The small town of Menai Bridge, 4km (2 1/2 miles) west of Bangor, has several points of interest. Take a stroll westward along the Belgian Promenade, a walk constructed along the strait during World War II by Belgian refugees. You can go under the bridge, past some standing stones, which were recently erected, and Coed Cyrnol, a pinewood, to Church Island. The island's 14th-century Church of St. Tysilio was originally founded in the 7th century by St. Tysilio, son of the royal house of Powys and grandson of St. Pabo. St. Pabo is believed to have been a northern British chief who sought asylum on Anglesey. Call the tourist centre (tel. 01248/713177) for information.
Menai Bridge is the site every October 24 of the Ffair-y-Borth fair, which has been held here since the 16th century. Today, it's really a flea market, not worth a trip unless you're in the area. This is an excellent place from which to view the Menai Strait sailing regatta in August each year.
Some 4km (2 1/2 miles) northeast of Menai Bridge lies the tiny town of Beaumaris, the site of the largest of Edward's "iron ring" of castles. A small settlement grew up around the castle, developing into a major port and making Beaumaris a trading center until the coming of the railroad.
Today the peaceful little town welcomes visitors who come to see Beaumaris Castle (tel. 01248/810-361), with its evocative moat and drawbridge. The unfinished castle, sitting in marshland on Menai's shore, was given the French name, meaning "beautiful marsh." It is an outstanding example of medieval military architecture, featuring concentric rings of defensive walls.
Construction on the castle began in 1295 and it was defensible by 1298. In those days the sea came up to the southern walls, and on certain tides small ships could reach the castle directly. Visitors can see the original ring where the ships were tied up.
The best way to view the castle ruins is to walk along the outer walls. You can also visit the state apartments that were once occupied by royalty. Soldiers were garrisoned in the towers, and the chapel tower contains a vaulted Gothic ceiling with five pointed windows.
Visits are possible April to October daily from 9:30am to 5pm; from November to March, Monday to Saturday from 9: 30am to 4pm. Admission is 3.70£ for adults and 3.30£ for seniors, students, and children 16 and under; family tickets cost 10£.
Llanfair PG (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch)
Practically a suburb of Menai Bridge is a village to the west that has been heard of all over the world. Its fame is its name: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, or something like that. It means "St. Mary's Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave." It has been suggested that perhaps the name was invented as a tourist attraction. You can get the longest train platform ticket in the world from the station here, giving the full name. On maps and most references it is usually called "Llanfair PG" to differentiate it from several other Llanfairs in Wales. The first Women's Institute in Britain was founded here in 1915.
You're sure to see the Marquess of Anglesey Column (www.angleseyheritage.org), standing 27m (90 ft.) high on a mount 76m (250 ft.) above sea level. It has a statue of the marquess on top, to which visitors can climb (115 steps up a spiral staircase). The marquess lost a leg while he was second in command to the duke of Wellington at Waterloo and was thereafter called "One Leg" ("Ty Coch" in Welsh). The column is open year-round daily 9am to 5pm, charging £1.50 for adults, 75p for seniors and children.
About 1.6km (1 mile) southwest of the village with the long name, on the A4080, from a turn off the A5 almost opposite the Marquess of Anglesey Column, is Plas Newydd, Llanfair PG (tel. 01248/715272; www.nationaltrust.org.uk), standing on the shores of the Menai Straits. It was the home of the seventh marquess of Anglesey but is now owned by the National Trust. An ancient manor house, it was converted between 1783 and 1809 into a splendid mansion in the Gothic and neoclassical styles. Its Gothic Hall features a gallery and elaborate fan vaulting. In the long dining room, see the magnificent trompe l'oeil mural by Rex Whistler. A military museum houses relics and uniforms of the Battle of Waterloo, where the first marquess of Anglesey lost his leg. The beautiful woodland garden and lawns are worth visiting. The mansion is open to visitors. The gardens are open Saturday to Wednesday noon to 5pm from March to October, whereas the home can be visited only from Easter to November 2, Saturday to Wednesday from noon to 5pm. A combined ticket for both the house and garden costs £7 for adults and £3.50 for children 15 and younger; it's £18 for a family ticket.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.