'Royal' Anglesey, William and Kate's island of love

By Nick Horton
BBC Wales

Image caption,
If William and Kate fancy a Sunday afternoon stroll, Anglesey has plenty of stunning views on its coastal path

Anglesey is probably the least likely first home for any newly-wed royals in recent memory.

This island on the north-west tip of Wales is a long way from London or the English shire counties traditionally favoured by princes, princesses, dukes and their like.

So as Prince William and his bride Kate settle into married life next year on Anglesey, what does it have to offer the royals - and any new visitors tempted to follow their path?

Image caption,
The railway station at Llanfairpwll - or you can try the longer version of the name, if your prefer

First of all, new visitors will realise that Anglesey is not its only name.

Most people on the island speak Welsh, and to them it is Ynys Môn, or just Môn.

Its motto is also Môn Mam Cymru, or Anglesey, the Mother of Wales.

The language also gives Anglesey the distinction of the UK's longest place name. It is a 58-character tongue-twister which the people of Wales are regularly required to recite to impress visitors.

Here goes.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch translates as "The church of St Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St Tysilio's of the red cave".

Of course, you could save time by following the locals and just say Llanfair PG.

Many of Anglesey's attractions are seasonal because the economy depends heavily on tourism, although there has been a big push to establish the island as a year-round holiday destination in recent years.

Some would argue, though, that outside the main tourist season the beauty of the island comes into its own.

Award-winning beaches, 125 miles (200km) of coastal path and the "fantastic weather" can often best be enjoyed without other people around. It should be pointed out, however, that "fantastic weather" was said by a local with tongue definitely in cheek.

If William and Kate are foodies, they will be catered for by a number of small intimate restaurants around the island serving locally sourced produce.

Image caption,
Home sweet home will be on Anglesey for the royal newly-weds

And should those meals lack a little flavour, they can sprinkle on a little Anglesey Sea Salt. Its producers claim it is "making its way onto the menus of top restaurants throughout the world".

Jane Blakey, the chair of the Anglesey Tourism Association, unsurprisingly described it as a wonderful place to live.

"I think we are custodians of what there is here and are very lucky to preserve and keep this beautiful place," she said.

She added that tourism was key to the island, which offered the bustle of towns such as Beaumaris or Llangefni, as well as areas of "breathtaking scenery" and "solitude".

As if that were not enough, she called the people of Anglesey "very warm and welcoming."

'Thrilled to bits'

William and Kate are already pretty familiar figures on the island. But despite the potential publicity of a royal couple on the doorstep, the tourism association said it had been careful to "respect their privacy".

"I think this is true of the people on the island too, as he is entitled to his privacy and if he goes out here he won't be hassled," she added.

Ms Blakey said she was "thrilled to bits" with the wedding announcement, adding: "It's just what the country needs at this time of doom and gloom".

Image caption,
Anglesey is proud of its heritage and history, but places like Holyhead also boast modern architecture

The economic downturn has not spared Anglesey, with heavy job losses over recent years.

Some 390 lost their jobs when Anglesey Aluminium shut down its smelter plant at Holyhead - the main port town on the island - last year.

One possible saviour on the jobs front - although not everyone agrees - is the inclusion of the island as a possible location for a new nuclear power station.

The current Wylfa power station has been given permission to carry on producing electricity until 2012.

And what of those who imagine that Anglesey is "out in the sticks"?

Well, locals will argue that no fewer than three capital cities can be reached quite easily.

First, there is the traditional "Irish Mail" train route to London, some 270 miles (434 km) away.

'Ieuan Air'

Second, to get to Dublin there is a ferry from Holyhead on which to hop the 67 miles (107 km) to Dun Laoghaire.

Finally, there are the twice-daily 140 miles (225 km) flights to Cardiff, which wags have dubbed "Ieuan Air".

Image caption,
The Menai suspension bridge is one of two crossings connecting with the mainland

This, political novices should know, is a jibe at Ieuan Wyn Jones. He is the island's Welsh Assembly Member who no doubt finds the air service useful on his travels as deputy first minister in the assembly government, and as leader of the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru.

But transport links are a prosaic topic at such a time.

If the royal couple were looking for a romantic location, they have found the perfect Welsh spot.

Just off Anglesey is Llanddwyn, which you can walk to at low tide. It is known as the Welsh island of love, and was home to Santes Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers.

The exact history of Dwynwen has been lost since the 5th Century, but legend has it that she was the daughter of the son of an Irish king who devoted her life to the happiness of lovers.

The remains of a church are still at Llanddwyn, where a service is held each year to mark the Welsh equivalent of Valentine's Day.

And who knows? If William and Kate have a little space in the diary next 25 January, perhaps Llanddwyn may receive an extra couple of visitors hoping to receive an Anglesey blessing from a royal of a very different era...

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