You know when you go back to an old childhood haunt and you realize that it wasn’t all that great. It was so appealing because you were young and on holiday.
Last weekend we took a trip to Anglesey, which had the potential to be one of the above cases. This is somewhere I know very well. As a child our family spent nearly every summer holiday in first tents, and then later caravans on the Isle of Anglesey. I remember bucolic days spent collecting shrimps and flatfish in tidal rivers; searching for adders amongst the sand dunes; and cooling down by swimming in the not so tropical Irish Sea.
Last year I suggested to my wife that we go on holiday there together. I had found a restaurant called Sosban and the Old Butchers who were making a name for themselves with their inventive tasting menu. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get up there in 2015, hence our visit this year instead. Initially she wasn’t too sure about the island. Our previous visits had been a day trip before we were married. We had spent a very wet weekend camping at the foot of Mount Snowdon. As a break from walking in the rain we took a drive in the rain to Anglesey. Unfortunately the weather meant that we couldn’t actually see anything, so the island in such a grey state didn’t make a good impression. Our only other visit had been a passing drive to the ferry port in Holyhead on the way to Ireland. Holyhead is not a pretty town. Somebody somewhere sold the place a job lot of pebbledash. Which is a bit of a shame, because it has a lot going for it in terms of location. But she is open-minded enough to give the place another try.
The weather forecast again wasn’t looking too good, but we headed up anyway. And boy are we glad that we did. Fortunately the worry that this would be another of the above cases of disappointment didn’t materialize. The predicted rain was replaced by lovely sunshine. We spent 3 glorious days watching wildlife and walking on long sandy beaches.
The first day we went to Newborough. This has to be one of the best beaches in the country. It has pretty much everything you would want: A long sandy beach, backing onto a huge pine forest which is filled with the loveably cute Red Squirrel, stunning views across to the rugged Snowdonia mountain range, a sheltered bay safe for swimming in and an island full of wildflowers and loads of one of the country’s most charismatic sea birds – the Oystercatcher.
The next day we went to South Stack. Located right on the western tip of the island, this lighthouse is only reachable via a set of steep steps and a small footbridge across and is a great place to see seabirds. I couldn’t believe how busy the place was. So many people had come up to see the 8000 Guillemots and the 1000 Razorbills, and Fulmars that cling to the vertical cliffs. Apparently there are a small number of puffins too, but we missed seeing any. We took a trip up to the top of the lighthouse, where we did manage to spot a dolphin (or porpoise – my skills are not up to scratch yet to say definitively which it was). I saw it about 6 times before my wife managed to catch a view. I suspected that she was beginning to think I was making it up till she got her view of it breaking the surface. After here we went to Rhosneigr. This is another great long sandy beach. It also has some of the best rockpools in the country. Some of them are huge and stuffed with wildlife. I unsuccessfully chased an incredibly fast moving shoal of sand eels, but then caught some huge fish including our first ever pipefish.
Later we returned back to South Stack for the sunset, which unfortunately didn’t reach it’s full potential due to distant clouds. But I managed to get a few photos anyway.
Day three saw us return back to Newborough to watch the red squirrels and take a walk through the woods. We had picked up some OS 1:25,000 maps, this meant that we could wander round the woods without technology but also without getting lost. Although the geek in me likes the fact that you can now download the electronic version of any new OS map to an app on your phone. It’s certainly useful as a backup in case your map reading skills let you down (assuming you have enough charge).
As for food, we had a great lunch of lobster and chips at the Maram Grass Café, but more importantly the main reason that we went to the Island; Sosban and the Old Butchers. The food was absolutely fantastic. They don’t produce a menu; you get what arrives at the table. We had 7 courses of some of the tastiest most inventive food that I’ve had anywhere, and I am someone who likes their food. If you do get the chance to eat there then I cannot recommend it highly enough. Careful though, they are only open on Thursday and Friday evenings, along with Saturday lunch and dinner, currently booked up till September.
This is definitely somewhere we will be returning to.