Anglesey is an island separated from mainland Wales by the Menai Strait and connected by two road bridges – Britannia Bridge and the Menai Suspension Bridge. Like many islands, it is sparsely populated. Apparently the number of people who live here (69,751 people) is fewer than the population of the medium-sized city I live in! So very rural, underrated and beautiful. And as for the history, well… Simon and I stayed on the outskirts of Anglesey for a week and here are three of the sights we saw.
Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber
I hadn’t realised how impressive or fascinating Bryn Celli would actually be but it is certainly worth a visit. It is reminiscent of, but smaller than, the Irish monument in Newgrange. We meant to return on the Summer Solstice but got the dates wrong.
To be honest, I liked the idea of seeing the sun rise but wasn’t very keen on the thought of getting up at 3am to travel there!
We did return however as there was an archeology day at the site, full of interesting stalls with experts who could tell us about neolithic food and tools and so on… We also listened to a talk about another archaeological dig in the next field where more ancient finds are waiting to be discovered.
According to CADW’s Anglesey: A Guide to Ancient Monuments on the Isle of Anglesey, Bryn Celli, the Mound of The Dark Grove, is one ‘of the most evocative archaeological sites in Britain’. It was excavated in 1928/29 and it appears that it started off as a henge (ritual enclosure) in Neolithic times before making way for a passage grave. A stone burial chamber was then constructed and covered by a mound.
It is believed that the entrance could have been important for ceremonial reasons. A platform of white quartz pebbles were discovered here. Other finds in the chamber and passage included human bones, flint arrowheads and mussel shells.
A ‘Pattern Stone’ was also discovered at the back of the chamber. It can now be found in the National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff – a replica (pictured above) has been set up at the site.
Barclodiad Y Gawres Burial Chamber
Our second neolithic visit was Barclodiad Y Gawres burial chamber at Cable (Trecastell) Bay, along the cliff path. Apparently, a key can be collected at a shop in Llanfaelog but we did not know this until later. If you have a torch, you will still be able to see the stones from outside.
Curiously, the name means ‘the Giantess’s Apronful’, and is believed to come from local tradition.
Five of the stones were decorated, including spirals, zig-zags and lozenges. These designs are also found in the Irish tombs.
Llanddwyn Island, off Newborough Beach
Our third trip to the past was to a tiny island off Newborough Beach. Llanddwyn is a tidal island so most of the time, except for the highest tides, it is quite possible to walk across to this island which, to me, feels quite magical.
It is also fascinating in terms of geology and nature (it forms part of the National Nature Reserve of Newborough Warren).
We came across a cross, the ruined St Dwynwen’s Church – built in the 1500s on the site of the original chapel – and a lighthouse in this delightfully idyllic setting.
The island is associated with St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers (like a Celtic St Valentine) and sick animals, who lived during the 5th century. The island’s name means the church of St Dwynwen and her church here was an important shrine during the Middle Ages. The Celtic cross was a much more recent addition, dating from 1903.
I don’t know if it was St Dwynwen’s influence or just the stunning natural setting, but this amazing spot really did feel magical and a place well worth going to on a pilgrimage to.
Information courtesy of Anglesey: A Guide to Ancient Monuments on the Isle of Anglesey and Wikipedia