Bardsey Lighthouse is the tallest square lighthouse in the UK.
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Located just under 2 miles off the Lleyn Peninsula, across the Bardsey Sound, is the island of Bardsey. The island is 2 miles long and half a mile wide. It is the fourth largest Welsh offshore island, and its Welsh name, Ynys Enlli, means “island of the currents”. Strong tidal streams certainly race through the Sound, making navigation a hazard.
The island’s northeast side rises to 548 feet, whereas the western side is low and flat. At the island’s southern end, an isthmus joins the peninsula where the lighthouse is.
Bardsey Lighthouse was built in 1821 under the supervision of Trinity House engineer Joseph Nelson. The lighthouse guides vessels through St George’s Channel and the Irish Sea.
The lantern was raised in 1910 to increase the range of light. Trinity House removed the Cardigan Bay lightvessel from its station following this alteration.
The Boathouse, also known as Y Storws, was built before the lighthouse near the landing stage.
The lighthouse was electrified in 1965 and automated in 1987. Monitoring of the lighthouse was then carried out at the Trinity House Depot in Holyhead, and this was later transferred to the Trinity House Operations Centre in Harwich.
Solarisation took place in 2014, and a red LED lantern replaced the existing optic. The former optic is now on display at Porth y Swnt.
The lighthouse initially worked in conjunction with St Tudwal’s Lighthouse, guiding vessels to and from the harbours at Pwllheli, Porthmadog and Abermaw. Today it provides significant use to leisure craft within the northern section of Cardigan Bay.
Further afield, a Traffic Separation Scheme operates off Smalls and Skerries Lighthouses, two major turning points on the Welsh coast. Bardsey Lighthouse still provides a significant navigation aid for vessels in St Georges Channel. Ships use the lighthouse before picking up South Stack or St Tudwal’s Lighthouse.
The island has been an important religious area since the 6th century, when a monastery was founded on the island. The small island was a place of pilgrimage and was known as the Island of 20,000 Saints. It marks the endpoint of the North Wales Pilgrims Way.
Bardsey Island is also a nature reserve and home to grey seals and birds, including Manx Shearwaters and Choughs. Rare plants also thrive here.
Bardsey Lighthouse features in the book The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham. The book has a useful map inside.