As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to Anglesey, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of local attractions in this glorious Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Wales.
Meet Myfanwy, a woolly mammoth dredged up in Holyhead harbour, in the town's maritime museum, wince at torture chambers at the gruesome Beaumaris Gaol, or discover some of Wales; loveliest gardens at Plas Cadnant – hidden from the world since the 1930s but now open for visitors to enjoy once again.
The coastal landscape of the Anglesey AONB may be the island's biggest draw but there are plenty of wonderful heritage sites and family-friendly things to see and do which deserve your attention too. There are nature parks to keep children entertained, museums where you can brush up on local heritage, visitor centres for rainy days and stunning gardens to wander around.
If you wake to rain and the kids are itching for something fun to do, a trip to Anglesey’s favourite nature world could be the thing. Let your little ones loose in the verdant butterfly garden, get close up to tarantulas and other hairy creepy crawlies, meet a host of feathered friends in the birdhouse, have a fluffy cuddle with a rabbit and take a stroll through the farmyard and pet pygmy goats and pigs. Toddlers can let off steam at the soft play area whilst bigger kids can tackle the adventure playground. pilipalas.co.uk
Anglesey Sea Zoo
Let the kids get up close to 150 species of Britain's most spectacular marine life in Anglesey’s compact award-winning sealife centre on the banks of the Menai Strait. Little ones will enjoy the thrill of being splashed by the waves and spotting small sharks underfoot on the grid walk. There are interactive displays and exhibits, and children can help feed the creatures or take part in a sea safari. There's a playground with bouncy castle and a super little café serving homemade snacks and lunches. A great place to while away an hour or two. Families can use the same tickets for 7 consecutive days making this one of Anglesey's best value attractions. angleseyseazoo.co.uk
Foel Farm Park
Get involved in farm life at this friendly animal park in Anglesey. Kids will love getting their hands mucky feeding and petting the animals, trundling along on the tractor rides and riding the ponies – there's a trailer ride pulled by a quad bike for older ones. If there's any unspent energy at the end of the day, there's always the fantastic playground with bouncy castle to tire them out. Head home with some choccies purchased from the chocolate shop onsite. foelfarm.co.uk
Holyhead Maritime Museum
Housed in Wales' oldest surviving lifeboat house, this museum offers a fascinating insight into the rich maritime history of Holyhead and the Irish Sea. Learn about local shipwrecks and the tragic story of HMS Thetis – a submarine which flooded on its first sea trial in 1939 killing 99 men. Meet Myfanwy, the woolly mammoth dredged up in the harbour in 1863, and find out about the impact of the world wars on Holyhead and its inhabitants – there's even an air raid shelter next door to wander around. Round off your visit off with a bite to eat at the Harbourfront Bistro. holyheadmaritimemuseum.co.uk
National Trust-owned Swtan (a name believed to be derived from a local species of fish which was caught here) is a fully restored 17th-century thatched cottage – the last of its kind in Wales. Delve back into history to discover what life was like for families living here in the 19th century, what they ate, how they slept, what they did for work. swtan.cymru
Take a detour from Anglesey's sunny shores and delve into the chilling world of Victorian prison life. Pick your way around a network of bleak cells, torture chambers and work rooms; learn about breakouts and punishments and wince at the merciless treadmill and whipping posts, still in situ. Plenty of informative exhibits and displays and a fantastic team of volunteers to help you get the most out of your visit. A brilliant museum detailing an intriguing and fascinating, albeit rather grim, aspect of Anglesey's social history. visitanglesey.co.uk/en/about-anglesey/heritage/
RSPB South Stack Visitor Centre
This granite islet of South Stack, cut off from Holyhead Island from 30 metres of turbulent water, supports one of Anglesey's most iconic landmarks. Scale down 400 steps cut into the steep cliff to the visitor centre where you can take a tour of the lighthouse's engine room and exhibits, before climbing the steps to the top. It's also a great place to get the binoculars out and watch flocks of guillemots, razorbills and puffins. rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/south-stack-cliffs/
Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens
Lost to the world for most of the 20th century, these glorious gardens on the banks of the Menai Strait – originally the private estate of local gentry, the Price family – have now been restored to their former glory. Along the way, waterfalls have been discovered, as well as walled gardens, pools, a folly, and an endless series of footpaths which crisscross the estate – it's easy to lose the crowds, even on a hot summer's day. Fringing the formal gardens are wild woodlands and magical hidden valleys which beg exploration. There's a tea room serving homemade cake and tea in proper silver teapots. A real hidden gem. plascadnant.co.uk
The history surrounding the ancestral home of the Marquess of Anglesey can be traced back to the 14th century; the 7th Marquess still retained rooms at the house until his death in 2013 – you can now visit his cluttered study, with pens scattered, notebooks open and the faintest whiff of cigar smoke, just as he left it. Wander the maze of rooms in the main house and see how the family lived – don't miss artist Rex Whistler's 58-foot mural in the dining room. The gardens include 169 acres of parkland and woodland, an Italiante terrace, an Australasian arboretum, and an adventure playground with a treehouse for kids. There's a courtyard tea rooms and gift shop, too. nationaltrust.org.uk/plas-newydd-house-and-garden
For information on characterful accommodation, local food and drink, and outdoor adventure activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Anglesey