Our plan was to drive around the island to Holyhead and see the South Stack Lighthouse. But wait – first, we drove by some ancient monuments and one of us had to stop. There were three things to see. First was a ruined chapel, Hen Capel Lligwy, a so-called “chapel of ease” that was connected to a larger church. It was very poignant sitting in the middle of the sheep fields. Next, up the road was the Lligwy burial chamber, a Neolithic structure that would have been covered in earth when it was made 5,000 years ago. We almost missed the last one, but as we returned to the car a chatty man told us we should also visit the hut remains, where he and his family had found some ancient artifacts, including a brooch that they had sent off to Aberystwth but had never gotten back.
The setting here was appropriately mysterious. We walked through a silent woods, slightly uphill, and then the woods opened up into a clearing with a complex of buildings – foundations only – that made up the farm and workshop of a first and second century community. You really could start to imagine them living here, perhaps walking down through the woods to the sea to catch fish. Well worth the walk through the fields.
We got back on the road and made our way counter-clockwise around the island through Amwlch and along the coast to Holyhead. Our plan was to visit the Maritime Museum and have lunch there, but we were foiled when we opened the door only to be told cheerfully that a, the museum was closed for filming and b, they were never open on Mondays anyway. On their advice, we drove along the Promenade and had a restorative lunch of mushroom soup and prawn cocktail at a restaurant up the way.
Next up was the South Stack Lighthouse, which some of us viewed with apprehension. At the visitors center it all became clear. Walk up the road and then down 400 steps alongside the cliff to a bridge across to the island where the lighthouse is situated. The whole area is now a bird preserve, but the best time to see birds is in spring and summer, when the cliffs are white with seabirds. Puffins? Not so much, and definitely not now.
Only slightly daunted, I made my way down the steps which fortunately were bordered by chest-high walls, just enough to feel safe while allowing for amazing views. It was quite reminiscent of Niest Point in Scotland. The only really scary bits were a set of very steep aluminum steps towards the end, and the bridge over the water that was no longer a suspension bridge, thank goodness, but still offered too clear a view of where you were walking. I turned down the invitation to walk even higher up into the lighthouse and took a brief tour of the museum. The best feature was this room full of equipment, none of which I could really understand. This one’s for you, Pat!
Guess what! There were more historic monuments nearby! We climbed over a stile and came to more hut circles. These lucky Neolithic people had gorgeous views of the sea, though I bet the wind blows cold here in the winter.
From here we drove into the center of the island to visit Oriel Ynys Mon, a museum devoted to the art of Kyffin Williams, among other things. The current exhibit was right up our alley, being devoted to the artist’s views of Venice. The introductory film gave a very good picture of Williams, who was Welsh and loved the countryside here despite spending thirty years teaching art in London. He came back to live in an old house on the coast but also paid visits to Venice and, interestingly, to the Welsh settlements in Patagonia, something I’d like to know more about (though I have a faint memory of reading about this in someone’s book about Chile). The exhibit was all about light and water and very good.
We picked out some trinkets – slate necklaces and books about Williams – and made our way back to Moelfre. Dinner tonight was at the Kimmel Arms, the local pub with wonderful views of the harbor, and the curries we had were unexceptional but just fine.