Home of the Pickled Puffin


  • Puffin Island – Ynys Seiriol, Priestholme. Home of the Pickled Puffin and the Pickled Oyster.

  • Penmon Lighthouse – also known as the Menai Lighthouse.

  • The Priory – St Seiriol’s sixth century priory and hospice.

  • An absolutely fabulous place for a picnic and to gaze wistfully or contentedly into the near distance.

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    Penmon View - Anglesey

    It is the last item that usually draws me to Trwyn Du. At your distant left is Point Lynas at the northeast tip of Anglesey. Ahead of you is the Great Orme and Llandudno.

    From there allow your gaze to be drawn along the voluptuous lines of Snowdonia and down to the Menai Straits.

    However, When you visit I’m sure you’ll come to your own conclusions.











    Arriva Bus Timetable for Penmon.

    Penmon Lighthouse & Giant Seagull


    P.S. In this context Penmon is an obvious amalgamation of two Welsh words: ‘PEN’ – Head, Headland or Point and ‘MON’ – Anglesey or Mona.

    If you have travelled to Anglesey along the A55 Expressway, then Puffin Island was apparent on your right as soon as you left Conway. In a geographic sense it is a large mole separate from Trwyn Du (Black Point/Nose) or Penmon by about a quarter of a mile of sea.

    Puffin Island is the former home of promiscuous rats but now secure home to the comical puffins, after which it gains its familiar name.

    In Welsh, we call it Ynys Seiriol (St Cyril’s Island), after the saint who established the priory, hospice and settlement during the sixth century, just inland of the peninsula point.

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    Penmon - Trwyn Du


    Travel a bit further toward Llanfairfechan and you’ll see Beaumaris further along the Menai Straits. I used to live on this side in the weather that usually cascaded down from the Carneddau.

    It saddened me greatly most mornings to drive to work in rain and view Beaumaris basking in sunshine.

    The above is quite true. Just a couple of miles away from the mountains makes all the difference in local weather, as Beaumaris demonstrates.

    The change of weather doesn’t always require a few miles of Straits between Mountains and Anglesey. It can be different from one end of the Britannia Bridge to the other.

    The important town to be aware of in relation to Penmon is Beaumaris, which is just down the road to the east of Menai Bridge.

    From Beaumaris you can either drive to Penmon or take a bus to Llangoed and walk down to Penmon, which will take you about three-quarters of an hour.

    Check out Arriva Penmon buses 57 &58.

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    Puffin Island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Protection Area for breeding cormorants.



    The island (ynys - uh-niss) is also called: Puffin Island, Priestholme (Viking), Ynys Glanawg (after the father of Prince Helig), Ynys Lenach (c.f. Priestholme) and Ynys y Llygod (Island of Mice).

    The island was gifted to Seiriol by Einion Frenin (King Einion of the Gwynedd Princes) and was employed as a futher sanctuary by the saint and his acolytes.

    As the Priory prospered and became renowned it is to this island that Seiriol would escape in his little boat.

    By the 12th Century the Island was only occupied by hermit priests and monks, who engaged in commerce with London. In exchange for money and goods they would pickle puffins and oysters. The former being packed into wooden barrels and regarded as an epicurean delight.


    Taking my information from the population of Puffins had been almost decimated by brown rats by the end of the 20th Century:

  • 1804 Estimated in excess of 50,000 puffins

  • 1907 Estimate of at least 2000 puffins.

  • 1990s Probably less than 20 pairs.

    A joint project between the RSPB and Countryside Council for Wales (RSPB) was developed to eradicate the rats who were estimated in 1971 to number 500,000. The rats lived in 250,000 burrows - having eaten the puffin eggs.

    It is reported that the rats first came ashore on the island following a shipwreck in 1816.

    The project lasted from February 1998 until late 2000 and the means of eradication was primarily warfarin.

    The poison was brought to the island by boat and with the assistance of RAF Valley 22 SAR Helicopter Squadron.

    Over half a ton of warfarin was used.

    Since 2000 there has been a gradual increase in the numbers of Puffins and a re-establishment of the black guillemot.

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    Penmon - Trwyn Du Pebble Beach


    May I advise anyone who fancies taking home some of the fabulous looking pebbles from Penmon beach that the Bulkeley Estate will land very heavily on you.

    Regular and casual visitors don't like seeing it done, either. You will be shopped.

    Go back a few decades and it was almost a social event with friends coming to help each other.

    It reminded me of descriptions of early morning shopping at Llangefni Huws Gray builders merchant yard during the 1960s.

    People would arrive about 7:00am, pay for a few concrete slabs and leave with their rear axles scraping the tarmac. That's enough about criminal activity.

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    PenmonThe fast flowing current through the Sound that separates Puffin Island from Trwyn Du has been the cause of many shipwrecks down the centuries.

    In 1837 a lighthouse was built to warn ships to keep to the channel on its seaward side.

    A few years earlier in 1832 a lifeboat station was established here and served seafarers until 1915.

    In all, the lifeboat had 46 service launches and 116 lives were saved.

    Today, this area is served by the Beaumaris Lifeboat Station.


    I have been around Penmon for years, though I have to admit that I generally hang about near the lighthouse or wander north along the low cliffs toward Dinmor Quarry. It was not until December 30th, 2009, that I took the time to find the old lifeboat station.

    Today, it is a private house down a track below the Coastguard Lookout. The doors have been bricked up, though the route of the 150 yards slipway is obvious by the concrete supports to the old wooden slipway.

    Out of respect for the owners I have not included a photograph. I leave it for your discovery. It may be a private road, I'm unsure. Please let me know.


    It is not only this channel that is of concern to boats. Hazards are very apparent at low tide when you realise that main channel of the Menai Straits lies very close to Anglesey.

    Most of Conwy Bay is shallow, wide open miles of sandbanks that are deadly if one is negligent of the obvious dangers.


    It was the devastating disaster of the foundering of the passenger steamer The Rothsay Castle that highlighted the need for a lighthouse. The stark and ever-present dangers of this entrance to the Menai Straits at this point were renowned.

    PenmonThe captain of the Rothsay Castle was an obstinate individual who seemed to discount the appalling condition of his vessel in any of his marine judgements.

    As mentioned above, sandbanks stretch out for miles toward Anglesey from the Conwy coastline.

    Sailing between Liverpool and North Wales on August 17 1831, it was the capain's decision not to respond to passengers cries that he seek a sheltered harbour in very poor sea conditions.

    He arrogantly declined to act and retired below deck. It was a disaster assured.

    Inevitably the ship was driven against Dutchman's Bank, where it lost control before veering back into the main channel to strike and break up on the sandbanks. 130 lives were lost.

    I send my thanks to Andrew Weare in Anchorage, Alaska for finding and passing me the link during one of our recent interweb conversations. It is a list of names of the saved and lost souls gathered together by Jean Wood. My congratulations to her for her excellent research work:

    Passenger list for SS Rothsay Castle.

    It was only due to the courage and skills of the Beaumaris lifeboat and a crew of men from Penmon that 20 people survived the disaster.

    The ship's funnel fell on top of the captain. Sad, eh?

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    First of all, St Seiriol. Who was he?

    Well, apparently he was the great grandson of Cynedda Wledig who was one of the feudal Celtic princes whose family made its mark on North Wales by invading it. It’s what feudal Celtic princes used to do.

    PenmonSt Seiriol established the Priory in about AD54 and also a sister religious community on Puffin Island.

    Some - what I call ‘Sgooby Doo Researchers’ - have inferred an alternate history for the priory cum hospice that involves a Roman ‘Lady of the Lake’.

    I’ll introduce you to that entertaining theory on another page.

    Folklore has it that St Seiriol and St Cybi (Ynys Cybi - Holyhead) were very good friends and would meet at least once a week.

    St Seiriol would set out from the Penmon Priory and walk west toward Ynys Cybi (also known as ‘Holy Island') and St Cybi would walk eastwards. They would meet at Ffynnon Clorach (Clorach Well) near Llanerchymedd in the centre of the Island.

    Because Seiriol would be walking with his back to the rising sun and face the setting sun in the evening he became known as Seiriol Wyn (Seiriol the Fair). Cybi would be walking toward the rising and setting sun and was known as Cybi Felyn (Cybi the Yellow or Tanned).

    The location of Ffynnon Clorach is not known; however, the name remains apparent in the Llanerchymedd area. The sixth century well is long gone but if you were to travel from the village in the direction of Mynydd Bodafon then you will notice a farm a few miles out on your left is called ’Clorach’.

    (At the top of Llanerchymedd is a white converted windmill. Travel back down toward the village from here. There is a turning for council houses on your left – ignore this. About 30-40 yards further on is an extremely sharp right turning – take this. Take the time to enjoy a rural route that will eventually bring you to the California Inn and from there down to Benllech Beach.)

    Any indication of the prosperity of the early centuries of this monastic order were destroyed in the tenth century by pillaging Vikings, though it is believed that it did thrive. How did it thrive?

    Apart from offering religious and medical succour the monks of St Seiriol’s were consummate in commerce.

    Manufactured religious icons were exchanged for food and goods.

    In those hard times of the Celtic era these icons were believed to bring good luck.

    Such was the success of the Priory that St Seiriol would be obliged to get in his boat and row across the Sound to his island monastic retreat to meditate and pickle things.

    Edward Longshanks, Edward the First, King of England left the monastery alone, as it was merely on the periphery of a peripheral extension of the Welsh nation that rebelled against him. Mona was no longer the home of rebellion against the Romans, led and encouraged by the Druids in around AD60.

    The Priory was then revived by the Augistinians (Black Canons) in the 13th Century, when, it is thought, the fish pool was added.

    However, it did not escape the great dissolution of monastic orders under Henry VIII. Anglesey had no political standing in the Court of Henry, even though his own family had come from the island at Plas Penmynydd. Probably too embarrassed by the council to leave it alone.

    The property was then passed to the Bulkeleys of Beaumaris in 1537. It is they who added the Dovecote around 1600.

    ENTRANCE FEE I believe I paid £3 to park by the Priory this last Summer. It used to be free with the charge being for access the road down to the lighthouse.

    St Seiriol's Well - Ffynnon Seiriol

    You will find the well behind the monastery fish pool. First of all, the fish pool. Most well-located monasteries would have a fish pool as a managed food source.

    PenmonThe Holy Well lies at the end of a pleasant little path around the pool, which is today full of bird life.

    In Spring you will inevitably find fluffy little Moorhen chicks seeking out mischief among the reeds.

    Like all wells associated with saints, St Seiriol's Well is alleged to cure illness. It was regularly visited for this purpose.

    The water rises in a small chamber where some people still leave personal messages for wishes to be realised.


    Today, you will find plenty to occupy you among the ruined yet maintained buildings of the old Priory, the Dovecote, the fish pool and Holy Well.

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    The last time I visited Penmon my hands froze into useless claws.

    The time before that was the end of Summer and I just couldn't take it all in. How big the sky and how gloriously blue it was.

    How did you find it?

    Maybe it was a post-Christmas lunch trot?
    I bet you felt refreshed afterwards.

    We'd all love to learn your stories and feelings about Penmon.
    Just click here to share your memories.


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