Anglesey. Family Travel by Bicycle
Anglesey, or Ynys Mon (because three-quarters of the inhabitants speak Welsh), is an island separated from the rest of Wales by a narrow strip of water called the Menai Strait. There are two bridges across it: the Menai Bridge, Thomas Telford’s 1826 suspension bridge, and the slightly newer Britannia Bridge. They both make magnificent entrances to Anglesey, but the suspension bridge is just that bit more elegant and spectacular. Bangor, from where you start, is a beautiful university city on the mainland, and the bridge is not far from the city centre. I once crossed it by night and saw trails of bioluminescence, perhaps krill that had drifted in from the open sea, shimmering on the bow wave of a boat passing below. The straits are steep-sided and narrow where the bridge is, and that steepness continues where the road goes right and runs along a shelf to Beaumaris and its beautifully preserved castle.
From there you press on to the end of the road, literally, at a headland that overlooks Puffin Island. It’s a large lump of limestone 500 metres off the coast and it’s home to thousands of sea birds – but hardly any puffins. In the late 19th century, brown rats were accidently introduced to the island, and they saw off nearly all the puffins before steps were taken to eradicate the rodents. Anglesey has a mixed-up geology; so much so that students go there on field trips because they see a lot for their money. There are mountains there, too, but they are so designated with tongue in cheek. The first you climb, Parys Mountain, just outside Amlwch, is only 128 metres high and most of it has been lost to quarrying for copper ore.
The climb leads you inland and across the island, to RAF Valley. As well as being the RAF’s Search and Rescue Force’s HQ, RAF and Navy pilots are given fast-jet training here. Then you come across a surprise: there’s another island tacked onto the end of Anglesey. It’s Holy Island, where there’s also another mountain, as well as Anglesey’s biggest town. Holyhead Mountain reaches 220 metres and is made of quartzite. First you go out and back along the west side of it to some cliffs, where you can see the North and South Stacks, which both have more puffins on them than Puffin Island, as well as other sea birds. The changing colours as you look down each stack shows the layered geology of this part of Anglesey.
Holyhead is a busy port, with ferries going to and from Ireland, and it has recently become a place where cruise ships land. Aluminium was smelted here until 2009, an industry that saw the harbour used by huge cargo ships carrying bauxite. Now coaches can use the big jetties to pick up cruise passengers and take them away on day trips.
The rest of the ride uses a B-road that goes right down the middle of the island, almost back to the Menai Bridge. Just before the end there’s a detour to Newborough Warren. This is a huge beach and dune system of over 20 square kilometres. It’s a protected site, and so mature that Corsican pines grow on almost half of it.
Start in upper Bangor, find the A5 and cross the Menai Bridge, turning right at the roundabout onto the A545. Continue straight through Beaumaris and join the B5109, then turn right in the direction of Penmon and Puffin Island. Retrace to the B5109, turn right and continue north, then turn left at Mariandyrys. Turn left to Llanddona, turn right then right again on the B5109. Turn right on the A5025 and follow this road all the way to Amlwch. Turn left at the first roundabout onto the B5111 and climb over Parys Mountain. Turn right in Llannerch-y-medd onto the B5112, then turn right onto the A5 and left at the junction to do a loop south and north past Valley airfield. Turn left onto the A5, left onto the B4545, then left in Trearddur and follow this road all the way to South Stack. Retrace and turn first left to Holyhead.
Turn left onto the B4545, then left over the A55 to turn right onto the A5. Turn left at Valley onto the A5025. Turn right onto the B5109 and continue on this road to Llangefni. Turn right onto the A5114, left onto the A5 and right onto the B4419. Continue straight at Llangaffo on the B4421, then turn left onto the A4080 and follow this road to the A5 junction. Turn right onto the A5 and follow this road over the suspension bridge back to Bangor.
Start and Finish. Anglesey: Bangor
Getting There. Anglesey: Bangor is just off the A55, 60 miles west of Chester. It’s also 30 miles north-west of Llangollen on the A5. There’s a rail link with Chester, and from there the national network.
Bike Shop. Anglesey: Evolution Bikes on the High Street
Cafe. Anglesey: Brazillia on Bridge Street
Local Delicacy. Anglesey: Lobscow (it’s a stew)
“Best 100-Mile Bike Routes”