Stretching from the peak of Snowdon to Bardsey Island (or Ynys Enlli - the Island of the Tides), the Llyn Peninsula is a unique and beautiful part of North Wales, renowned for its natural charm and mild climate.
It has a very different landscape to the rest of North Wales. The mountains on Llyn fall sheer into the sea, but they are broken by wide bays and rocky coves. There are charming little fishing villages and white-washed farms with small, protected fields. It is a very beautiful place and has been populated since early times by man. You will find Iron Age hill forts, Neolithic tombs, ancient track ways and standing stones on the Llyn.
Many parts of the peninsula were designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with a 50 mile Heritage Coast and a wealth of sandy beaches and rocky headlands; this is the habitat of choughs, puffins, dolphins and seals.
Lleyn was voted the 4th most popular UK holiday destination by SAGA and also in an internet poll. Recent research from Channel Four placed North Wales ahead of the Algarve, the Lake District and Florida in a list of popular holiday destinations.
The Harbour Beach at Abersoch straddles both sides of the Afon Soch, one of the longest rivers in western Llyn. The small harbour wall on the southern side of the river is popular with children (young and otherwise) looking for crabs. The southern side of the river has a dog ban, but dogs are allowed on a section of the beach to the north of the river. There is very little car parking around either side of the river. On the south shore of the river is the village centre so amenities are close by, to get to the northern shore you either paddle through the river or take the 5 minute walk around the inner harbour.
Abersoch Main Beach Abersoch main beach is a long sandy beach and very popular with water sports enthusiasts like wake boarders and water-skiers. There are dog restrictions at the northern end of the beach. There is a shop and cafe at the top of the beach and also midway along. There are two main car parks set back from the beach a little but still gives good access, there is a fee payable during the main holiday periods. To get to the carparks either turn up between the Nat west bank and the garage in the centre of the village, or go up the main street and take the road signposted to the Golf course.
South facing Porth Ceiriad, is a Natonal Trust beach, sheltered by high cliffs and interesting rock formations, iIt is a really picturesque cove, out of the shelter that St Tudwal's Islands offer to the beaches around Abersoch. Hence it gets a good deal of swell from the south west, ideal for surfers, especially at the eastern end of the beach, where waves refract off the cliffs forming powerful "pyramidal" waves. (First timers may want to start further along the beach). The car park is on the cliffs above the beach and accessible via Nant-y-Big or Pant farm (fee payable). You have to walk down a long series of steps to reach the beach, where large pebbles line the very top. The rest of the beach is good sand.
Easterly winds can be avoided at Porthoer with its "Whistling Sands" and rocky pools – the sand gives a curious ‘whistling’ sound as you walk across it.
Porth Neigwl, or Hell's Mouth as it is also known is a three mile beach which gets the brunt of any south westerly swells coming up from the Atlantic between Cornwall and southeast Ireland. The beach attracts thousands of surfers every year. The car park is about a 500m walk from the beach across sand dunes.and is accessed from the road through Llangian.
Good Beach Guide - click here
The Afon Soch begins its journey in the vicinity of Mynydd Cefnamwlch, snakes its way through Morfa Neigwl and flows into the sea at Pen Cei, Abersoch. The Welsh word 'soch' is said to be the same as the word 'hwch' (sow).
A marine-eroded platform, Llyn is in fact a natural extension of the Snowdonian Massif, with complex geology including ancient pre-Cambrian rocks. This varied geology is reflected in a succession of superb coastal landscapes, from the steep craggy cliffs around Aberdaron Bay to sandy bays and headlands and fine dune systems.
Llyn's highest points are the north's abrupt volcanic peaks dominated by the granite crags of Yr Eifl (564m). At its foot, a landscape of hedged fields and rough pastures rolls out towards the sea and finally to the sheer black cliffs of Mynydd Mawr, the tip of the peninsula. The countryside is characterised by its narrow lanes and white-washed farms and includes stretches of ancient open common.
Llyn's landscape has a rich historic legacy with field monuments dating from Mesolithic times and spectacularly sited Iron Age hill-forts such as Yr Eifl's Tre'r Ceiri. The majority of the AONB is listed in the Register of Landscapes of Outstanding Historic Interest in Wales.
This is an area of strong traditions and folklore - rich in history which is illustrated in the prehistoric remains on the hill tops, holy wells, old churches and the trail of the old pilgrims en route to Ynys Enlli, the holy island of Bardsey, where reputably 20,000 saints are buried. This peninsula which is guarded to the north by Caernarfon Castle, and to the South by Cricieth castle, is an area designated as one of Outstanding Natural beauty. The 50 mile Heritage Coast offers long sandy beaches or small rocky coves.
Historically North Wales is a fiercely independent land where powerful local lords resisted first the Romans and later the armies of the English Kings.
From the 5th century until the Middle Ages, numerous saints and pilgrims followed the holy route along the Llyn's north coast, and it is steeped in early Celtic Christian history (according to legend there are 20,000 saints buried on Bardsey). Quaint country churches can be found dotted throughout the region - an excellent example is St Mary's at Bryncroes, where St Mary's Well was an important stop on the pilgrim's route. Eglwys Llandegwnning, a small and bare church, has a very unusual tower in the form of a petter pot. Eglwys Llangian, however, is an unusually long church, first recorded in the 13th century. The oldest part of the present church is the roof, which dates from the 15th century.
The vast double church of Saint Elnion, Llanengan, is particularly beautiful with much natural daylight. Pilgrims' offerings, kept in a large oak chest, made this a rich church. The screen and communion plates are believed to have come from Ynys Enlli (Bardsey).
The lead mine workings of Llanengan were an important employer from the earliest of times and were worked until the end of the C19. Many mine buildings ,vents etc still remain as evidence of these workings. A lot of Cornish miners came to work here, some stayed and this has left its mark in the form of unusual surnames in the area.
The coastline is studded with 13th century castles. Dramatically sited Harlech Castle, famed in fable and song, commands the town, and wide sweep of the coastline. The great citadel of Edward I at Caernarfon comprises the castle and the encircling town walls. In 1969 it was the scene of the investiture of His Royal Highness Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.
There are elegant stately homes like Plas Newydd in Anglesey and Eriddig House near Wrexham, but it is the variety of domestic architecture that is most charming. The timber-frame buildings of the Border country are seen at their best in historic Ruthin set in the beautiful Vale of Clwyd. Further west, the stone cottages of Snowdonia are built of large stones and roofed with the distinctive blue and green local slate. The low, snow-white cottages of Anglesey and the Lleyn Peninsula are typical of the "Atlantic Coast" architecture that can be found on all the western coasts of Europe. The houses are constructed of huge boulders with tiny windows and doors.
By contrast there is the marvellous fantasy of Portmeirion village. On a wooded peninsula between Harlech and Porthmadog, Sir Clough Williams Ellis created a perfect Italianate village with pastel coloured buildings, a town hall and luxury hotel.
The sea has been the main link with the outside world and provider of sustenance for many communities on Llyn for centuries. The Harbour at Abersoch built 14 small ships between 1774 and 1854, and fishing was a main source of income.
Two hundred years ago, farm goods such as butter and cheese were exported from small ports such as Porth Ysgaden. Farmers were also dependent on salting and selling herring.
A predominantly Welsh-speaking area, the oldest living language of Europe is enjoying a resurgence in the number of its speakers on the LLyn The area has experienced the problems of outmigration of its young and working population and an insurgence of non-Welsh-speaking residents. In the Abersoch hinterland, a high percentage of houses are second homes.
Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) or the Island of the Tides, sea bird sanctuary and home to grey seals, is just one of Llyn's many notable wildlife sites. In the Middle Ages pilgrims would come to visit Bardsey, the Isle of 20,000 saints, just off Aberdaron, at the tip of the peninsula and Legend has it the Merlin, of Arthurian fame, lies buried there in a suspended animation on Bardsey, ready to awake when King Arthur returns to Britain. Three pilgrimages to Bardsey were considered the equivalent of one to Rome.
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The Isle of Anglesey is linked to the mainland by the handsome Menai Straits Suspension Bridge. Beaumaris has a 13th century castle and many other fine buildings in its historic town centre.
St Tudwal's Islands are a small archipelago of two islands lying south of Abersoch St Tudwal's Island West and St Tudwal's Island East plus the Carreg y Trai rocks or half tide rocks as they are also called.
On St Tudwals East are the remains of a monastic settlement and Priory. which was excavated at the start of the 20th Century and shards of roman pottery were found. According to tradition, Saint Tudwal lived on the islands in the 6th century. It is said that it was once possible to walk from Ynys Fach (the smaller of the two, and the nearest to the shore) to Trwyn yr Wylfa on the mainland at a time of very low tide.
A Trinity House lighthouse was erected on St Tudwals West in 1877. The site of the lighthouse was purchased by Trinity House in 1876 for the sum of £111, and the construction of the tower and dwellings completed the following year. Father Henry Bailey' Maria Hughes and his followers attempted to re-establish a monastic society, but their monastery was destroyed in 1887 by an enormous storm.
In 1922 the light in the lighthouse was converted to acetylene operation and was operated by means of a sun valve. This mechanism, which was invented by the Swedish lighthouse engineer, Gustaf Dalen, consists of an arrangement of reflective gold-plated copper bars supporting a suspended black rod; when lit by the sun the black rod absorbs the direct heat and that reflected from the other bars and expands downwards thereby cutting off the supply of gas.
Following the introduction of the acetylene equipment the lighthouse was demanned and the keepers dwellings next to the tower subsequently sold in 1935.
St Tudwal's Lighthouse was modernised and converted to solar powered operation in 1995
Llyn's farming pattern is of small-scale, traditional, family farms raising sheep and cattle with dairying on pockets of better pasture.
The most striking feature of the Llyn countryside is the numerous stonewalls and hedgerows that surround the fields and country lanes. Farming practice here, whilst enhanced by modern machinery, has had little impact on the topography of the area. Sheep farming is still the main agricultural pursuit and modern methods have had minimal adverse impact on wildlife. The hundreds of miles of country lanes are much as they were generations ago. The agricultural interior is bordered on three sides by windswept cliffs, moorland, or coastal sand dunes.
It is difficult to think of an area with so many advantages for the wildlife that inhabits its interior, coastline and surrounding seas. A warm damp climate, remoteness from areas of high population or industrial pollution and very little intensive agriculture underpin favourable habitats for wildlife. These habitats range from ancient pasture, small areas of wooded swampland, high heath and moor-land, cliffs and rocky offshore islands.
The surrounding waters have a direct gulf-stream influence, with strong tidal streams bringing nutrients to the prolific undersea life. The rich seas support a thriving population of marine mammals and dense colonies of breeding seabirds that inhabit the cliffs and offshore islands in the spring and summer months.
The waters surrounding the Llyn Peninsula are home to a large population of sea mammals that thrive on the rich undersea life. In the summer, the warm currents bring dense shoals of Sand eels that form the staple diet for larger fish, such as the Mackerel, and the seabirds and the marine mammals of the area. In turn, the Mackerel falls prey to the larger marine mammals such as the Bottle-Nosed Dolphins.
The area is an important refuge for Grey Seals. They are larger and far more robust than their relatives, the Common Seal, an inhabitant of the eastern coasts of the United Kingdom. Large breeding colonies are located at both the St. Tudwal's archipelago and Bardsey Island, with smaller, isolated groups living along the northern coast, such as small number found near Porth Dinllaen.
The Harbour Porpoise is regularly seen some way offshore, but usually only singly or in very small numbers. Usually seen off Porth Ceiriad and on the way to Bardsey Island, a few miles out from Hell's Mouth. The Harbour Porpoise unfortunately seems to be under some form of environmental pressure and is though to be in decline worldwide.
More regular encounters are with Bottle-nosed Dolphins, although ver occasionally seen are the Common and Risso's Dolphins to the west of Bardsey Island and in Bardsey Sound. Pods of Bottle-nosed Dolphins are often encountered on trips out of Abersoch bay.
Whilst the Bottle-nosed Dolphins of Cardigan Bay do seem to be thriving, there is some concern that increased leisure boating activity in the area may put them under environmental pressure. The Marine Conservation Society has issued guidelines for boat users, and these are summarised below:
- When encountering dolphins, if they approach the boat or bow-ride, maintain a slow speed and steady course until they are clear. They should never be chased or harassed in an attempt to make them bow-ride. When watching dolphins always let them decide what happens.
- Keep your distance. Try not to go closer than 100m (200m if another boat is present) and remain stationary. Never drive head on to, move between, scatter, or separate dolphins. If unsure of their movements, slow down gradually, stop and put the engine into neutral.
- Please spend no longer than 15 minutes with the animals and never try to feed, touch or swim with dolphins for both your safety and theirs.
The whole countryside of Wales is important to its people. However, some parts are so precious that they are given special protection. The LLyn has miles of heritage coast, with large areas designated as Areas of Outstanding Beauty and Environmentally Sensitive Areas. These are important places for wildlife habitats, plants and animals, geological features and landforms - are the central core of the statutory conservation system in Wales.
So spectacular is the Llyn and its coastline that many thousands of acres have been protected by the National Trust, and vast tracts of land have been designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Areas of Special Scientific Interest. It is a haven for wild flowers and its indigenous wildlife attracts naturalists from far and wide - it even boasts its very own breed of sheep (Llyn Sheep)
The Llyn Heritage Coast runs 55 miles between Penrhyn Du, near St. Tudwal's Islands around the tip of Llyn and around the Aberdesach on the north coast. This status has been put in place to preserve the history, wildlife, geology and unique beauty this area has to offer.
Nowhere is far from the sea on the long, low peninsula of Llyn, which is famous for the unspoilt beauty of its coastline. The AONB, covering a quarter of the peninsula, is largely coastal, but extends inland to take in the volcanic domes which punctuate the plateau.
The Llyn Countryside Management Project was set up by Cyngor Dosbarth Dwyfor in 1985. Practical work is undertaken on public footpaths and protecting the landscape in order to safeguard the variety of wildlife, such as the chough depicted on their logo.
Much of the land in this part of the Lleyn peninsula is protected by the National Trust and is a haven to such rare birds such as the red legged crow - the chough
The diverse topography of this small area brings together birds of contrasting characteristics. Species so common in many pastoral settings elsewhere in the United Kingdom are commonly seen side-by-side with visitors who, outside the breeding season, spend their life thousands of miles away from land, in the Atlantic Ocean. The Llyn Peninsula is also on an important route for migratory birds and the R.S.P.B. have established a ringing station on Bardsey Island to record the species that transit the area.
A walk in the Llyn countryside will reward the avid bird-watcher with glimpses of species ranging from the Dippers, of the Dwyfor and Dwyfach rivers to the Jays, Nuthatches, Greater-spotted and Green Woodpeckers of the woodlands. Moorland and coastal dunes are home to Stonechats, Goldfinches, and Sand Martins with the ever-present predators such as the Carrion Crows, Magpies, Kestrels and Buzzards maintaining a watch over proceedings.
The R.S.P.B, often ringing about 100 bird species in a year on Bardsey Island, have encountered vagrants such as the Grey-cheeked Thrush and Blackpoll from North America and Dusky Warblers and Black-Headed Buntings from Asia. They also report spectacular arrivals of Redwing, Chaffinches, Starlings and Skylarks during the autumn migration period.
The rocky cliffs and offshore islands are important nesting sites for the summer pelagic visitors.
Bardsey Island is the summer home of the Manx Shearwater, and along with the other offshore islands, provides nesting sites for Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Cormorants, Shags, Curlews, Herring Gulls and Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The Ynys Gwylans (Seagull Islands) provide the nesting sites for Puffins. Coastal cliffs provide the air currents so enjoyed by the Fulmar and the Chough along with notable predators such as the Raven, Buzzard and Peregrine Falcon.
All the country lanes are home to great swathes of seasonal Primroses, Celandines, Violets and Bluebells with the delicate Wood Anemones featuring in virtually every wooded area. Cowslips are a common sight here as are a number of orchids and uncommon Vetches. The uncommon Sea Holly thrives in the coastal sand dunes and pink swathes of thrift grace the cliff-tops.
Craggy hills and the surrounding moorland provide a superb show of heather towards the late summer, which offers a spectacular contrast with the late bloom of the gorse. The clean air, warm climate and rich vegetation provides a favourable habitat for insects with butterflies such as the common Meadow Brown, Red Admiral and Tortoiseshell, thriving alongside the Dark Green Fritillary and the rare Marsh Fritillary. The marshy areas of the region provide an ideal habitat for the colourful Dragonflies.
Vegetation along the bank of the River Soch provides shelter and breeding areas for mammals including bats, hedgehogs, badgers and maybe otters. It also forms a woodland corridor for a great diversity of bird species from owls and woodpeckers to tits and treecreepers. Caterpillars and other invertebrates feed on overhanging trees, and drop into the water. These, together with many aquatic invertebrates including the larvae of mayfly and caddis, provide an important source of food for fish.
From Taliesin, the 6th century Celtic poet, to Dylan Thomas, Wales has inspired poetry and song. Every August, at the Royal National Eisteddfod, thousands gather to compete as singers, musicians and poets, or to listen and learn. In the small town of Llangollen, there is an International Music Eisteddfod for a week every July
There are a few mentions of local places in the following poetry.
Porth Ceiriad Bay
by Benjamin Jonson1572-1637
Descended to the shore, odd how we left
the young girl with us to herself, and went
straight to examine the stratified cliffs,
forgot her entirely in our interest.
You marvelled at the shapes the clockwork sea
had worn the stone, talking keenly, until
the pace of this random sculpture recalled
your age to you, and then its anodynes.
And so you turned, pretending youth, courting
the girl as if you were a boy again,
leaving the wry cliffs to their erosion
and me to my observant solitude.
By Josephine Wilde, Wilmslow, Cheshire
There's a little place called Abersoch, along the North Wales coast.
The road to it meanders round a bay,
In spring and summer, world arrives,
Abersoch plays host, to many thousand visitors every day.
White cottages fleck green hills, shells deck sunkissed sands,
Music drifts from hired beach huts, played by city bands.
In autumn as the leaves turn gold, world has gone back home,
Six hundred villagers leave their cots bare feet tread wild sea foam.
They walk the still warm beaches, breathe in the salt tinged air,
World has freed the sea from boats, coves lie still and bare.
In winter when the days are short, few cars drive to the bay,
Snowdon's mountain range is white, with more snow on the way.
Hearths burn bright with Welsh black coal, male voice choirs sing clear,
When daffodils pierce frozen earth, world will be back here.
The following is a comical 19th century poem about an English judge trying to sort out Welsh surnames as part of the "anglicization" process
How Welsh surnames came to be...
Then strove the judge with main and might
The surrounding consonants to write
But when the day was almost gone
He found his work not nearly done.
His ears assailed most woefully
With names like Rhys ap Griffith Ddu,
Aneirin, Iorweth, Ieuan Goch,
And Llwyarch Hen o Abersoch,
Taleiesin ap Llewelyn Fawr
And Llun ap Arthur bach y Cawr.
Until at lenght, in sheer despair,
He doffed his wig and tore his hair
And said he would no longer stand
The surnames of our native land.
"Take ten," he said, "and call them Rice,"
"Take another ten and call them Price."
"Take fifty others, call them Pughs,"
"A hundred more--I'll dub them Hughes."
"Now Roberts name some hundred score,"
"And Williams name a legion more."
"And call," he said in disdained tones,
"Call the remaining thousands Jones."
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