sky, is one of Wales' best.

South Stack Lighthouse
Photo by Tom Oates
Anglesey is also known for having a settlement with one of the longest place names on the globe. This small town carries the bewildering title of "Llan fair pwll gwyn gyll gog erych wyrn drob wllll anty silio gogo goch". In English, the name translates to "St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio of the red cave". It contains 58 letters, which is more than two alphabets put together!
Visitor Information
Beaumaris Castle is open daily, 9am to 5pm (closed Sunday's in winter). Entry costs around £4 for adults, £3 children. Beaumaris Castle, LL58 8AP. Tel: 01248 810361

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