Discover the lighthouses of North Wales. The North Wales coastline covers the counties of Flintshire, Conwy, Anglesey and Gwynedd.
Please note that some of these lighthouses offer holiday accommodation or may be privately owned. Please take care not to trespass or drive on private property.
The county of Flintshire marks the southern coastline of the Dee estuary and the start of the North Wales coastline. Castle ruins dotted along the coast tell of past invasions between England and Wales.
Strong currents race along this coastline, and as a result, the estuary silted up, leaving many sandbanks along the estuary. As the River Dee silted up and prevented routes into Chester, Mostyn became the last port of call for sea-going vessels.
At the summit close to Whitford is the Garreg Pharos, thought to be a Roman lighthouse. It is now hidden by trees but would have helped navigation for the Romas from Chester and beyond. Lord Mostyn restored the tower to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Victoria.
At Talacre, a holiday park hides behind the ridge of sand dunes. Point of Ayr Lighthouse stands on the beach, and it is possible to walk out to it at low water with care. From this point are views across the Dee estuary to Wirral and Hillbre Island. The Point of Ayr marks the turning point into the Dee estuary. The lighthouse was built in 1776 to guide ships entering the estuaries of the Mersey and Dee. It was decommissioned in 1884 and sold in 1922 to private ownership.
Beyond Colwyn Bay is the holiday resort of Llandudno with its wide promenade and streets planned by Edward Mostyn and Owen Williams. The town has two beaches; the west shore faces Conwy Bay, and from the northern shore the beach sweeps across to Little Ormes Head. The dominating headland of Great Ormes Head divides the two beaches.
The northern shores of Wales mark an important shipping route into Liverpool. A line of telegraph stations along the coast announced the arrival of vessels of Holyhead via an ingenious system of line-of-sight signals. Initially, the system used a series of semaphore flags but later a morse telegraph system was used. Along the North Wales coast, some of the lighthouses formed part of the telegraph system. Both Great Orme and Point Lynas Lighthouses were used as telegraph stations, and the Lighthouse Keepers would be employed to relay these messages.
Great Ormes Head Lighthouse is reached via Marine Drive, a coastal road hugging the cliffs above and below. A sweeping walled road leads down to the impressive castellated lighthouse at Great Ormes Head. Because of its elevation on the clifftop, the lantern is at the front of the building. The lighthouse originally came under the jurisdiction of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. But in 973 the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board handed over the operation of Great Ormes Head Lighthouse to Trinity House.
For a time the optic from the lighthouse was on display in the Harbour Board building in Liverpool, now the Port of Liverpool office. It was later repatriated to Llandudno where it now resides in the Summit Museum. The museum and visitor centre can be reached via a road sweeping round the cliffs, via cable car or funicular railway. From the 679 feet high summit, views reach across to Snowdonia, Cumbria and the Isle of Man on a clear day.
The impressive Menai Bridge spans the treacherous fast-flowing waters of the Menai Straits. The bridge marks the border between Gwynedd and Anglesey. Beyond Beaumaris at Penmon is Puffin Island. Here the impressive black and white lighthouse at Trwyn Du stands in the channel between Penmon Point and Puffin Island. The former lighthouse keepers are also located at the headland.
The village of Moelfre sticks out on a rocky headland, causing a hazard to shipping in poor weather. In October 1859 the Royal Charter was sailing home from Australia to Liverpool when she was driven onto a rocky ledge near Moelfre. The lifeboat crew, local sailors and villages managed to save a dozen people, but over 400 people were drowned.
The next headland west of Moelfre is at Point Lynas. Point Lynas Lighthouse was built in 1835 and also served as a telegraph station, sending signals along the coast to Liverpool. A pilot station also operated from Point Lynas where Liverpool pilots would assist vessels entering the River Mersey.
The port of Amlwch was once a thriving town, mining copper from the nearby Parys Mountain and exporting it from the harbour. The current Amlwch Lighthouse is the fourth in the harbour, built in 1853.
On the outskirts of Amlwch is a little cemetery. Within this graveyard is a lighthouse-shaped gravestone dedicated to Thomas Cunningham. He was a lighthouse keeper in Shanghai, China for around 30 years.
On the northwest coastline of Anglesey are two daymarks at Carmel Head. These two marks line up with another daymark just offshore at West Mouse, to indicate safe passage. This headland is the turning point along the north wales coast to Liverpool.
A few miles offshore from Carmel Head is Skerries Lighthouse, which was established in 1717. In 1836 an Act of Parliament enabled all privately owned lighthouses to come under the authority of Trinity House. Skerries Lighthouse was the last to be purchased by Trinity House. Following a lengthy legal battle, in 1841 Trinity House paid the landowner a record sum of £444,984 to gain ownership.
Holyhead is Anglesey’s largest town. The harbour was built from 1820 onwards. The impressive Holyhead Breakwater is around 1.5 miles long and the Breakwater Lighthouse stands at the end. In the middle of Holyhead harbour is Salt Island, handling passenger, road and freight ferries to and from Ireland. Salt Island Lighthouse can also be found at the end of its breakwater.
South Stack Lighthouse stands on its own tiny island linked to the mainland by a small bridge. You can walk down the cliff and across to the lighthouse, but don’t forget that you have to climb 400 steep steps down to the island and all the way back again! North of South Stack is the North Stack Fog Signal station which was built in 1780. Originally using a fog bell, cannons were later fired to signal poor visibility. One of the cannons was later retrieved and is on display at the Holyhead Breakwater Country Park.
Llanddwyn Island is a beautiful nature reserve surrounded by around 4 miles of beach. There are two towers on the island used as lighthouses. Pilot boats were also kept at Llandwyn Island, and their cottages remain.
Two miles off the southwestern tip of the Lleyn Peninsula lies Bardsey island. The island has a fascinating history. A church was established in the 3rd century, and many pilgrims travelled to Bardsey, some staying on the island.
Its Welsh name translates to Ynys Enlli, or Isle of the Eddies, a reference to the strong tidal currents passing between the island and mainland.
Bardsey Lighthouse was built in 1821 and automated in 1987. During modernisation, the optic was removed and can now be seen at Porth y Swnt in Aberdaron.
Just off the coast at Abersoch lie two islands of St Tudwal’s. At St Tudwal’s West, the short white tower of St Tudwal’s Lighthouse was built in 1877. The island belongs to the famous adventurer Bear Grylls.
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