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. • menai­hol­i­ •

South Stack light­house on An­gle­sey

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