Druids, Saints & Geology: A Brief History of Rhoscolyn

This pretty seaside village is the most southerly settlement on Holy Island. The name Rhoscolyn is said to mean ‘The Moor’ (Rhos) ‘of The Column’ (colyn), referring to a pillar that the Romans put up to mark the edge of their territories. Indeed, the Druid’s ‘last stand’ against the Romans is thought to have been fought on the ‘inland-sea’, just a stone’s throw away.

At the end of the 18th century, there was a thriving oyster catching industry here; you can still find the shells on the beaches. Rhoscolyn is also famous in terms of geology, the main interest being the presence of a prominent, plunging fold known as the Rhoscolyn Anticline. It’s a remarkable field laboratory, and therefore a major attraction to anyone fascinated with topology.

The remarkable coastal feature, known as Bwa Gwyn (White Arch), was once the scene of industrial activity, to which the old grindstone on its summit remains as witness. The rock here is composed of Holyhead Quartzite, and led to the production of china clay rock, which was at one time quarried here.

The striking White Arch (or Bwa Gwyn) on Rhoscolyn's coastline

There’s also the story of St. Gwenfaen, who’s cloister was sited in Rhoscolyn in the early part of the 6th century. Legend has it that she was chased from her cell by the Druids, escaping by climbing a rock stack just off the coast at Porth Saint. When the tide came in it’s said she was carried off by angels. Rhoscolyn’s church is named after her, as is the ‘holy’ well on the headland.

Rhoscolyn History: The old lifeboat house an be seen across the bay from the beach.

There was once a lifeboat station in the bay which you can see from the beach which was operating from 1830 to 1929.  If you have cause to go to the village hall you can see the record of call-outs and lives saved, and sadly lost.  Probably the most signficant incident was the launch of ‘Timbo’. En route to Ireland from Holyhead on 1st December 1920, the small coaster was overcome by a storm of South Stack.  As Timbo began to drift down the coast, the Rhoscolyn lifeboat was launched.  After a number of failed attempts to get a line aboard her, the cox decided no more could be done and began its return to the bay.  The lifeboat capzised and five of the 13 man crew were lost, and shortly after, four men from the Timbo as well.

More recently, the steamship Bobaro crashed into rocks off Rhoscolyn in 1955.  George Lees captured members of the Rhoscolyn Lifesaving Association rescuing 33 crew members. below:

rhoscolyn shipwreck bobaro

Whilst exploring, keep an eye out for another piece of maritime history.  A stone memorial on the cliffs commemorating the life of ‘Tyger’, a sea captain’s dog who pulled four men ashore when their vessel was wrecked off the coast here in 1819.