Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Isle of Anglesey

Today we caught the ferry back to the UK and explored the Island of Anglesey in Wales. Our first stop was to see Llanfechell 1 The three stones are 6 feet tall (approx) and very impressive. Commanding views of NW Anglesey, and on a sunny day, no doubt this would make this a great spot.

Our next stop was Lligwy Burial Chamber after looking for this site in the wrong place and walking through many farmers paddocks with sheep and a long portion of the coastal walk we finally found the burial chamber.

The Lligwy Burial Chamber dates back to the end of the 3rd Century BC and is probably a relatively late example of its kind. It has a huge 25 ton capstone measuring 16 x 19 feet balanced on top of a number of smaller stones covering the chamber hollowed out from the rock. Excavation found the remains of some 15-30 men, women, and children and pottery suggesting a late Neolithic date.

The Din Llugwy, found through woodland, this is a probable 4th century AD settlement. An interesting juxtaposition of ruins from three separate eras. The first the Neolithic burial chamber standing guard over Lligwy Bay Lligwy Burial Chamber. Next the medieval church. Then as you walk across the fields and through a small wood an ancient fortified homestead, last occupied 16 centuries ago. The Din Lligwy Ancient Village, or as sometimes called the Din Lligwy Hut Group, is an archaeological site it is a well preserved example of the type of settlement built by the native population of Anglesey during the latter part of the Roman occupation of Wales. But the origins of the settlement may well go back into the iron age and it was probably a small farming community. The name Din refers to its surrounding protective wall, although the site cannot really be considered defensive in character. For a pre-Roman site, a great deal remains including the enclosing wall and the foundations of many buildings, many of them with substantial and well made foundations constructed from the local limestone. The massive outer protective wall is almost intact although much reduced in height. Within the wall the settlement consists of round and rectangular huts, probably not all put up at the same time. The principle period of occupation was during the 4th century AD. The settlement is one of several in the Lligwy Valley. Excavations in 1905 -07 produced hundreds of Roman pot sherds of the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD, many repaired with iron clamps. The most important economic activity appears to have been iron working, smithing and perhaps smelting. From excavation, it seems that the round structures were probably houses and the rectangular ones barns or workshops.

Lligwy Chapel

We then drove on to the Penmon Priory with its decorated Celtic crosses, sheela-na-gig, and beautiful holy well, famed for its healing waters. It is located on the eastern most tip of Anglesey, where the Menai Strait returns to the Irish Sea. The Priory sits comfortably in a pastoral location close to the banks of the Menai Strait clustered together with St Seiriol's Church, the Dovecote, and the ancient Holy Well of St Seiriol. The monastery was founded by the 6th Century celtic Saint, Seiriol, but Viking raids have destroyed the remains of the original structure. There are however two stone celtic crosses that date from around 900 to 1000 A.D. housed within the present church, and although now protected from the elements the years have taken their toll on the ancient stone carvings. The church and the conical tower were built in the middle of the 12th Century under the authority of Gruffudd ap Cynan and Owain Gwynedd, and it remains to this day as the finest example of a 12th Century church in Gwynedd. A new chancel with richly carved arches and pillars was added in the 13th Century. and Penmon became an Augustinian Priory during the reign of Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. The priory survived the Edwardian conquest before it's eventual dissolution in 1538, and passed into the ownership of the Bulkeleys of Beaumaris. The Bulkeleys constructed the Dovecote and enclosed much of the land as a deer park. Considerable renovations were carried out to the priory in the 19th Century but the atmosphere of early Christianity still pervades the interior. The 16th Century Dovecote is the most impressive building. Built to house a thousand birds it starts off at ground level as a square structure and as it rises the stones cantilever to form an impressive vaulted ceiling and domed roof. All the while the internal walls are pocketed with a thousand niches to house the birds. Adjacent to the Dovecote is the pathway to the Holy Well of St Seiriol. Pilgrims from medieval times to the present day visit this beautiful location to take the "healing waters". The path leads past the rather overgrown monastic fishpond, popular with a family of moorhens, to an ancient grove. The Well springs from below a limestone outcrop and is housed within a roofed chamber. The chamber is dated from the early 18th Century but the stone seats in the open antechamber may be earlier. The well has long been associated with healing qualities and there are remains of an ancient dwelling located next to the well. Whether the Holy Well has healing properties or not Penmon is a lovely place to visit and the setting of St Seiriol's Well alone is enough to lift anybodies spirits. There are actually four associated historic sites in the same location at Penmon, clustered around the ruins of a priory founded in the 6th century by Welsh saints Cynlas and Seiriol. This peaceful place boasts extensive ruins of a 12th century Augustinian priory, in addition to an ancient holy well, a restored 16th century dovecot, and Penmon church, which houses a superb 10th century carved cross. Nearby is Puffin Island, site of another monastery begun by Seiriol, and supposed site of his burial. The Celtic community at Penmon was refounded on the Augustinian style in the 12th century, and the medieval priory church now serves as the parish church. A stone wellhead protects the ancient well itself, and a stone bench beside the entrance provides a peaceful place for contemplation. The wellhead structure is not original; it was added in the early 18th century. The dovecot was added to the site around 1600. It is a lovely stone structure with a fine cupola, and looks more like it belongs to a stately home than a home for over 1000 doves!

St Seiriol's Holy Well


Interior of the Dovecot

St Seiriol's Church

Sheela-na-gig in the older section of the church

Puffin Island
On leaving the area we drove past the Beaumaris Castle unfortunately it was too late to go through the interior of the castle. Beaumaris Castle on the Island of Anglesey is the great unfinished masterpiece. It was built as one of the 'iron ring' of North Wales castles by the English monarch Edward I, to stamp his authority on the Welsh. But it was never finished money and supplies ran out before the fortifications reached their full height. Beaumaris is nonetheless an awesome sight, regarded by many as the finest of all the great Edwardian castles in Wales. Begun in 1295, it was also the last. The king's military architect, the brilliant James of St George, brought all his experience and inspiration to bear when building this castle, the biggest and most ambitious venture he ever undertook. In pure architectural terms Beaumaris, the most technically perfect castle in Britain, has few equals. Its ingenious and perfectly symmetrical concentric 'walls within walls' design, involving no less than four successive lines of fortifications, was state of the art for the late 13th century. This was the 'beau marais' (fair marsh) that Edward chose for a castle and garrison town. From the outside, Beaumaris appears almost handsome. It does not rear up menacingly like other fortresses buts sits contentedly in a scenic setting overlooking mountains and the sea, partially surrounded by a water filled moat. The gate next-the-sea entrance protected the tidal dock which allowed supply ships to sail right up to the castle.

Our home for the evening it the Bull Hotel in Llangefni a magnificent building in a lovely village.


No comments: