Sunday, 12 July 2015

Waiting for the Holyhead to Dublin ferry ...

On Friday Emi, the Wonder Dog and I arrived in Holyhead six hours early for our ferry crossing to Dublin. I really hadn't intended to be quite so early, but with the vagaries of what the traffic might be like on the M6 we'd left London first thing in the morning to arrive in plenty of time. As luck would have it we encountered no problems on the roads, but arrived half an hour too late to make the earlier sailing. So what could we do with six hours to spare in Holyhead?

Well, we decided to mosey on past the ferry terminal along the seafront in the direction of the Maritime Museum to see if we could find a suitable spot for a picnic. We'd come with a hamper full of things we could eat with our fingers for lunch.

It was a perfect blue-sky day, and the marina of little boats bobbing gently on the waves was picture-perfect.

We found some steps down a grassy bank that led to a little pebble-strewn beach beside the old harbour wall, where we sat in the sunshine and enjoyed our feast. School appeared to be out in Holyhead, and we were entertained by the antics of some local teenagers who seemed adept at jumping off the old harbour wall without impaling themselves on the rocks below.

Do you see the long breakwater on the left side of the photo above with the light buoy at the end? It's quite a thing. They started to build it way back in 1845, and it took 28 years to finish.  Running to one and three quarter miles in length, it cost a staggering £1,285,000. Forty lives were lost in the project and it consumed 7 million tons of stones from Holyhead mountain and thousands more tons of dressed stone shipped in from Moelfre on Anglesey's north east coast.

Fed, watered and entertained by the antics of the death-defying locals, we wandered on round the front and found the life boat tied up with a clutch of other boats in the harbour.

Then we carried on around the Anglesey Coastal Path, which runs off from the other end of town. This quiet little cove (below) had a great big sign warning divers not to go exploring the wreck of the SS Castilian, which sank hereabouts on 12th February 1943. She was on her way to Lisbon with a cargo of munitions. This was, of course, our cue to spend the rest of the afternoon scanning the waterline looking for some sign of the sunken ship. 

We didn't spot the ship, but we did find a lot of sparrows in the hedgerows. The place was positively teeming with them.

Female (left) and male (right) house sparrows

Then we wandered back into to town to have a look around the ancient church of St. Cybi. Our path took us past a boat yard, where many seasoned veterans of the sea were beached, either to be broken up for spare parts, or to be returned to their former glory to ride the ocean wave again. I was very taken with this old girl, but I've a sad feeling that she's destined for the breaker's yard rather than the open sea.

The Church of St. Cybi is a timeless place that's well worth a look if you find yourself with some time to spare at the ferry terminal just across the road.

Originally there was a Roman fort on this site. It had been built in the fourth century to protect from Irish sea marauders who used to chivvy the folk living along this stretch of the coast. The outer defensive walls built in a lovely herring bone formation from local flint stone are incredibly well preserved, and form a boundary wall around the church and its graveyard.

The church is a lovely old stone-built structure that dates, in part, from the thirteenth century. It was locked so we didn't manage to get inside, but it looked as though it has some pretty stunning stained glass windows.

Saint Cybi was the son of a warrior prince, Salomon of Cornwall, who is believed to have been a sixth century king of the Cornish.  Brought up in the Christian faith he went on pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalem as a young man, being made a a priest and then consecrated as a bishop. His father had died by the time he returned to Cornwall, and he was offered the throne. For a brief moment, until he politely declined the honour, he is believed to have been King of Cornwall. Cybi chose instead to spend his time preaching and building churches.

He carried on his ministry in South Wales and in Ireland, before moving to North Wales. King Maelgwn Gwyndd offered him the old Roman Fort here at Holyhead on Holy Island to build a monastery. Cybi accepted and this site grew to become an important centre of the early church.

Today it's a quiet, peaceful spot in the centre of town. Curiously most of the grave stones are laid flat on the ground. The odd one here and there, like the little stone below,  stands vertically.

 For a moment it transported me to a cold, grey day in December 1830 when a heart-broken family came here to bid farewell to their dear little girl. Can you imagine the sadness of that scene? There are quite a few small stones, laid to commemorate the tragically short lives of a significant number of the local young children. Life must have been tough back then.

Today, however, the view from the churchyard is rather different:

And, yes, that was our ferry, all parked up and ready to take us home to Ireland. Isn't it funny how time flies when you're having fun?

All the best for now,

Bonny x


  1. Lovely pictures

  2. Thanks for the history. Very interesting spot.

  3. Beautiful old church. I'd love to wander around inside. Those crazy jumping teenagers. What a great shot! And of course I love the old boat. Interesting post.

  4. Bonny, what a wonderful church, Tom The Backroads Traveller

  5. Welcome Bonny!
    Very interesing story church.

  6. Gorgeous church!! Going to Dublin in September, can't wait!

  7. Awwww, your pictures scream summer! :) What a lovely blue-sky and inviting-water day you have found.
    Love the details of the church and the cute sparrows too. Have fun in Ireland. xx

  8. Always love the old stone churches and this one is a beauty.

  9. Thanks for showing the whole area.

  10. Used to go to Ireland from Hollyhead with my parents when I was a kid and I was up that way a few years ago on the Island. Most likely the church is locked to stop the thieving pikies who come over on the ferry. Sad lucky many others are open

  11. That's a great church, I love the stonework. The whole area looks interesting.