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Guided round Anglesey by a voice from the past

We’re the anomaly heading into Wales on the A55. We’ve no fluorescent wet-suits, no bumper sticker that reads: ‘On the seventh day God went surfing.’

And we’re the only ones using a 12th century monk as a tourist guide. 

‘You will find much on Anglesey which is worthy of your attention,’ Gerald of Wales scribbled in 1188.

He wrote that before Crazy Golf and Mister Whippy were invented, but he was right.

Home for the week is Maes-Y-Gwyddau, Welsh for The Goose Field – a whitewashed stone cottage with walls three feet thick in the village of Rhoscolyn. We’re sheltered in a dip between farm fields crowded with thistles and buttercups and inquisitive cows that nibble the clothes on our washing line. A short stagger away there’s a great pub called the White Eagle. On summer weekends live music and grilling steaks drift across the headland as barrels of Titanic and Robinson’s empty into thirsty accountants from Cheshire.

Like Gerald we’ve much to see and learn. Shipwrecks are dotted around this coast, including the tragic Royal Charter, which was broken up on the rocks in 1859 with the loss of over 400 lives. Dickens visited the scene and reported on the aftermath.

Edward I’s Beaumaris Castle towers above the eastern entrance to the Menai Straits and is a fantastic example of the work of Master James of St George. The master mason’s budget of £250 a week in north Wales had shrunk to £20 a week by the time it came to building Edward’s Scottish castles. No more bacon butties or builder’s teas for those unhappy brickies. 

We chance upon a harbour kiosk in Moelfre that serves great breakfast sandwiches. Rain slants in, but we don’t care. We’re parked up against the sea wall munching on sausage and egg, milky coffees steaming the windscreen. When the rain clears we learn about the exploits of legendary lifeboat coxswain Dick Evans, including his crew’s rescue of eight men in 100mph winds and 40ft waves.

Jacob Lakin in Anglesey

On the last day we head to rocky shores in search of pirates and treasure chests for Joe and Jake. We take a lane hemmed in by gorse and ancient dry-stone walls spotted with mustard lichen. The Dublin ferry is a wisp of white on the horizon. 

Thankfully, with five- and two-year-olds crossing their legs in the back, the toilets at Church Bay are spotless. Toilets, clean beaches and discreet wardens seem to be consistent across the island. We’re hungry and grab an armful of delicious cheese and ham salad baguettes from the Wavecrest Cafe. Steep, caramel cliffs give way to pebbles and soft sand. Gerald says the Earl of Shrewsbury ran out into the sea in 1098 to attack Orkney pirates. He got an arrow in the eye for his trouble. You’ve got to feel sorry for him. Harold stole all the ‘arrow in eye’ headlines just 30 years earlier. The only threat of conflict today concerns the dwindling stocks of cream teas at the cafe.

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