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Holyhead Cruises

Holyhead, Wales

About Holyhead

Located on Holy Island, Holyhead is a cozy coastal enclave on the northwestern tip of Wales, brimming with charming Welsh ambiance. Separated by bridges from the larger Isle of Anglesey, this region boasts the greatest concentration of ancient burial chambers and sacred standing stones in Britain, earning Holy Island its name and suggesting that prehistoric settlements thrived and worshipped in this remote corner of the United Kingdom. The presence of the Roman Empire is deeply felt here: the charming town of Holyhead is contained within a three-walled Roman fort, one of the few in Europe, protected on the fourth side by the sea. The port is a major center of commerce, linking Great Britain to the Republic of Ireland via ferry.

Holyhead is also the gateway to Snowdonia National Park, the unspoiled pride of Wales. Named for its highest peak, Snowdon, this protected area is a richly textured, blue-green canvas of soaring mountains, dense forest, deep valleys and shimmering lakes, all intimately tied to the Welsh identity.

Holyhead Lifestyle and Culture

Welsh flags depicting the iconic red dragon are ubiquitous in this region. Displayed everywhere from town shops to castles to license plates to souvenir pens, visitors are quickly reminded this is not simply part of the United Kingdom … it is Wales through and through. The northern part of the country, in particular, embraces its culture, evidenced by the amount of Welsh you’ll hear spoken. The endangered language is taught in school, ensuring younger generations keep this ancient Celtic tongue alive.

Wales has its own holidays and traditions. One of the most treasured is the custom around the Welsh love spoon. These handmade spoons, whittled from a single piece of wood and traditionally given as a sign of a young man’s intentions to marry a young woman, were usually crafted while away on a long sea voyage. While the practice fell out of favor at the end of the 19th century, today they are given to commemorate births, weddings, anniversaries and Dydd Santes Dwynwen—the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day.

The Holyhead Maritime Leisure & Heritage Festival each July brings together music, dancing, food and fun—a great community effort. Meanwhile, food slams promote locally sourced food and drink. These pop-up food and music events are held in different towns around Anglesey throughout the year.

Holyhead Sights and Landmarks

Arguably the most picturesque landmark in Holyhead is the historic St. Cybi’s Church, a former fort given to the son of a 6th-century Cornish king by the King of Gwynedd. Remains of the Roman walls surrounding the church still stand, reminding visitors of the fortress’s past. Intricately carved wood and colorful stained-glass windows adorn the interiors. An organ from 1794 still remains.

The Holyhead Maritime Museum chronicles local seafaring history dating back to Roman times. Set in an old lifeboat station, this small gem lets visitors imagine life on the Irish Sea 100 years ago via model ships, photographs and exhibits.

One of Wales’s most celebrated lighthouses is at the end of South Stack, a narrow islet three miles west of Holyhead that juts into the sea, waves crashing upon its rocky base. More than 400 stone steps lead down to the footbridge that leads to the lighthouse, which is still operational. The surrounding area is an important RSBP Reserve (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). A number of walking paths lead to good vantage points from which to spot puffins, falcons, razorbills and a host of other feathered creatures.

Holyhead Entertainment and Activities

Much of the coastline in and around Anglesey has been declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, luring locals and visitors to walk long stretches of beach and shoreline. Looking inland, green is the predominant color, with rolling hills and pastures that are home to horses, sheep, cows and other grazers.

About 30 miles outside of Holyhead lies the charming town of Caernarfon, home to the magnificent Caernarfon Castle—one of the nation’s most important. This medieval fortress was built by King Edward I of England in the 13th century and features several polygonal towers, the grandest of which is Eagle Tower. Climb the winding, narrow staircase for spectacular views of the Irish Sea. The stone buildings surround a grassy courtyard where families picnic on sunny days. This was also the site of Prince Charles’s investiture in 1969. A lovely place to experience everyday Welsh life, Caernarfon boasts a number of boutique shops and pubs adorned with flower boxes.

Another worthy destination farther afield is Snowdonia National Park. Known as Eryri in Welsh, its name translates to “the place of the eagles.” Covering more than 800 square miles, the stunning landscape contains mountains, river gorges, waterfalls and forests. GreenWood Forest Park, a family attraction in Northern Wales, boasts the first eco-friendly, people-powered rollercoaster in the world.

Holyhead Restaurants and Shopping

Welsh cuisine has evolved mostly from the ingredients farmers and shepherds have reaped from the land, producing simple meals with a handful of ingredients. As such, lamb, beef, cheese, seafood and leeks (the country’s national vegetable) make up many local dishes. Traditional favorites include lamb stew, Welsh rarebit (cheese on toast), bara brith (spiced fruit loaf) and Welsh cakes (a type of thick pancakes with dried fruit).

The Harbourfront Bistro next to the Maritime Museum pulls produce from its own farm and sources seafood from local fishermen. Any meal here is enhanced with ocean views or dramatic sunsets. For paninis, soups, wraps and other light fare, try Ucheldre Kitchen, attached to the arts center. Langdon’s, next to the marina, keeps the decor clean and simple so as not to detract from its spectacular views. Choose Anglesey crab, fish and chips, stone baked pizza or duck confit from its varied menu.

If you’re looking for a Welsh keepsake, Kaliko and Eden Emporium both offer an assortment of gifts and souvenirs including kitchenware, jewelry and handmade goods.