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Holyhead ( ; Welsh: Caergybi "the fort of Saint Cybi") is the largest town in the county of Angleseymarker in the north west of Walesmarker.

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 Islandmarker which is connected to Anglesey by Four Mile Bridgemarker, 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. The causeway now carries the A5/A55 road and the railway line to Chestermarker, Crewemarker and Londonmarker.

Prehistoric and Roman history

St Cybi's Church at Holyhead


The town centre is built around St. Cybi's Church, which is built inside one of Europe's only three-walled Roman forts (the fourth wall being the sea, which used to come up to the fort). The Romans also built a watchtower on the top of Holyhead Mountainmarker inside 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 Stackmarker on the other side of Holyhead Mountain and is open to the public. The area is also popular with birdwatchers.

Transport

The Port of Holyheadmarker 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. Ferries sail to Dublinmarker and DĂșn Laoghairemarker in Irelandmarker and this forms the principal link for surface transport from central and northern Englandmarker and Walesmarker to Irelandmarker. 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 Liverpoolmarker and the industrial ports of Lancashiremarker. Holyhead's sea heritage is remembered in a maritime museum.
Railway tracks on the outskirts of the town.




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 Admiralty Archmarker (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 Britannia Bridgemarker to Holyhead, giving the town a dual carriageway connection to North Wales and the main British motorway network. 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 scheme.

With the opening of the railway from London to Liverpoolmarker, Holyhead lost the London to Dublin Mail contract in 1839 to the Port of Liverpoolmarker. Only after the completion of the Chester and Holyhead Railway in 1850 and the building of Holyhead railway stationmarker 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 services.

Industry

Today, Holyhead's main industry is aluminium-based, with Rio Tinto Group's Anglesey Aluminiummarker subsidiary operating a massive aluminium smelter on the outskirts of the town. There is also a plant that refines bauxite near the site. A large jetty in the harbour receives ships from Jamaicamarker 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 plant.

The plant relies on its electricity supply from the island's nuclear power station at Wylfamarker, near Cemaes Baymarker. As this power station is due to close in 2010, there is speculation that the financial viability of the plant is at risk.

Famous people



Culture and sport

Holyhead hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1927. Holyhead is the start and finish point of the Anglesey Coastal Pathmarker.

Holyhead's arts centre, the Ucheldre Centre, is located in the chapel of an old convent belonging to the order 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 Welsh. The highest percentage of speakers is the 15 year old age group, where 66% can speak the language.

The town's main football team is called Holyhead Hotspur and they play in the Cymru Alliance [27186], with their reserves playing in the Gwynedd League. There is also Holyhead Gwelfor Athletic who 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. The Holyhead Harpies are one of only thirteen Quidditch teams that play in the professional Quidditch League of Britain and Irelandmarker that was established in 1674. The team 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.

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