The island of Anglesey – Ynys Môn in Welsh – sits at the top northwest corner of Wales. It has the smaller island of Holy Island (or Holyhead) poking out of its west coast towards Dublin. Although Anglesey is attached to mainland Wales via two bridges – the Menai and the Britannia – it felt, in the summer of 2021, far removed from the busyness of the British staycation. Lucky us – roads were quiet, beach car parks had spaces and we generally managed to grab a table at cafés and restaurants which took our fancy.
As with the rest of Wales, there’s a multitude of things to do in Anglesey – we went for the big sandy beaches and the coastal walks but we found plenty of other attractions besides so I’ve put together our Anglesey highlights along with other suggestions we were given by friends who visit regularly.
Best places to eat in Anglesey
A large part of being on holiday for me is eating out in local restaurants. Anglesey is full of independent eateries – you’ll spot very few of the high street chain restaurants in this part of Wales.
I’ve detailed some of the places to eat in Anglesey which we visited during our stay along with a few alternatives recommended by friends which we didn’t manage to try – it’s a good idea to book in advance at some of the more popular restaurants in Anglesey.
Places to visit in Anglesey
As castles go, Beaumaris is one of the most striking fortifications in the UK and an excellent history lesson for children. The castle was built, at huge cost, for Edward I of England during his conquest of North Wales in the late 13th century. However, money ran short and Edward’s interests began to be drawn to new projects, namely an invasion of Scotland. As a result, Beaumaris remained unfinished.
This expensive, aborted project prompted some interesting parallels with the present day when we discussed the history with our children – a powerful nation invading, constructing and then exiting, leaving unfinished business in its wake.
Surrounded by a moat, Beaumaris Castle is great for children to explore – lots of ramparts to run along, towers to climb and a succinct film explaining the story of the castle. In the spacious grassy interior, there’s a foam model of the castle which children can build and knock down to their hearts’ content.
Where to eat in Beaumaris with kids
Despite the dubious weather, we managed to grab a table at the Pier Café in Beaumaris which is in a brilliant position on the waterfront. On a clear day Beaumaris offers incredible views across the Menai Straits to Snowdonia.
If you fancy somewhere a bit special, hop in the car and drive along the coast to Menai Bridge for a meal at Dylan’s which has a covered terrace looking towards those Snowdonia views – we couldn’t get a table during our visit.
South Stack Lighthouse, Holy Island (Holyhead)
We loved visiting this remote little spot on Holy Island. When we arrived, we could see only mist, no lighthouse. But the clouds slowly parted during our visit to reveal the incredible rocky coastal views which make the lighthouse an essential beacon for those at sea. The sea started off as dull as the sky but its colours evolved constantly – petrol grey, blue, emerald. And the cliffs had a colourful palette too.
We were fortunate to spot porpoises in the sea as we crossed the bridge to the lighthouse. Although the lighthouse was not open during our visit, we listened to an excellent talk about the history of the place – how a whole community lived on this rocky outcrop in the 19th century; babies were born, elderly died and life was predictably tough for everyone.
The lighthouse is reached via a long series of steps and then a bridge to the rocky island. Back on the mainland, near the car park, our kids could easily have spent the rest of the day scrambling around on Holyhead Mountain. It is one of the most enjoyable natural playgrounds for children that we’ve come across.
Where to eat near South Stack Lighthouse
The lighthouse is in a fairly remote area of Holyhead but there is a café and toilets at the RSPB visitor centre five minutes’ walk from the lighthouse.
The town with the longest name in Europe
No visit to Anglesey would be complete without popping in to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch to check out the town’s long name signs – the train station is the best place for a selfie.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch roughly translates as “St Mary’s Church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio near the red cave”. It’s generally referred to as Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Llanfairpwll or simply Llanfair PG. The long name is thought to have come about as a marketing ploy in the 19th century to encourage visitors to the area. Well, it’s certainly a success in the 21st century.
Trwyn Du Lighthouse at Penmon Point
We visited Penmon Point one evening to do a spot of fishing. Unfortunately we didn’t catch anything and one of my boys sustained quite an impressive injury after sliding on seaweed and scraping his leg on the barnacles (copious amounts of blood was spilt and photographic proof was required for posterity). There are lots of rockpools to explore when the tide is out.
Anyway, despite the lack of fish, it was a truly beautiful evening and we had a lovely sunset to marvel at. And I got to crack open my new first aid kit.
Ensure you have some cash (as in proper coins) for the toll charge to enter Penmon Point.
Where to eat at Penmon Point
We had a quick bit to eat at the Pilot House Café. The food isn’t fantastic (pizzas are probably the best bet) but it’s very kid-friendly fare and there are plenty of tables in the garden.
Beaches in Anglesey
If the UK always had the kind of weather we experienced on our visit to the beach at Newborough, I think far fewer people would bother to get a passport. The beaches in Anglesey, and Wales as a whole, are top notch – miles of sand, rock pools teaming with life and some great waves for bodyboarding and surfing.
During our week in Anglesey we had pretty good weather, by which I mean it didn’t really rain and there wasn’t much wind, so we went to the beach almost every day of the trip. And I swam in the sea most days too – it was brilliant (and I’m glad I brought my wetsuit).
Aberffraw and Traeth Mawr
Wales certainly offers an endless supply of beaches for one of those typically British bracing walks. Traeth Mawr (meaning “big beach” – there’s more than one such named beach in Anglesey) is reached via a long-ish (if you’re carrying buckets, spades and body boards, luckily we weren’t) walk along the River Ffraw.
With the tide out, this was great fun for the kids, despite fairly challenging weather. As well as the river to splash through, there are tidal pools left behind in the huge expanse of sand and behind that sit sand dunes giving the beach a remote and empty feel.
Where to eat in Aberffraw
Back in the village, there’s a great little café – Llys Llewelyn Cegin Bar. It serves a range of lunches, cakes and local ice creams. And that essential cup of coffee.
We spent a rather chilly afternoon playing cricket and building sandcastles at Traeth Crigyll – one of two expanses of sand at Rhosneigr on Anglesey’s west coast. Just behind the beach is RAF Valley air force base where jets make a disconcertingly loud rumble as they take off – fine once you’re used to them, but a bit unnerving the first time they rev their engines.
Where to eat in Rhosneigr
Rhosneigr has a decent range of places to eat in so it’s a good destination for a full day at the beach – we’d hoped to try the pancakes at Mojo’s Creperie but it was full so instead we enjoyed coffee at the Starvation Bar and Kitchen.
Just outside Rhosneigr you’ll find the Oystercatcher, sitting amid the sand dunes, which looks very tempting.
If you’re holidaying with little children and you want everything close at hand – beach, car park, toilets and a café, Trearddur Bay is a good bet. There’s a wide stretch of sand and low tide reveals some brilliant rock pools – I’ve never seen such a broad range of sea creatures as those our friend’s son captured in his fishing net.
Where to eat at Trearddur Bay
We didn’t manage to get in unfortunately but our friends told us good things about the Sea Shanty which overlooks the beach at Trearddur Bay. If you don’t go for lunch, ensure you go for ice creams.
Porth Trecastell (Cable Bay)
We had magical weather during our visit to Porth Trecastell – known also as Cable Bay (due to telegraph cables once linking Wales to Ireland). It’s another fab place for rock pools although the tide was in when we were there so we spent the time swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding. It’s a sheltered little bay with rocks either side and backed by dunes. At low tide it’s a good spot for rock pooling. There’s only a small car park which can fill up quickly at weekends when the weather is fine and there’s no café or toilet.
If you can tear yourself away from the beach (we couldn’t), it’s worth climbing up to the headland overlooking the beach to see the ancient burial chamber – Barclodiad y Gawres. You can read all about the history of this place on the excellent Anglesey History website.
Where to eat near Porth Trecastell
The beach is relatively remote so I’d recommend hopping in the car to nearby Rhosneigr.
Llanddwyn Beach (Newborough)
We saved our final day – which happened to be the one with the most perfect weather – for what turned out to be our favourite beach. Backed by the dunes and forests of Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve and with views over the Menai Straits to Snowdonia and the Llŷn Peninsula, our visit to Llanddwyn meant we ended our stay in Anglesey on a real high.
I had planned for us to take a walk over to Llanddwyn island, joined to the beach via a narrow sand spit, but the weather was so glorious we just stayed put – swimming, sandcastle building and playing cricket on the beach.
If it’s not beach weather, the network of paths through the nature reserve are perfect for walking and cycling – and you might even spot a red squirrel.
Where to eat near Llanddwyn Beach
There isn’t a cafe at the beach – just toilets, so you’ll need to drive into Newborough – the Red Squirrel Café (Caffi Wiwer Goch) gets good reviews.
More Anglesey beaches
There’s around 125 miles of coastline in Anglesey so we only really scratched the surface. A few other beaches which we’ve had recommended by friends are Benllech and Lligwy on the east coast and Cemaes Bay and Church Bay in the north. But really, you cannot go too wrong in Anglesey – there are many, many fine stretches of sand on this little isle.
You could easily spend an entire holiday enjoying the Anglesey coastal path. The coastline of Anglesey has plenty of character and challenging terrain as well as easy walks for little legs. However, there’s a good range of walking to be had inland too – swathes of woodland, ancient burial grounds and even a copper mine to explore.
Anglesey coastal walk: Porth Wen Brickworks near Cemaes
I’d love to tackle the whole of the Anglesey coastal path one day but on this trip we just covered a few miles – and, despite the grey sky which loomed over us, it was rather lovely. Despite the day being overcast, there was colour everywhere – bright yellow gorse, vivid green bracken and purple heather contrasting with the deep turquoise of the sea below.
After consulting one of those paradoxical books which promote secret pockets of a place you’re visiting, we decided to seek out the abandoned brickworks at Porth Wen on the north coast of Anglesey.
We came across the old porcelain works first, just a few ruined buildings overlooking an empty pebble beach – an incredibly peaceful spot. The path from there wound its way along the rugged coastline to the brickworks, a more extensive site with towering chimneys and kilns slowly being engulfed by ivy.
Amlwch Copper Kingdom – Parys Mountain
Predictably, a disused copper mine – colourfully scarring the otherwise green Anglesey landscape with its bright orange and purple rocks – was a big hit with our children. It was quite an achievement to leave the Amlwch Copper Kingdom’s Parys Mountain with my pockets only half full of stones.
Although there was mining at Amlwch as far back as the Bronze Age, the most significant activity – marking Amlwch as the largest copper mine in the world – took place during the 1870s. Today the area is eerily quiet and empty and it’s hard to imagine the grim conditions locals worked under. There’s an interpretation centre at Amlwch port which offers further insight into this significant era of Anglesey’s heritage.
Where to eat near Amlwch Copper Kingdom
We paid a visit to the Sail Loft for a quick bite to eat after exploring the copper mine. There’s a small museum upstairs at the café and there’s seating outdoors overlooking the harbour.
Pentraeth Forest near Red Wharf Bay
On one of the few occasions when it actually rained during our stay in Anglesey, we took shelter with a walk through lovely Pentraeth Forest. We’d picked this forest near Red Wharf Bay as it’s home to red squirrels. Whilst we didn’t spot any of these, we really enjoyed the walk. The boys loved running through the ferns and they spied a little rocky crag to climb which had amazing views from the top.
If you’re keen to track down the elusive red squirrel, I’ve heard the Dingle nature reserve is also a good place to spot them.
Things to do in Anglesey in the rain
We were really lucky to have pretty good weather during our family holiday in Anglesey. There was a bit of drizzle now and again but generally it was dry so we were spent the whole trip outdoors – after two recent episodes of covid-related isolation we were keen to stay away from enclosed places.
If you are unlucky with the weather, there are some fun places in Anglesey to escape the showers.
Anglesey Sea Zoo
I felt like I saw quite a selection of local sea life in the rock pools at Anglesey but there’s plenty more to discover at the Sea Zoo. The little aquarium features creatures from across the UK’s coastline including jellyfish, conger eels and seahorses. Tickets are valid for six days after your visit. There’s a café, playground and a crazy golf course here too.
Beaumaris Gaol and Courthouse
What better way to pass a rainy day in Anglesey with kids than a trip to a 19th century jail? In this eerie museum, visitors can explore the narrow dark corridors and learn what life was like for a condemned prisoner.
This little museum and art gallery in Llangefni holds a range of artefacts from as far back as the Bronze Age, offering an insight into the history and culture of Anglesey. There’s a selection of artworks by Welsh artists too.
Plas Newydd House and Garden
Despite this National Trust property being just down the road from where we were staying, we didn’t get a chance to visit – too many beaches and not enough time! Anyway, with impressive views of the Menai Straits, attractive gardens and an adventure playground, it sounds like a good day out away from the seaside.
This estate between Menai Bridge and Beaumaris is filled with magical gardens – paths winding through dense undergrowth to waterfalls and a river – perfect for little people’s imaginations.
Tacla Taid – the Anglesey Transport Museum
With two vehicle-obsessed children, I’m gutted we didn’t get a chance to visit this little transport museum in Anglesey. There just wasn’t enough rain to drag us from the beach. Anyway, if you’re into vehicles of any sort, motorbikes, cars, trucks and more are all represented here. There’s also a decent café and a play area.
Where is the best place to stay in Anglesey?
We stayed with friends for our week in Anglesey – their house is just outside Llanfair PG, in the south east of the island about 15 minutes drive from Beaumaris. We weren’t too far from the A55 which takes you across the island to Holyhead. We found this location was a useful base for days out.
The main attractions of Anglesey are spread out across the island so there isn’t one perfect place to stay. There are amazing beaches every few miles along the coast so if you’re visiting Anglesey for a beach holiday you’ll be pretty well located wherever you end up. If you enjoy eating out, there are good restaurants dotted across the island. So it’s better to pick your accommodation based on what you need from it and your budget rather than the location.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the weather changes quickly in Anglesey so if one coast is shrouded in mist, it might be a different story on the other side of the island.
Where to charge an electric car in Anglesey
Hopefully this last piece of advice will be out of date very quickly as more and more places begin to offer charging points. However, if you’re reading this sometime soon after it’s published (September 2021) and you’re wondering how feasible a holiday on Anglesey is with an electric car, I can answer that question. We found a good charging point (Podpoint) at the Lidl car park on the edge of Llangefni. From our base near Llanfair PG, we clocked up a lot of miles heading across the island to the various beaches so we needed to charge the car a few times.
Many thanks to Emma Waltham for her brilliant suggestions of places to visit in Anglesey.
So, have you been on holiday in Anglesey? Are there any places in Anglesey which you would recommend to my readers? Please let me know in the comments below.
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Looking for other beach break ideas in the UK? Check out my article featuring over 50 beach holidays across the country. And if you like your holidays to be on the quiet side, you might also like to read my article about family holidays in Northern Ireland.