- 1 Lighthouses On Anglesey
- 2 Working Lighthouses On Anglesey
- 3 South Stack Lighthouse
- 4 Penmon Lighthouse
- 5 The Skerries Lighthouse
- 6 Point Lynas Lighthouse
- 7 Holyhead Breakwater Lighthouse
- 8 Redundant Lighthouses On Anglesey – The Llanddwyn Island Lighthouses
- 9 Keeping The Anglesey Coast Safe – By Other Means
Lighthouses On Anglesey
The coastline of Anglesey, the largest island in Wales, is both picturesque and perilous. As well as many magnificent beaches, the Anglesey coast is interspersed with smaller islands, islets and many a rocky shoreline. Our guide to the lighthouses on Anglesey takes us to some of the most scenic places on the island, and gives some insight into the maritime history of this wonderful part of North Wales.
You’ll find lighthouses on all four corners of the Isle of Anglesey, as well as offshore at The Skerries and at the entrance to Holyhead Harbour. You can visit just one, spectacular South Stack, and stay at cottages adjacent to another, Point Lynas. The Anglesey lighthouses are well worth seeing, and make great destinations for Anglesey walks, particularly along the Coast Path.
Working Lighthouses On Anglesey
South Stack Lighthouse
The most famous Anglesey lighthouse is South Stack (Ynys Lawd), which is built on a rocky islet at the base of the towering South Stack cliffs. It’s located on the north-west corner of Holy Island (Ynys Gybi), three miles from the centre of Holyhead, and it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks in Wales.
South Stack is a remote, wind-blasted spot, bearing the brunt of some fierce storms coming in across the Irish Sea. The lighthouse is visible from the ferry from Dublin as it makes the final approach to Holyhead.
The perspective from the clifftop is very different – it’s a 400-step zig-zag walk from the top down to the entrance of this Trinity House lighthouse, the only lighthouse in Anglesey you can explore inside.
The lighthouse dates from 1809, though there had been clamour for one to be built as far back as the 17th century. Bear in mind that the South Stack visitor centre doesn’t take card payments, so make sure you bring cash with you – otherwise it’s a long way back to the car park!
Some of the best Anglesey walks start from the South Stack car park, including the climb to Caer y Twr, the remains of the Roman fort at the summit of Holyhead Mountain.
Also known as Trwyn Du lighthouse or Black Point lighthouse, Penmon lighthouse stands at the very tip of Anglesey, as its Welsh name suggests. It’s the easternmost spot on the island, an atmospheric place with a small pebble beach on one side, a row of cottages, the view across the narrow strait to Puffin Island (Ynys Seiriol), with the Great Orme headland above the seaside town of Llandudno on the horizon. The mountains of Snowdonia loom to the right, and just to the left, from the top of the black-and-white-striped Penmon Point lighthouse, a fog bell solemnly tolls every thirty seconds.
Penmon lighthouse was the first lighthouse in Wales to become fully automated in 1922, and is now operated from the Holyhead on the other side of Anglesey. It’s not normally possible to land on Puffin Island, but it’s one of the most intriguing Welsh islands, made home by hermit St Seiriol in the 6th century. Boat trips from Beaumaris and Conwy give you a closer look.
The area around Penmon Point can be accessed via a private toll road that leads from Penmon Priory, a mile away. Last time we visited the toll was 3.50 – a bit steep perhaps, but you could always walk it. The 12th century Penmon Priory church and later Dovecote are well worth a visit, as is Beaumaris Castle, one of the standout castles in North Wales, a few miles further down the Menai Strait.
The Skerries Lighthouse
The Skerries – a series of low-lying islets three miles (5 km) off the north-west Anglesey coast – are the north-westernmost place in Wales. They are the most remote of the Anglesey islands, and a serious offshore hazard, a danger to vessels approaching Liverpool. The first lighthouse was built on the highest of the island in the early 18th century, and rebuilt around 1759. It was later sold and brought under the auspices of Trinity House , then restored by James Walker, who also restored Penmon Point lighthouse.
The Skerries – Ynysoedd y Moelrhoniaid in Welsh – are an important haven for marine wildlife. Their Welsh name means ‘islands of the bald seals’ but they’re better known as a seabird nesting site. The Arctic tern colony is the largest, but puffins, common terns and kittiwakes are also regularly seen there. The closest you can get is the harbour below the lighthouse on a RibRide from Holyhead – landings, and therefore lighthouse visits, are not permitted.
Point Lynas Lighthouse
Sometimes referred to as Llaneilian lighthouse after the nearby village, Point Lynas lighthouse has been warning ships and sailors away from this headland since 1835. It was built to help provide safe passage to the Port of Liverpool, and replaced an earlier building erected in 1779. Architecturally it’s very different from other lighthouses in Anglesey, with the lantern at ground level, just below a grand castellated house.
The peninsula on which the lighthouse stands (Trwyn y Balog in Welsh) is the north-easternmost point on the island of Anglesey. It’s a magnificent location, well off the beaten path, with a tiny cove and beach, Porth Eilian, on the western side. Two outstanding Anglesey holiday cottages – both former homes to lighthouse keepers – are attached to the lighthouse and available for rental.
Holyhead Breakwater Lighthouse
This less famous Holyhead lighthouse is located at the end of the 1.6 mile (2.6km) long breakwater at the entrance to Holyhead harbour. Unusually for lighthouses in Wales, it is square in shape as opposed to round – it was built this way so that the living quarters were more comfortable.
It’s a fair hike out to the lighthouse, and the Breakwater is possible with local runners and walkers. There are great views across Holyhead Bay to the coastline of ‘mainland’ Anglesey and the Skerries (see above). I also recommend a brief stop at the Breakwater Country Park, on the site of the quarry which provided stone for said Breakwater. It’s one of the quieter Anglesey attractions, an unexpected haven where wildlife flourishes less than two miles (3km) from Holyhead town and port. Seabirds are frequent visitors, and the coastal heathland is an undisturbed habitat ideal for several species of butterflies and birds.
Redundant Lighthouses On Anglesey – The Llanddwyn Island Lighthouses
There are two redundant Anglesey lighthouses on stunning Llanddwyn Island, a tidal island reachable via Newborough Beach in the south-west corner of Anglesey. Structurally, the two lighthouses resemble the bases of windmills that used to be found all over Anglesey. They were built to warn sailors of the nearby entrance to the Menai Strait, which separates Anglesey from mainland Wales.
Ynys Llanddwyn has two magnificent beaches at its south-western tip, and from the air the coastline looks like a three-pronged fork of rocks. At ground level it’s incredibly picturesque. The southern beach is watched over by Twr Bach (Little Tower), built some time in the early 19th century, and remained in operation until 1903. The second lighthouse, Twr Mawr (Big Tower), was added at some point in the mid-19th century – some sources say 1845 – and remained in use until the 1970s.
As you approach the Llanddwyn Island beaches and lighthouses, you pass arow of cottages which currently house an exhibition about the island. These were once home to a small community of pilots who were responsible for bringing ships into the Menai Strait and Caernarfon.
Llanddwyn Island is named after St Dwynwen, a hermit who retreated there after a thwarted courtship, who became the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Her feast day is celebrated on the 25th January.
Keeping The Anglesey Coast Safe – By Other Means
Sometimes lighthouses can only do much. During the ferocious storm of 26th October 1859 the Point Lynas light warned shipping of danger, but the Royal Charter was unable to avoid catastrophe, being forced onto rocks near the village of Moelfre on the east coast of Anglesey, a few miles to the south. Tragically well over 400 people lost their lived.
You can visit Moelfre lifeboat station post-pandemic, and learn more about the long history of sea rescue in this area. One of its lifeboatmen, Richard Evans, won the rarely-conferred Gold Medal for Bravery twice for his actions rescuing people in treacherous conditions, and a statue commemorating him now graces the seafront at Moelfre.
Anglesey’s coastal defences are augmented by several white beacon towers, including one at West Mouse, a rocky islet off the north coast of the island. The light of South Stack Holyhead lighthouse is complemented by an extremely loud foghorn just around the coast at North Stack.
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