It is just 60 miles from Dublin Ireland to Holyhead in Wales. The ship manages to take all night to get there, averaging something like 5 miles an hour. For those of you who don’t know the UK, let alone where Holyhead is, if you look at a map there is a lump stuck on the left side of England that looks like a reversed “C”. That is Wales. Off the tip of the reversed C is a small island called Anglesey. Off the tip of that island is a tiny island called Holy Island, and off the tip of that island is a promontory where Holyhead sits. It’s like a set of Russian nesting dolls, un-nested. It also explains why few people know, or even care, where Holyhead is.
We spend the day driving around Angelsey. It is separated from Wales by the Menai Straits, a narrow strip of water which becomes mostly mud and sand when the tide is out.
There is a narrow winding road along the western coast of Anglesey looking across to Wales and the scenery is lovely. At one end of the road is Beaumaris Castle, built in 1290 and called the most technically perfect castle in Britain, with classic proportions and perfect symmetry.
It was the last hurrah of Edward I’s massive building programme in north Wales… or would have been if he had managed to finish it! It was constructed with a moat surrounding it
and featured an ingenious “walls within walls” plan.
The design was well ahead of its time and caused something of a stir in Wales, as did the fact that an entire town had to be moved to allow room for its construction. Fortunately it was in a time when planning permission and permits were not required and neighborhood petitions could lead to the petitioner rather literally losing his head.
At the other end of the road is Plas Newydd country house and gardens, which dates back to the 14th century, although greatly altered in the 18th century. It is spectacularly located on the banks of the Menai Straits
Inside it has the feel of a home, but perhaps not a home of anyone I know
But its main claim to fame is the Whistler room where Rex Whistler painted an amazing trompe l’oeil painting along the entire wall of the dining room.
and as an added extra he added more trompe l’oeil details to the end walls
and even the ceiling
Anglesey is also home to the village with the world’s longest name. In the Welsh language (Gaelic) the name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which I guess has a certain charm if only I could pronounce it. When translated into English it becomes “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio near the red cave” which just seems ridiculous. The village is only home to 300 people while the name has 58 letters, that’s one letter for every 6 people, which seems extravagant and somewhat unnecessary. The original name was Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll which one would have thought was quite enough on its own. But in the 1860’s some bright advertising wiz kid came up with the 58 letter name for tourist and promotional purposes. Quite how that is working for them remains unclear, although there is a huge car park and gift store by the railway station where tour buses line up while the tourists take photos of the name on the station. They then go to the gift store, get back on the bus and drive off, making the owner of the gift store happy, but doing nothing for anyone else in the village, other than blocking the narrow lanes with huge buses.
We are not in a tour bus, and hopefully never will be, but we do stop none the less and take the required photo – just for your benefit, you understand
The downside to the name becomes apparent when wanting to buy a railway ticket to the village. How on earth to ask for a single to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch
The stationmaster, recognising the problem has actually put up a sign showing phonetically how to pronounce the name
but as much as I practice I can’t get it right. However asking for a single to “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio near the red cave” would I am sure lead to ridicule.
And then there is the problem of typing the name. I have had to do it twice for this blog and it took about 20 minutes of one finger typing and another 20 minutes of proof reading.
Now I am going to leave it to Ed to make sure I got it right!