Holyhead cruise port guide

Advice

Why go?

Holyhead is the fastest growing of Wales’ six cruise ports with 55 calls in 2018, including Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas. What’s more, while primarily a day port, there are plans to open a third berth by 2021 for embarkations. Ignore first impressions: the natural wonders of north Wales open up beyond the port.

Cruise port location

Ships dock alongside at one of two berths in the outer harbour with passengers shuttled by bus to the main building, home also to the train interchange and a welcome point for ferries to Dun Laoghaire near Dublin. Port staff will greet arrivals with tourist information but there are plans for a welcome desk to accompany the new berth.

Can I walk to any places of interest?

While most passengers are joining coach excursions across Anglesey and the Snowdonia National Park, it’s just a 10-minute walk into Holyhead town centre via the Celtic Gateway Bridge. Head for a hearty lunch at the Ucheldre arts centre, or take a stroll along the beach past Holyhead marina, calling into the small but compelling Maritime Museum.

Getting around

You can also pick up local transport from the main building for more independent visits but taxis would be better for more off-the-beaten track destinations. Alternatively, hop on the train for a day trip to the resort town of Llandudno, or even further afield to the Roman city of Chester.

Hotels

The nearest available accommodation is at The Seacroft, located a few miles from the port in Trearddur Bay. It offers six seaside-themed, B&B rooms and a decent menu of all-day menu of gastropub staples sourced from local suppliers.

Celtic Gateway Bridge

Take a stroll across the Celtic Gateway Bridge to see Holyhead town centre

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Other properties on the isle of Anglesey include Chateau Rhianfa, bringing a frisson of Loire Valley folly and spa facilities to Menai Bridge, and the design-conscious The Townhouse, the sister property to The Bull in Beaumaris.

What can I do in four hours or less?

Half-day visits focused on Anglesey are easily handled independently by bus or taxi. The island’s hub town is Beaumaris with its majestic castle and a raft of attractive place to eat and drink — don’t miss the Welsh-Italian gelato at Red Boat, or a pint at The Bull.

Oriel Ynys Mon at Llangefni is a leading arts space with a permanent exhibition about Anglesey in the Roman invasion plus a gallery devoted to Wales’ most celebrated artist, Kyffin Williams.

Beaumaris castle in Anglesey, Wales

Beaumaris castle

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Alternatively it’s only three miles by taxi from Holyhead to South Stack, a historic lighthouse now run by a local trust. Take the lighthouse tour then blow away the cobwebs with a bracing cliff top walk.

What can I do in eight hours or less?

A raft of organised day excursions take in the best of North Wales with itineraries from the likes of Saga Pearl or Noble Caledonia’s Hebridean Sky often combining several stops into a whistle-stop tour.

The Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno remains the jewel of the North Coast with a striking natural position between the mountains and the sea. The town offers traditional seaside charms as well as great shopping and dining, catering well for both families and couples. Catch the Great Orme Tramway to the summit to explore the country park and take in the views.

Lady Lodge Portmerion

Soak up Portmerion’s architectural heritage, including striking buildings such as Lady Lodge

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Alternatively, visit the Italianate-fantasy village of Portmeirion. The village was the passion project of the Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and commands stunning estuary views with its labyrinth of houses, shops and cafes the setting for the cult TV series The Prisoner.

Finally, a more adventurous option would be to climb Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. Taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the summit is a favourite option, and easier on the knees, leaving time to explore the Hafod Eryri visitor centre before walking a section down.

What can I do with a bit longer?

Arrive early to make the most of Anglesey, combining an overnight stay with walking a stretch of the Wales Coast Path around the island, or cross the Britannia Bridge to visit the walled town of Conwy with its stunning Unesco World Heritage castle and range of cafes.

Eat and drink

Wales is strong on local produce with Welsh lamb and black beef the perennial favourites on most menus. But look out too for a steaming bowl of crawl, a hearty lamb stew and sewin, a local sea trout. Any afternoon tea menu should include scone-like Welsh cakes and bara brith, a rich fruitcake best served slathered with butter.

Historic Eastgate Street in Chester

Amble through the historic streets on an excursion to Chester

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Local microbrewery ales, such as Clogwyn Gold from the Conwy Brewery, are widely available while Welsh vineyards, such as the Tŷ Croes Vineyard on Anglesey, are producing increasingly quaffable British wines – perfect for a sail-away sundowner.

Don’t leave without…

Traditional Welsh souvenirs include carved lovespoons and cuddly red dragons but more original local gifts would be samples of local art or craft ales. Try the Janet Bell Gallery in Beaumaris for colourful prints, or the Purple Moose Brewery beer shop in Porthmadog for a true taste of North Wales.

Need to know

Safety

Most visits are trouble free with the usual precautions.

Best time to go

Most visitors are joining a British Isles itinerary, hence departures run May to September for best weather.

Closures

Most places open daily in high season. The house at the National Trust-owned Plas Newydd closes early in the week.

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