The island life in Wales
We tease our friends by saying our holiday will be on a faraway island. An atoll in The Maldives, perhaps? No, Anglesey, off the northwest tip of Wales.
Two mighty 19th-century bridges span the Menai Straits from Bangor, with the fearsome currents known as the Swellies (regarded by Nelson as one of the greatest of all tests of seamanship). Cross them and the world seems to go into reverse. Time slows. You find yourself playing Scrabble. I never actually went to Anglesey when I was growing up in Britain but, once there, I slip into a world of idealised childhood.
Anglesey is an outdoors place, brilliant for sailing, whitewater rafting and kite surfing. It’s got puffins, basalt stacks, beaches of what might be mistaken for Caribbean sand, some of which are empty. So why should we be so happy there? We’re indoor people; one of the children does own a tennis racquet, but that’s the limit of our sporting ambitions. We like art galleries and opera, neither of which you find on Anglesey. Instead, you’re almost compelled to ramble over cliffs, walk along sandy beaches, or watch the light play on the waters in which the Royal Charter went down with all hands in 1859.
You gaze at distant Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, wondering whether the clouds will clear from its brow — and feel glad for the blustery island weather, which isn’t as wet as the mountains. You don’t really need anything else. As a child of the hippy era, I can sum it up in a word — peace. There’s history here, too. Every other field seems to contain a burial chamber; a spectacular one overlooks Cable Bay. Did tribesmen emerge from the Iron Age village at Din Lligwy to fight the Romans? Bad news if they did as the tribesmen, despite human sacrifices by the Druids, comprehensively lost. Another invader came in the 1290s, Edward I, who built Beaumaris Castle. If you like castles, though, cross to Caernarvon, which I did a few years ago on a rigid inflatable boat, which was awesome in the literal sense.
One holiday, we went rockpooling with a marine zoologist from the Anglesey Sea Zoo, which was fascinating. But this time we didn’t really move from the house. Then again, that house is Cae’r Borth. Although it’s on the books of Menai Holiday Cottages, this building pushes the definition of a cottage. You could probably fly to Mars in the sophisticated kitchen and the spine of the house is a passage hung with its owner Lord Boston’s family portraits. Cae’r Borth means “field by the harbour’’, referring to a dock where the Victorian Bostons kept their large pleasure craft. It was a favourite site of the eighth baron, who built the house in 1965. With a book, or possibly a glass, in your hand, you gaze over the sands of Lligwy Bay, almost summoning the energy to go for a walk, but not always succeeding. • menaiholidays.co.uk • visitwales.com
South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey