Porth Diana, a Safe Harbour – Porth Castell, Less Vessels…

Still Life…

Double Act…

The ‘half-rhyme’ above is my (silly) way of helping people remember which bay is which! Yes, although both beaches are shouldered by rocks (made up of mica-schist), as well as backed by sea defenses and walls – and therefore much more protected than Trearddur’s main stretch of sand – it’s Porth Diana, with its small necked but wide-ish bay (as well as having an added buffer in the shape of a small offshore islet) that’s the one primarily used for mooring boats; chiefly those owned by members of the famous Trearddur Bay Sailing Club.

Porth Castell, as a consequence of being a little less sheltered, is therefore, the one with fewer craft – but all the better for swimming because of it; and often that little bit quieter too! Both bays are perfect for family picnics though – and some good-old-fashioned seaside fun besides…and not only for swimming and picnics – because (depending on the tide) there’s ample opportunity for snorkelling, building sandcastles, climbing, crabbing, exploring, beachcombing, fishing, and rockpooling too!

Catching Some Rays!

In my last blog, Rhoscolyn Ramblers go Roving #1, I detailed a few of the walking routes from Rhoscolyn to Trearddur – however, whichever one you go for, it’s Porth Castell you’ll reach first if arriving from this direction. Also, for more about Trearddur Bay Days in general, click the link!

The one thing I don’t seem to be able to find out though, is why they’re called what they are. Was ‘Diana’ (pronounced more like ‘Deeana’) a famous long-gone local lady, or is the bay simply named after the Roman Goddess of the hunt, the moon, and nature? Similarly, was there a castle situated near here in times gone by…or what? If anyone knows more about this, please do get in touch!

Castles in the Sand…

Hello Sailor!

Smaller than Porth Diana, you can climb down to Porth Castell from the seawall behind it (or even from the preceding bit of headland), but for those of you after an easier ascent, there’s a small set of concrete steps leading to it from its northern end. Heading down from the pavement (which suddenly appears on the left-hand side of the road here), these steps are close to the Sailing Club’s boat-park too. Along with the rocky outcrop it’s built on, the boat-park is the main thing separating the two bays. As well as a viewing seat, there are more steps (as well as a slipway) that lead down off it to neighbouring Porth Diana.

A Porth Diana Perch…

Remember though, both the boat-park and slipway (as far as boats are concerned) are for members of the Sailing Club only! However, you can walk through, down, or off them – no problem at all – as well as up onto the headland area (with more steps up to this – just behind it). For those interested in joining the club – check-out their website: www.tbsc.org/club. NB There’s a slipway for public launching close to the RNLI station on Trearddur Bay ‘proper’.

The Inner Sanctum…

Curb Appeal…

Be aware that Porth Castell is a little tricky to reach if you have a pushchair or similar, but the club’s slipway (at low tide) makes this easier as far as Porth Diana’s concerned. However, I wouldn’t recommend the headland walks with one to or from Rhoscolyn!

Otherwise though, it’s pretty easy to get from one bay to the other, as well as round to Trearddur’s main beach; which is to either continue along Ravens Point Road (past The Seacroft), or via the rocky headland footpaths that lead off the road at the northern end of Porth Diana – where the pavement runs out on the right. You can even reach it (depending on the tide – and with a fair bit of a scrambling) by climbing up and over the rocks from Porth Diana – again following the rocky headland footpaths once you’re up there! By the way, Porth Diana has a small section of beach on this end  – separated from the main part by another little rocky section.

A Slip of a Thing…

The pavement continues from behind Porth Castell around the back of neighbouring Porth Diana (with a small wall between it and the road at some points), but disappears again as the road sweeps around the next corner – appearing again for a short stretch close to the Seacroft. It then fades out anew – not emerging again until the road starts to shoulder the eastern side of the main (Trearddur Bay) beach at the bottom of the hill.

I mention all this because I’ve encountered some silly-drivers on this stretch of road. So, if you’re out walking (especially with dogs and/or small children) you’d be advised to ‘keep-in’ and keep an eye out – especially on the bits where there’s no pavement! There are double yellow lines on both sides of Ravens Point Road – so no parking, but Trearddur’s main car-parks aren’t far away; to find out more about the area’s parking spots – go to the end of the blog.

Action Packed…

In the Same Boat…

Interestingly, many of the craft moored in the bays here are ‘Clinker-built’; otherwise known as ‘Lapstrake’. This traditional form of boat-making, unlike those built in the ‘Carvel’ style (where the hull-planks are fastened edge to edge – gaining support from the frame and forming a smooth surface), requires the edges of the hull-planks to overlap – in a stepped fashion called a ‘land’ or ‘landing’ – which are then joined (end to end) onto a ‘strake’.

Ahoy there!

Developed in northern Europe, and by no means an easy technique to perfect, the Clinker method was used by Norsemen for centuries. However, as you’ll see, the hard work produces hulls that boast graceful, tapering curves – which, because they’re so distinct, emphasize the sinuous shape of the boats to perfection!  

 

 

    ‘Clinker’ vs ‘Carvel’ Construction…

 

My mum, along with her cousins and siblings, learnt to sail in boats like these – right here in Porth Diana!

Mum’s the Word (back row, second along)…

Without Reservation…

Did you know that at only 2.02 hectares Porth Diana is the smallest nature reserve on Anglesey? First managed (in 1979) by the National Trust – it now comes under the remit of the North Wales Wildlife Trust. This tiny conservation area is a small but integral part of the UK’s nationally important coastal heath areas, but was primarily protected in order to safeguard the rare spotted rock rose (Tuberaria guttata) that grows here.

Well Spotted!

This particular plant is Anglesey’s county flower and, as far a Britain goes, only grows on its western coasts; with the largest local colonies being on Holyhead Mountain and Porth Diana! The only place it’s found on the ‘mainland’ is the Llyn Peninsula – with all the other colonies being located on west coast islands such as ours.

A clifftop specialist, you’ll find the spotted rock rose growing in dry and ‘rocky’ places. Look out for its pretty red-flushed leaves and pale yellow petals, with vivid crimson spots at the base; it’s wee but wonderful! Although it flowers from June through to August, to see it in its full glory you have to be there at just the right time…as each blossom blooms only once, shedding its petals within hours; sometimes before midday! I’ve only managed it once!

Nature Trail…

Not the only plant to be ‘spotted’ here though; keep your eyes peeled for bell and common heather – as well sea thrift, spring squill and stonecrop – which also grow on the area’s rocks and open patches of grass and heathland. There’s also a healthy population of invertebrates including the green tiger beetle, mottled grasshopper, and common blue butterfly – to name but three. Rabbits are also a common sight (look out for their cliff-top burrows (as well as droppings) for signs of them being around. However, I recently heard that there’s been a national decline. In light of this, The Mammal Society want people to send in sightings of, amongst other creatures, wild rabbits and/or hares (another frequent sight on Anglesey) – with the data collected being used to form a national atlas, as well as to support future conservation. To find out more, and to record your own sightings, click the links!

History in the Making…

Also, keep an eye out for the blue heritage plaque on one of the houses called ‘Towyn Lodge’ on Ravenspoint Road; just where the pavement runs out after passing Porth Diana on the way to the Seacroft – it’s quite high up though! It celebrates the fact that Thomas Telford lived here whilst working on the design and construction of what’s now known as the A5; i.e. the London to Holyhead road. Yes, Telford (a stonemason, architect – and civil engineering genius) was given the task of building the Shrewsbury to Holyhead part of the route, and made his Anglesey base in pretty Trearddur! He was also responsible for building and renovating other vast lengths of British roads, including over 1200 miles in the Scottish Highlands!

High & Dry…

The most costly section he had to deal with on Anglesey, other than the Menai Suspension Bridge, was the Stanley embankment – which he built across the sands that vaguely joined Anglesey to Holy Island here – and all in under a year! Often referred to as the ‘Colossus of Roads’, amazingly Telford was largely self-taught! To find out more about his work on Anglesey you should read the ‘Embankment’ section of my blog entitled Filling in the Gaps: More Secrets of the Beddmanach Bay Area. Some of his other stunning feats of engineering can be found on mainland Wales and in nearby Cheshire, including the Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts – as well as the bridge at Conwy.

The wonderful ‘Arts and Craft’ style houses in the area might also grab your attention – and date back to the time the village began being known as a popular seaside destination! The term refers to the early 19th-century (mostly British and American) movement to revive handicrafts, which were deemed threatened by mass production and industrialisation. One of its main fans and instigators was the well-known designer-come-poet, William Morris. It was also the inspiration behind the ‘craftsman’ and ‘bungalow’ form of architecture; many examples of which, as I’ve said, can be seen in Trearddur. ‘Ty Llwyd’ (just across the road from the Seacroft; the house built for our great-grandmother) and Highground (shown below) are great illustrations of the type!

Living the High Life…

So too is the grade II listed ‘Porth y Castell’, with Cadw highlighting its being, “particularly characteristic of this type of architectural development around Porth Diana”. It retains many of its original features, including the distinctive roof, and small-paned casement windows – which, the last time I checked, were painted light-green. The castellated ‘Avilion’ (perhaps named because of Trearddur’s mythical link to King Arthur (Traeth = Beach Arddur = Arthur?), is another imposing property to look out for! Built in 1912, and based on the ‘French château’ style, it’s also listed – and known locally as ‘Pepperpots’ because of its distinctive turrets! I’ve considered whether Porth Castell gets its name from this house – but the bay’s moniker (as far as I can work out) seems to predate the house. For fabulous holiday cottages, to suit all budgets and tastes, in and around Trearddur, go to: www.menaiholidays.co.uk/trearddur-bay-cottages

Safe as Houses…

Below the Surface

Trearddur Bay is a Blue Flag beach and also Marine Conservation Society Recommended! So, with its crystal clear waters (except, of course, after heavy rain etc), and the surrounding coastline teeming with marine life – as well as the area being awash with wrecks and reefs – both bays are commonly used as a starting point for Scuba divers and snorkelers. Indeed, the area draws diving enthusiasts from around the world!

Nervous Wrecks…

However, it’s Trearddur’s underwater topography that’s the main attraction – which includes, rocky walls, multiple gullies, captivating cracks, and countless secret chambers! The maximum depth for shore dives is usually around 12m. There’s even a dedicated dive centre just behind Porth Diana, but it’s only open during peak season. When it is though, Diving Services Anglesey supplies Air and Nitrox on site, as well as stocking an extensive range watersports equipment, chandlery goods, leisure wear, beach paraphernalia – and sells ice-creams etc too!

Plus, their experienced PADI instructors run courses throughout the year. With years of practice in testing and servicing equipment behind them, click the link above (or call  01407 860318) for more information. They’ll also be happy to advise you on local dive sites – but for great online descriptions/videos of the Trearddur Bay dives, including from Porth Diana, click on any of the following:

Keep your Friends Close – and your Anemones Even Closer!

I completed the basic PADI course myself a fair few years back, but decided it wasn’t my thing – however, I’ve snorkelled here a lot! For an interesting outing from Porth Diana (at high tide), head out through the narrow gully that separates the headland from the little islet, then turn right and swim around it; obviously, you can do it in reverse too!  

You’ll see walls and ledges alive with kelp, oodles of anemones, bladderwrack, lots of limpets, rocks dotted with sea sponges and squirts, plus the macabre ‘dead men’s fingers’! Fish and crustation-wise, you’re sure to see at least a few of the following: blennies, baby congers, wrasse, dogfish, velvet crabs, spider crabs, prawns – and sometimes even lobsters!

It’s best to snorkel (or dive) just before high tide – but do bear in mind that when the tide is going out there can be a very strong current in the gully! Also, watch out for other currents (particularly on spring tides), and remember there can be a lot of surface traffic  – so it’s worth considering using surface-marker buoys!

A Drop in the Ocean…

Fishing and crabbing are also popular from the rocks around here – all the way round to Porth Y Garan (and beyond) via Ravens Point Gully to the south. Do be aware of waves hitting the lower ledges though; even passing boats can cause big swells! A catch here can include: codling, pollock, wrasse and dogfish – and a host of others! Offshore mackerel fishing can be super here during the summer months too!

Holy Mackerel!

RIB charter (for fishing, sightseeing and scuba trips) is available from the beaches here – two to try are:

For another local diving company go to: Anglesey divers, and for details about the annual Anglesey Scubafest (at Trearddur’s nearby Porth Dafarch) contact Anglesey Outdoors.

Letting Nature Take its Course…

Paddle Power

Furthermore, as with the main bay, Trearddur’s Porth Diana and Porth Castell, attract kayakers and canoeists (and coasteerers too) – with the best swells being when there’s a SW with a NE onshore wind. Anglesey Outdoors offers lessons, sessions and equipment hire, as does Trearddur Bay Marine Services (both links included above) – but for a Rhoscolyn to Trearddur trip, why not contact our local sea-kayaking specialist, Andy Short from BActive@Rhoscolyn? For those who want to buy one, we even have our very own sea-kayak maker in Holyhead – to find out more go to: www.seakayakinguk.com

All Walks of Life

For those keener on staying dry, if you walk northwest along the Anglesey Coastal Path you’ll pass through the main village of Trearddur Bay – then on to Porth y Post, Porth Y Pwll  and Porth Dafarch (which I’ll write about in my next blog) – and you can even reach Holyhead Mountain, the South Stack Lighthouse, and the nearby RSPB visitors centre from here. The views along the way are truly breathtaking, but do bear in mind the going gets trickier the further north you go!

For something a little gentler, head towards Rhoscolyn and Silver Bay in the South – directions for which are given in my last blog (Rhoscolyn Ramblers go Roving #1).

Unlike the main Trearddur Bay beach (where the larger, sandier section is dog free from 1st May until 30th September) there’s no a dog ban in force on Porth Castell or Porth Diana. However, Porth Dafarch is a dog free zone all year round! Please read the information boards the parking areas for more details.

You take the high road and I’ll take the low road…

Après Beach:

  • Closest to Porth Castell & Porth Diana is The Seacroft on Ravenspoint Road. It was both a Gold and Silver Award Winner at the 2012 Anglesey Tourism Awards, and is a lovely seaside spot to chill-out after a day in the water!
  • Our favourite breakfast and ice-cream spot, The Sea Shanty (with well-behaved dogs on leads allowed inside until 5pm), is next to the main car park on Lon St Ffraid.
  • For sustenance with a sea view however, there’s nothing in Trearddur to beat the Black Seal – and it has a fabulous gin-bar too!
  • There are usually refreshment/ice cream vans only a short walk away; close to the RNLI station on the other side of the main bay – and there are various other eating and drinking establishments in the village too – including a Chinese takeaway.  

Watching the Tide Roll Away…

Top Tips:

  • The bays face (more-or-less) west.
  • Latitude: 53.2725°N – Longitude: 4.6202°W
  • Trearddur’s main beach has warden there over the summer months  – and there’s also the Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station (and shop) on the right-hand-side of the main beach (if looking out to sea).
  • The headland area that flanks the bays is privately owned; they allow public access, but not campfires!
  • High and Low tide make a big difference to the size of all Trearddur’s bays and beaches.
  • Head-on westerlies provide large waves that can be huge during and after a storm – even washing up and over the Ravenspoint Road, Lon St Ffraid and Lon Isallt!
  • There’s a public WC to be found in the main (Trearddur Bay) car park; open from 15th March – 31st October.
  • There’s a Post Office and cashpoint at The Spar shop in Trearddur.
  • There’s a bait shop (and small cafe) attached to the Trearddur Bay Stores.
  • There’s a small RNLI shop next to the lifeboat station in Trearddur.
  • These are great bays for picnics (although fires are restricted) as you’ll often find some shelter from the wind.
  • There are lots of little paths crisscrossing the surrounding headland and rocks – you’ll even find some caves if you go exploring!.
  • These are super bays for watching the club’s sailing regattas – especially from the headland areas!
  • For upcoming events, and local goings-on, check out the community notice board outside the Spar shop. There’s also a Sailing Club notice board on Ravenspoint Road.
  • The cash machine on the wall outside the Spar costs money to use, and they don’t offer cash back inside (put you can use the Post Office there to withdraw cash) – however, the Trearddur Bay Store do!
  • Watch out for sailors, jet skis, and speedboats when out in the water!

Putting your Oar in…

Trearddur Parking: There’s plenty of parking in Trearddur – either (and especially) in the main car park – which you’ll find to the left of The Sea Shanty Cafe (across the road from the Spar Shop/Post Office) – as well as in the smaller one next to the The Black Seal Kitchen & Bar – but beware, they’re Pay & Display…although ‘sometimes’ free in the winter months! You might even find a free spots close to the RLNI Station & Shop, and roadside parking along Lon St Ffraid too (the main road ‘through’ the village)  – as well as in a number of other places – but again, these ‘free’ spaces are limited, and get taken early during busy periods.

So, for seaside fun close to the bustling village of Trearddur, secluded sands, gorgeous views, and wonderful walks throughout the year – head west to the safe harbour of Porth Castell and Pretty Porth Diana!