Holyhead ( ; Welsh: Caergybi "the fort of Saint
Cybi") is the largest town in the
county of Anglesey in the north
west of Wales.
Although it is the largest town in the county, with a population of
11,237 (2001 census), it is neither the county town
nor actually on the island
of Anglesey. In fact, it is located on Holy
Island which is connected to Anglesey by Four Mile
Bridge, so called because it is four miles (6 km)
from Holyhead on the old post road from London, and a causeway
(known locally as "the cob") built by local philanthropist Lord Stanley in the 19th century.
causeway now carries the A5/A55 road and the railway line to Chester, Crewe and London.
Prehistoric and Roman history
St Cybi's Church at Holyhead
The town centre is built around St. Cybi
Church, which is built inside one of Europe
only three-walled Roman forts
wall being the sea, which used to come up to the fort).
Romans also built a watchtower on the top of Holyhead
Mynydd y Twr, a prehistoric hillfort.
Settlements in the area date from
prehistoric times, with circular huts, burial chambers
and standing stones
featuring in the highest
concentration in Britain. The current lighthouse is on South Stack on the other side of Holyhead Mountain and is open
to the public.
The area is also popular with
Holyhead has a busy
ferry port handling
more than 2 million passengers each year. Stena Line
, Europe's biggest ferry company,
operates from the port as do Irish
. Ferries sail to Dublin and Dún
Laoghaire in Ireland and this
forms the principal link for surface transport from central and northern England and Wales to Ireland.
There is archaeological evidence that people have been sailing
between Holyhead and Ireland for 4,000 years. Holyhead's maritime
importance was at its height in the 19th century when the two and a
half mile (4 km) breakwater, widely acknowledged to be
one of Britain's finest, was built, creating a safe harbour for
vessels caught in stormy waters on their way to Liverpool and the industrial ports of Lancashire.
Holyhead's sea heritage is remembered in a
Railway tracks on the outskirts of the
The post road built by Thomas Telford
from London strengthened Holyhead's position as the port from which
the Royal Mail
was dispatched to and from
Dublin on the Mail coach
. The A5 terminates at
Arch (1821), which was designed by Thomas Harrison to commemorate a
visit by King George
IV en route to Ireland and marks the zenith of Irish Mail coach
operations. In 2001, work was completed on the extension
of the A55 North Wales Expressway from the
Bridge to Holyhead, giving the town a dual carriageway connection to North Wales
and the main British motorway
The A55 forms part of Euroroute E22
and was funded in the main by money
from the European Union
. The Anglesey
section was financed through a Private Finance Initiative
opening of the railway from London to Liverpool, Holyhead lost the London to Dublin Mail contract
in 1839 to the Port of
Liverpool. Only after the completion of the Chester and Holyhead Railway in
1850 and the building of Holyhead railway station did the Irish Mail return to Holyhead.
Holyhead is currently the terminus of the North Wales Coast Line
and is served
by Virgin Trains
and Arriva Trains Wales
Holyhead's main industry is aluminium-based, with Rio Tinto Group's Anglesey
Aluminium subsidiary operating a massive aluminium smelter on
the outskirts of the town.
There is also a plant that
near the site. A large jetty in the
harbour receives ships from Jamaica and Australia, and their
cargoes of bauxite and aluminium ores are transported on a cable
belt rope driven conveyor belt that runs underneath the town to the
relies on its electricity supply from the island's nuclear power station at Wylfa, near
As this power station is due to close in
2010, there is speculation that the financial viability of the
plant is at risk.
- David Crystal, linguist and chair of the charity behind
Holyhead's arts centre, the Ucheldre Centre, lives in Holyhead.
- Francis Dodd, artist, was born in the town in 1874.
- John Fox-Russell, (1893 - 1917)
winner of the Victoria Cross
- Dawn French, comedienne, was born in the town in 1957.
- Glenys Kinnock, politician, was born in the town in 1944.
- Tony Roberts, Welsh international football player, was born in the town in
- Raymond Sweetman, bass guitarist, was born in the town in
- R.S. Thomas, poet, grew up in
- Ray Williams,
weightlifting Commonwealth gold medallist was born in the town in
- Tracy Morris (athlete) 1st British Woman in the 2004 London
Culture and sport
Holyhead hosted the National
in 1927. Holyhead is the start and finish point of
Holyhead's arts centre, the Ucheldre
, is located in the chapel of an old convent belonging to
of the Bon Sauveur
. It holds regular arts exhibitions,
performances, workshops and film screenings.
According to the United
Kingdom Census 2001
, 47% of the residents in the town can speak
. The highest percentage of
speakers is the 15 year old age group, where 66% can speak the
The town's main football
team is called
and they play
in the Cymru Alliance 
with their reserves playing in the Gwynedd League
. There is also Holyhead Gwelfor Athletic
play in the Anglesey League
Holyhead is also home to one of the first churches of the Jedi
Religion, founded by brothers Daniel and Barney
Jones early in 2008.
Holyhead's breakwater is also the longest in Europe.
Holyhead High school (previously County Secondary school) was the
first comprehensive school in the UK.
Use in popular culture
Holyhead is the home of a professional Quidditch
team operating within the fictional
Harry Potter universe
Holyhead Harpies are one of only
thirteen Quidditch teams that play in the professional Quidditch
League of Britain and Ireland that was established in 1674.
players wear dark green robes emblazoned with a golden talon across
the chest. They are unique in that only witches have played for
this all-female team.