Ynys Môn – or the Isle of Anglesey, as it’s known in English – provides some great cycling such as this tour of arguably its most accessible, interesting and scenic corner.
I saved the best for last on a three-day circuit of Anglesey. All of the coast was full of interest (and all the island is wonderfully flat with quiet roads) but the south-eastern peninsula was my favourite part. Winding country lanes, pine woods, fabulous vistas of sea and mountains, a lighthouse and island rest spot with café and, crowning it all, lovely Beaumaris. An irresistable mix on a sunny day.
I began in Beaumaris, saving its many charms untillater, and headed west on the only stiff climb of the day. I couldn’t turn my back on the the Bulkeley dynasty, though. Successive generations owned large swathes of Anglesey from the 15th century making their seat at Baron Hill on the edge of the town. On the way out of town I passed one of the mansion’s former gatehouses, went under a bridge which bears its two-mile drive and then passed a pair of chubby little battlemented towers flanking another entrance and some almshouses. What about the house itself? It was abandoned after the Second World War and is now derelict and lost in trees and Amazonian undergrowth on private land. In stark contrast an obelisk continues to trumpet the importance of the family, the Victorian Sir Richard to be exact.
After a gentle ascent to Llandona the route becomes a ‘single track road with passing places’. Not so good for cars but ideal for bikes. There was even grass growing in the middle of the road. Even better. Another reliable indicator of things to come was my first sight of a radio mast, confirmation of the route’s peak at a mere 500 feet.
At times the lane was just a groove between high hedges which made it feel like I was cycling in Cornwall rather than North Wales and, bound for a place with a name like Beaumaris, I felt like I ought to be in France. Then, having been hidden in the hedgerow, I came into the open and suddenly got my bearings – and in style. Over my left shoulder I could see right across the vast Red Wharf Bay (not to be confused with the cult sci-fi sitcom, Red Dwarf) and guessestimate the position of the fishing village of Moelfre where I’d stayed the previous night. To my right, across the Menai Straits, loomed the mountains of Snowdonia, veiled and appearing more distant by a slight haze. Momentarily, I spotted the Trwyn Du lighthouse, my first staging post.
Much closer at hand in Mariandyrys is a sailless windmill that’s location, surrounded by folding hills, reminded me of the windmill in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. On the map the navigation looks complicated at this point but what appear to be a series of junctions aren’t and all you need to do is stick on the same road and hold on tight. After several small but significant climbs it was a joy to swoop and swerve right down to the shore. Much closer, in fact, and I’d have been paddling.
The coast road took me to Penmon. There is a toll to go all the way to the point but not for bikes, of course. I felt so smug. I still stopped at the pay point, though, for a nose around a fascinating little collection of buildings connected to Penmon Priory. That was dissolved by Henry VIII and is ruined although the adjoining church survived while the prior’s house in between was converted into a residence by Sir Richard Bulkeley (a predecessor of the obelisk Bulkeley) with the former cloister becoming a garden. He also built the adjacent dovecote which is vast with nesting holes for 930 birds. Down a little path St Seiriol’s Well looks more like a (very) long-drop toilet!
A mile further on I finally reached Penmon Point. There’s a stout black and white hooped lighthouse, the rounded hulk of Puffin Island and a café. Rejoicing in my first sunshine of the tour, I opted for an alfresco banana overlooking the scene. Picnic spots don’t come much better.
Most castles are unmissable for miles around. Not the one at Beaumaris, though. I only spotted it as I approached the outskirts of town. Inevitably once owned by the Bulkeleys, it looks like the upper floors have been knocked off but they were never built in the first place since Edward I, who ordered the castle’s construction in the 13th century, ran out of money part way through. He made a good job of the moat, though, which, filled with water as it should be, more than makes up for castle’s lack of stature.
I cycled along the front past a sward of trim grass between the town and sea and, a little incongruously, a pier. The town’s golf links-like open spaces, architecture and classy air given Beaumaris the feel of St Andrews in Fife. There’s masses to do as well. I sadly didn’t have time for the courthouse or the castle but did manage to squeeze in a tour of the atmospheric Victorian gaol complete with exercise yard, punishment cells, governor’s office and treadmill. Now a session on that would be serious exercise. I ended my ride with another meander around town to check I hadn’t missed anything. I cruised down Castle Street passing the grand Georgian hotel built by … yes, you’ve guessed it … the Bulkeleys. They really had this place sewn up. I’d so enjoyed a tour of their kingdom.
Distance: 16½ miles.
Time: Two hours.
Directions: Leave Beaumaris down Church Road (opposite Café Neptune on Castle Street, easy to miss). Although not signed as such this is the B5109 leading west out of town. As you approach Llansadwrn stay on the B5109 as it bears right signed to Pentraeth. Take the first right signed to Llandona. Turn right at t-junction signed to Beaumaris then, at another t-junction at bottom of slope, turn left at Give Way sign. Pass through Llandona following the road as it bears right just after the Owain Glyndwr pub and then sharp left. After a mast follow the road as it bears right and pass through Mariandyrys and by the windmill. Follow the winding road all the way downhill (past a slurry tank) until a t-junction beside a green bus shelter. Turn left (maintaining the same direction) signed to Penmon Point. Stay on this round to the lighthouse. Retrace your route bearing left at the bus shelter passed earlier. At an offset crossroads turn left onto the B5109 back to Beaumaris.
The Pilot House Café, Penmon Point. 01248 490140, pilothousecafe.com.
Excellent choice of cafés and restaurants in Beaumaris.
Bryn Aethwy B&B, Pentraeth Road, Menai Bridge, LL59 5HS. 01248 712228 and brynaethwy.com. Large, recently renovated Victorian house on the National Cycle Network with lockable bike shed.