Home to gannets, razorbills and a colony of Manx shearwaters
Located in the Bardsey Sound, two miles off the tip of the Llyn Peninsula, Bardsey Island is home to many rare plants and plenty of sea birds such as gannets and razorbills, but the most famous inhabitants are Manx shearwaters, with a breeding colony of 10,000 to 16,000 on the island.
Atlantic grey seals can be seen in the rocky bays, with a small number breeding on the island each year, and Risso’s dolphins and harbour porpoises are often seen in the island’s surrounding waters.
Bardsey is also home to the world’s rarest apple, Afal Enlli (Bardsey Apple), a survivor from an ancient orchard dating back 1,000 years that was not found anywhere else in the world. Today visitors can buy their own young Afal Enlli trees and take them home as a souvenir of their trip.
A mile and a half in length and half a mile wide at its widest point, Bardsey is a site of considerable significance in Snowdonia’s history and has been so for at least 1,500 years.
In the 6th century the Breton saint, St Cadfan, established a monastery on Bardsey, and the island flourished as an important place of pilgrimage. With 20,000 saints said to be buried on the island, by the early middle ages three pilgrimages to Bardsey were deemed as beneficial to the soul as one to Rome.
Throughout the middle ages the island retained its status as an important place of pilgrimage, and in the 13th century an Augustinian abbey, St Mary’s, was built, remaining in use until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537. The abbey’s roofless tower is the oldest standing building on the island, and is still used for informal services today.
Bardsey is also a significant location in the myths and legends of Snowdonia, with some believing it to be the mysterious Isle of Avalon from the Arthurian legends, and that King Arthur’s ship lies at the bottom of the Bardsey Sound, while Arthur himself sleeps in a cave on the island awaiting the day of Britain’s direst need when he will rise up to save his land.
The island is managed by the Bardsey Island Trust, which owns the island, in conjunction with the Countryside Council for Wales and CADW.
If you’re visiting Snowdonia and would like to experience the island’s wild serenity for yourself, Bardsey Island Boat Trips run regular day trips to the island throughout the season.