Holyhead Mountain walktop
- Location: Holyhead Breakwater Country Park
- Distance: 5 miles
- Description of this walk: A circular walk along a rugged coastal path to Holyhead Mountain.
- Map: O/S Explorer Map 262
- Download a map of this walk to print off and follow in Derek's footsteps. (PDF 1.2MB) Having trouble with the map? Download the latest version of Adobe Reader.
This walk was done using a GPS device and we've included GPS marker points with the directions, should you wish to follow them.
For this walk Derek teamed up with Coastal Path Officer - Rosie Frankland. This circular walk begins at the Breakwater Country Park, taking in North Stack, Holyhead Mountain, South Stack and Ellin's Tower.
The Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path is over 125 miles long and runs through some of the grandest coastal scenery in Wales with wide sandy bays and estuaries; intimate coves; dramatic cliffs sand dunes and forests.
Much of this coastline is designated as one of Wales' five 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty' and is popular with birdwatchers who come to see the visiting sea birds in summer.
1. Start of the walk: Breakwater Country Park
N 53.31645, W -4.66457
Walk out of the park past a large man-made pond and you'll quickly join up with the coastal trail. Head through a large wooden gate towards the cliffs where you'll notice large rock slides on the quarry face.
At one time there were up to eleven quarrying sites at the Breakwater Quarries and stone from here (7 million tonnes) was used to build the famous Holyhead Breakwater which was completed in 1873, making it the largest in Europe.
Walk through the old quarry for around 150 metres and head up some rock steps carved out of the hillside and up onto the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path.
2. Views over the breakwater
N.52.32065, W -4.66814
Behind you are views over Holyhead Harbour, two picturesque little bays below and the west coast of Anglesey in the distance.
Along this stretch you'll regularly spot ferries zipping in and out of the harbour en route to Ireland as you follow a rocky track towards North Stack.
The path here is very uneven, made up of scattered limestone rocks and lined with gorse, heather and a sprinkling of common and spotted orchids.
The trail has been created using local rock so tread carefully but don't forget to look up at the views as you might spot the odd porpoise in the turquoise blue water below.
3. Magazine hut
N 53.32040, W -4.67182
Head up the hill past an old stone munitions - magazine hut, once used by the quarry to store explosives and dynamite in.
Continue past the magazine hut and continue along a steepening path.
4. North Stack fog horn station
N 53.32244, W -4.68048
Keep right and stay on a winding coastal path until you arrive at North Stack fog horn station.
The fog horn station is now redundant and is home to local artist, Philippa Jacobs. She now lives and paints at the station and occasionally opens it up to the public for exhibitions.
Trinity House, the ornate stone magazine hut was used to store gunpowder for a large canon that was once positioned on the cliff top.
The canon would fire warning shots to any passing ships venturing too close to the rocks but eventually fell into the sea. It has since been recovered and is now on show at the Breakwater Country Park.
The views from North Stack are staggering as you are surrounded by steep sea cliffs with seals and porpoises below, sea birds above and rock climbers somewhere in between.
Directly beneath the stack is an enormous sea cave and inaccessible small beach where grey seals give birth to their pups in autumn.
You'll often see climbers dangling from ropes along the steep cliff here but be extremely careful where you walk as the drops are sheer and you definitely need to keep an eye on children and pets.
From here there are sweeping views over to nearby South Stack with its towering sea cliffs surrounded by wide expanses of blue sea and you can see why an artist would choose to live here.
The light is constantly changing, with every passing weather front but it must be a frightening spot to be perched on, during violent winter storms.
Old telegraph station
From here head south along the coastal footpath towards Holyhead Mountain passing an old ruined telegraph station, which has long since been reclaimed by nature.
The telegraph station was built by the Trustees of Liverpool Docks in 1827 and was the most westerly station along the North Wales coast.
A signal from here could be conveyed along the line in as little as 23 seconds.
Heading down hill now, you'll spot a winding trail taking you off to the left and up a steep, indistinct rocky track towards the mountain summit at 220 metres and the Iron Age hill fort of Caer y Twr.
5. Caer y Twr hill fort
N 53.31339, W -4.67503
The forts defensive walls comprises of naturally occurring, rocky outcrops as well as quite extensive stone ramparts to the north and east of this seven hectare site - (approximately three football pitches in size).
The fort was probably occupied during Roman times and the conquering Romans continued to use the site as a watchtower to keep an eye on Irish Sea raiders. You can still find remains of the watchtower on the summit.
Opposite the fort, on a ridge overlooking Gogarth Bay is a small, Bronze Age burial cairn: N 53.31150, W -4.68206
Once you reach the trig point, you'll be rewarded with 360 degree views over Holyhead harbour, Y Carneddau and Snowdon, standing at 1085 metres high.
From the top, wander down in a southerly direction through a rocky landscape and onto a wide path leading to South Stack and Ellin's Tower.
Rare wild flowers
Along the way we were joined by RSPB Head Warden, Dave Bateson who gave us an insight into the habitat, wild flowers and sea birds found along the coast here.
Dave pin pointed the rare spotted-rock rose that cling to the dry, rocky areas, hidden within the scrub along the sides of the path.
This tiny plant with yellow and crimson-spotted petals, only flowers once, and drops its petals within a few hours, making it extremely difficult to find.
Another species endemic to South Stack is the spatulate fleawort - found here and nowhere else on the planet.
6. Views over South Stack
N 53.30728, W -4.6946
Following the path, you come to an old ruined building on the cliff top directly above South Stack lighthouse which on a wet and windy day would provide excellent shelter.
The 91 feet tall lighthouse has been warning ships of danger since 1809 and the cliffs above it are a great place to perch amongst the pink sea thrift and watch the sea birds down below.
From here you'll see choughs, various gulls, the odd puffin and peregrine, thousands of guillemots and razorbills and the occasional porpoise.
To your right are nice views down over North Stack and the Skerries further out to sea in the distance.
You might also recognise the rocks below the bridge at South Stack. It was here that the Roxy Music album cover for 'Siren' was photographed, featuring Jerry Hall as a mermaid draped over jagged volcanic rocks with Ellin's Tower in the background.
7. Ellin's Tower
N 53.30433, W -4.69311
The tower is easily accessible and one of the few places in Wales where you can literally park your car, have a bite to eat and walk just a few hundred yards and see thousands of visiting sea birds such as guillemot, puffin, chough, fulmar, razorbill and gannet.
The tower is actually a Victorian folly, built as a summer house by the Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey for his wife, Ellin Williams in 1868.
The RSPB staff on hand, have scopes for you to use along with a remote controlled video camera to help pin point the elusive puffins, so pop in and have a look if you're down that way.
You can also watch nesting choughs, tucked under the cliff, thanks to a video camera which streams live footage onto a giant plasma screen inside the tower.
Leaving the tower, walk back up the steps and head across the road you walked down earlier.
8. Mountain track
N 53.30641, W -4.69332
Follow a track leading up behind the small car park above Ellin's Tower and onto the top, heading back towards the mountain and a concrete trail in the distance.
Follow the path north-east as it skirts around the base of Holyhead Mountain: N 53.31058, W- 4.67690 taking you past its southern end.
9. Medieval field boundaries
N 53.31149, W -4.66697
The track runs fairly parallel to South Stack Road which is an alternative route. Head into the fields where you'll encounter old medieval field boundaries and follow the track between some old dry-stone walls: N 53.31149, W-4.66697.
10. End of the walk: Back to Breakwater Country Park
N 53.31378, W -4.66247
Follow the walls and at a cross-roads in the paths, walk straight across until you reach a lane.
Turn left by some houses and turn left again at the T-junction and walk to the end of the lane.
A path then bears left, then right, following a fenced path.
Walk down a set of steps and you will find yourself back at the Country Park.
Take a look at photos taken during the Holyhead walk.
Follow in Derek's footsteps as he walks through stunning locations in Wales.
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