Bardsey Island

Bardsey Island

Bardsey Island (Welsh : ( YNYS ENLLI), the legendary ISLAND of 20,000 SAINTS, lies 3.1km off the Llyn Peninsula in the Welsh County of GWENEDD.  The Welsh name refers to the  Island of the Bards, or possibly the island of the Viking Chieftain  ——– Barda.

Bardsey Island

The island has been an important religious site since St. Cadfan built a monastery in 516.  In Medieval times, it was a major centre of pilgrimage and, by 1212, belonged to the Augustinian Canons Regular.  The monastery was dissolved and its buildings demolished by Henry — VIII in 1537, but the island remains an attraction for pilgrims to this day.

Bardsey Island

Bardsey Island is now as famous for its wildlife and rugged scenery.  A bird observatory was established in 1953, largely due to the island’s position of important migration routes.  It is cited as a nesting place for Manx shearwaters and choughs, its rare plants and habitats undisturbed by modern farming practices.  It is one of the best places to see grey seals and the waters around the island attract dolphins and porpoises.

Bardsey Island

The spirituality and sacredness of the island, its relative remoteness and its legendary claim to be the burial site of King Arthur, has given it a special place in the- cultural life of Wales, attracting artists, writers and musicians to its shores.

Bardsey Island apple

BARDSEY APPLE :  A gnarled and twisted apple tree, discovered by Ian Sturrock, growing by the side of PLAS BACH, is believed to be the only survivor of an orchard, that was tended by monks who lived there a 1000 years ago.  In 1998, experts on the varieties of British apples at the National Fruit Collection in Brogdale, stated that they believed this tree was the only example of a previously unrecorded Cultivar :  the Bradsey Apple ( Welsh : AFAL ENLLI).  The Cultivar has since been propagated by grafting and is available commercially.  Since its discovery, it has led to a resurgence in many other Welsh apples being discovered and propagated.

Bardsey Island lighthouse

BARDSEY LIGHTHOUSE : stands on the southerly tip of the island and guides the vessels passing through St. George’s Channel and the Irish Sea.  It is the only square lighthouse maintained by Trinity House.  It is built of ashlar limestone and is not plastered inside and out, but painted in red and white bands on the outside.  The lighthouse tower is 98ft high and is unusual among Trinity House towers of this period in being square in plan  Unlike many other lighthouses, it retains its original gallery railings which are of iron and bellied i.e. curved out in width at their crowns towards the top.  The lighthouse is unusual in lacking any sort of harbour or quay facilities.  As it is on an established migratory route, the tower has many bird casualties and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Trinity House have tried to help the problem by providing perches on the lantern top and flood-lighting the tower, although this does not seem to have helped.

Bardsey Island birds

The island was declared a National Nature Reserve in 1986.  It is a favourite bird-watching location.  Thousands of birds pass through each year on their way to their breeding grounds.  Chiffchaffs, gold crests and wheatears are usually the first to pass through, followed by sedge warblers, willow warblers, whitethroats and spotted flycatchers.  About 30 species of birds regularly nest on the island, including ravens, owlets, oystercatchers and the rare chough.  Hundreds of sea birds, including razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes, spend the summer nesting on the island eastern cliffs, the numbers reflecting the fact that there are no land predators such as rats or foxes to worry about.  The island is one of the best places to see grey seals.  In mid-summer, over two hundred can be seen sunbathing on the rocks and bobbing in the sea, and about fifteen pups are born each autumn.  Their sharp teeth and strong jaws are perfect for breaking the shells of lobsters and crabs which dwell in the waters.

Bardsey Island wildlife

The seas around the island are rich in marine life.  There are forests of strap seaweed.  In the rock pools are sea anemones, crabs and small fish, and in deeper waters, the rocks are covered by sponges and sea squirts.  The yellow star anemone, found offshore, is more common to the Mediterranean.

200 grey seals, 300 sheep and just 4-year-round humans, makes the island’s sheep-to-person ratio larger than even that of New Zealand.  Mobile reception, if you can get it, comes from Ireland, which lies 55 miles west across the Irish Sea.

Bardsey Island is today known as the “Island of 20,000 Saints”, as the island’s largest population resides underground (dead).  As late as the 19th century, long after the Monastery had gone, Bardsey Island bustled with 140 residents.
Bardsey Island is a place of simplicity, that is away from the 21st century.  It is an extraordinary place to visit  ——- one of such peace, silence and natural beauty, that even for those who are not believers, coming here feels like a pilgrimage.

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