The burial site 20,000 or so Welsh saints
'The bodies of a vast number of holy men are buried there, or so they say’ (Gerald of Wales).
Remote and sacred, the holy island of Bardsey lays claim to be the burial site 20,000 or so Welsh saints. The figure may be exaggerated, but many ancient burial sites have certainly been found here. Described by the bards as ‘the road to Heaven, and the gate to Paradise’, three pilgrimages to the Abbey of St Mary were said to offer the equivalent salvation as one to Rome.
The ruined 13th-century Augustinian abbey tower is the most conspicuous ancient monument on the island. The abbey’s foundation is thought to date back to 516, when the Breton St Cadfan founded the first community of Celtic Christians here. A 9th-century carved stone from the site, bearing a weather-beaten inscription, can be seen in the nearby modern chapel.
A knotted old apple tree by Plas Bach is thought to be the sole survivor of the ancient abbey orchard. Experts today consider the Bardsey Apple (Afal Enlli) unique. Cuttings from the tree are now sold to raise funds for the Bardsey Island Trust, which bought the island in 1979 after a public appeal. The Trust is dedicated to preserving the wildlife and cultural heritage of Bardsey, and to promoting the island as a tourist destination of natural beauty and pilgrimage.
The island was declared a National Nature Reserve in 1986.
- Info Point
- Buggy Access
- Good Walks Nearby
- Family Walk
- Picnic Area
Boats leave from Porth Meudwy, Aberdaron. Parking just beyond Cwrt Farm on left in car park.
Nearest station Pwllheli - 16 miles
Buses to Aberdaron or Pwllheli
Dogs not allowed. Boats subject to weather conditions. Wheelchair users have to be carried onto the boat - advisable to discuss beforehand.
OS Full Grid Reference: SHv120221
OS Landranger map sheet: 123
- 0845 8112233
- 07971 769895
- St Mary's Abbey, Bardsey Island