The island of 20,000 saints
The tiny island of Bardsey, little more than half a mile square, lies off the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula. Its exposed setting, reflected in its Welsh name Ynys Enlli, meaning the 'island in the currents', has proved irresistible over the years to those seeking spiritual enlightenment through isolation and religious devotion.
A popular destination for medieval pilgrims (three pilgrimages to Bardsey were said to offer the equivalent salvation as one to Rome), the island had originally been a 5th-century refuge for Christians fleeing persecution. Then in 516 Saint Cadfan, a Breton nobleman, arrived and founded a monastery. Much later, Saint Mary’s Abbey was built. For centuries afterwards, the island became ‘the holy place of burial for all the bravest and best in the land’, known to Bards as ‘the road to heaven and the gate to paradise’.
Little of the old abbey remains today. Only a small section of the bell tower, dating from the 13th century, escaped the ravages of the Reformation and Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries, the rest being demolished in 1537. A Celtic cross stands amidst the ruins in remembrance of the 20,000 saints reputed to be buried here.
The island also boasts abundant flora and fauna. Its position on the migration routes of many species of birds, coupled with a complete absence of modern farming practices, means it is a habitat of European importance – and one of the best places in Wales to see grey seals, dolphins and porpoises.
- Accessible by Public Transport
- 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 on to the boat - Advisable to discuss before hand.
Full Figure Grid Reference SH 116210
OS Landranger map sheet: OS 123
- 0845 8112233
- 07971 769895
- Bardsey Island, Bardsey Island, LL53 8DE