Anglesey

Introduction

On any given summer's weekend, the waters around Anglesey are likely to have a higher density of sea kayakers than any other part of the UK, or indeed, Europe. Much of the paddling here is greatly affected by the tides, whether running like a river through the Menai Strait or forming races off the mighty headlands of Penryhn Mawr, South Stack, North Stack and Carmel Head. By contrast, the exposure to swell is limited in many directions, and, being an island detached from Wales by a narrow street, there is always at least one option to shelter from wind. Anglesey is relatively accessible from much of the UK, but its varied conditions, and and an extraordinary number of sea kayak coaches, attract paddlers from much further afield.

Times of high water

Holyhead: High water is 48 minutes before high water at Liverpool

Porth Dafarch: High water is 1 hours and 20 minutes before high water at Liverpool

Rhoscolyn: High water is 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool

Beaumaris: High water is 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool

Menai Bridge: High water is 20 minutes after high water at Holyhead

Port Dinorwic: High water is 20 minutes before high water at Holyhead

Caernarfon: High water is 30 minutes before high water at Holyhead

Western entrance to Menai Strait: High water is 30 minutes before high water at Holyhead

Llanddwyn Island: High water is 1 hours before high water at Holyhead

Puffin Island: High water is 20 minutes after high water at Holyhead

Moelfre: High water is 25 minutes after high water at Holyhead

Amlwch: High water is 15 minutes after high water at Holyhead

Cemaes: High water is 20 minutes after high water at Holyhead

Trearddur Bay: High water is 35 minutes before high water at Holyhead

Rhosneigr: High water is 35 minutes before high water at Holyhead

Tidal streams

Strong tidal streams will be experienced around most of the coastline of Anglesey, especially around the headlands of Holy Island, Carmel Head, the north coast and some parts of the Menai Strait. Streams are much slower on the south-west coast south of Holy Island and north of the entrance to the Menai Strait. Streams are also weaker in the Red Wharf Bay area, south of Moelfre and north of Puffin Island, although this area is of lesser interest for many sea kayakers. If your tidal planning and paddling skills are weak, it might be a good idea to enlist the help of one of the many local guides and coaches on your first visit!

More detail on the tidal streams in the Menai Strait can be found in diagrammatic form several sources, including 'Welsh Sea Kayaking' (Pesda Press) and 'Cruising Anglesey and adjoining waters' (Imray) and the NWCC site: https://nwcc.info/menai-strait-tides/.

Inshore Gogarth Bay: An eddy forms here, which can flow quickly enough to slow a group appreciably - it is best to either stay inshore or follow the main stream offshore.

South Stack: The north going stream begins at 4 hours and 50 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The south going stream begins at 1 hours and 10 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 6 knots at springs. Overfalls form here. It is possible to paddle through a narrow channel inside the island on which the lighthouse stands. This channel can sometimes be paddled against the flow, although any wave action can make negotiating it problematic.

North Stack: The north-east going stream begins at 5 hours after high water at Liverpool. The south-west going stream begins at 2 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 5 knots at springs. The south-west going stream runs in a westerly direction close to the shore to the east of North Stack, whereas the inshore flow in the opposite direction tends to head offshore from North Stack. Observations indicate that the inshore stream here tends to turn earlier than the times given here, as the data is taken from a point around a kilometre to the west of the headland.

Abraham's Bosom: An eddy forms within this bay with offshore flows in both directions.

Penrhyn Mawr: The west-going stream begins 3 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Liverpool. Stream in this direction can flow at 5 knots and creates a major overfall, often used as a play spot or training venue by sea kayakers. The opposite stream flows in a south-easterly beginning 1 hour and 15 minutes before high water at Liverpool. This stream flows more offshore and does not form the overfall.

Trearddur Bay: A large eddy forms within the bay, flowing slowly in the opposite direction to the main offshore stream.

Outside of Rhoscolyn Beacon: The south-east going stream begins at 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The north-west going stream begins at 4 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 4 knots at springs. Wind against tide conditions can cause rough conditions here.

Rhoscolyn Sound: Inshore of Rhoscolyn Beacon, the north-west going stream begins earlier than it does offshore: The south-east going stream begins at 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The north-west going stream begins at 3 hours after high water at Liverpool.

Between Silver Bay and Borthwen: Along the coastline, there is relatively little flow.

Cymyran Strait, southern entrance: The south going stream begins at 1 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The north going stream begins at 4 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 5 knots at springs.

Cymyran Strait, Four Mile Bridge: The north-west going stream begins at 3 hours and 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The south-east going stream begins at 1 hours after high water at Liverpool.

Cymyran Strait, Stanley Embankment: The north north-east going stream begins at 1 hours after high water at Liverpool. The south south-west going stream begins at 4 hours before high water at Liverpool. It becomes impossible to paddle against the flow within 30 minutes of the tide turning. A wave forms on the south-going flow at the outflow of the tunnel, which can be popular with playboaters.

A dangerous stopper forms inside the tunnel in the middle hours of the south-going flow.. On the north-going flow a similarly dangerous stopper forms after local high water at the north end of the tunnel.

Between Church Bay and Carmel Head: An eddy flows north here during the south-west going flow at Carmel Head.

Carmel Head: Between Carmel Head and The Skerries: The north-east going stream begins at 5 hours and 20 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The south-west going stream begins at 45 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The north-east going stream reaches a speed of 6 knots at springs. The south-west going stream reaches a speed of 4.5 knots at springs. The flow is much reduced close to shore away from the headland.

East of Carmel Head: An eddy flows west here during the north-west going flow at Carmel Head.

Furlough Race: [tide]A race forms off the headland of Trwyn Cemlyn, to the west of Cemlyn Bay.

Cemlyn Bay eddy: An eddy forms between Trwyn Cemlyn and Wylfa Head on the east-going tide.

Cemaes Bay eddy: An eddy forms behind Wylfa Head on the east-going tide.

Between Llanddwyn and Rosneigr: The south-east going stream begins at 1 hours and 15 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The north-west going stream begins at 4 hours and 10 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 1 knots at springs.

To the east of Llanddwyn Island: An eddy here flows west south-west.

Llanlleiana Head: [tide] The tide flows strongly around the northern point of Anglesey. It may be possible to use eddies to make progress against the flow, but this will be challenging and perhaps impossible at full flow. Waves can be steep and confused near the point.

Eddy east of Llanlleiana Head: An eddy forms east of Llanlleiana Head on the east-going flow.

North coast of Anglesey: The east going stream begins at 5 hours and 15 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The west going stream begins at 45 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 5 knots at springs. There is less stream inshore, and many back eddies within the bays. The tide is most strongly felt near Llanlleiana Head and the headlands to the west of here.

Eddy in Bull Bay: An eddy forms here, with the following flows: The tide flows east and west. The flow reaches a speed of 2 knots at springs.

Eddy south of Point Lynas: An eddy forms to the south of Point Lynas on the south-westerly offshore flow. As a result, the flow runs almost constantly north from Porth Helygen up to the Point.

Point Lynas: The south-east going stream begins at 5 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The north-west going stream begins at 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 5 knots at springs. A race forms here.

Off Moelfre: The south-east going stream begins at 5 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The north-west going stream begins at 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 2 knots at springs. The tide runs swiftly in the channel inside Ynys Moelfre, although it is possible to make progress against the flow.

South west entrance to Menai Strait: In the narrows between Abermenai Point and Fort Belan: The east going stream begins at 6 hours after high water at Holyhead. The west going stream begins at 40 minutes before high water at Holyhead. The east going stream reaches a speed of 5.1 knots at springs. The west going stream reaches a speed of 4.3 knots at springs. Wind against tide can cause choppy conditions.

Menai Strai, Plas Menai: Between Plas Menai and the Sea Zoo put in: The north-east going stream begins at 6 hours after high water at Holyhead. The south-west going stream begins at 35 minutes before high water at Holyhead. The flow reaches a speed of 2.5 knots at springs.

Menai Strait, Swellies: The part of the Menai Strait between Menai Bridge and the Britannia Bridge is known as The Swellies. The east north-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 15 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The west south-west going stream begins at 2 hours and 10 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The east north-east going stream reaches a speed of 5 knots at springs. The west south-west going stream reaches a speed of 7 knots at springs. The flow here forms waves and eddies like a swift flowing river, and whitewater skills are useful.

Eddy by Menai Bridge: An eddy forms to the east of the suspension bridge by the town of Menai Bridge with tidal streams in both directions.

East of Penmon Trwyn, South of Puffin Sound: The north north-east going stream begins at 50 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The south south-west going stream begins at 6 hours before high water at Liverpool. The north north-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.4 knots at springs. The south south-west going stream reaches a speed of 2 knots at springs.

Puffin Sound: The south-east going stream begins at 5 hours and 30 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The north-west going stream begins at 30 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 4 knots at springs. Can be rough with wind opposing tide.

Near the end of Holyhead Harbour breakwater: The west going stream begins at 1 hours and 40 minutes before high water at Holyhead. The east going stream begins at 4 hours after high water at Holyhead. The west going stream reaches a speed of 1.4 knots at springs. The east going stream reaches a speed of 1.1 knots at springs.

2 miles east of Puffin Island: The south-east going stream begins at 6 hours and 10 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The north-west going stream begins at at high water at Liverpool. The flow reaches a speed of 1.2 knots at springs.

Menai Strait at Beaumaris: The east north-east going stream begins at 1 hours and 45 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The west south-west going stream begins at 4 hours and 40 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The east north-east going stream reaches a speed of 1.3 knots at springs. The west south-west going stream reaches a speed of 1.2 knots at springs.

Menai Strait, Caernarfon: The north-east going stream begins at 6 hours after high water at Holyhead. The south-west going stream begins at 30 minutes before high water at Holyhead. The north-east going stream reaches a speed of 3.5 knots at springs. The south-west going stream reaches a speed of 3 knots at springs. The flow is likely slower across the shallows north of the main channel which runs near the town.

Menai Strait, by Bangor: The north-east going stream begins at 4 hours and 20 minutes after high water at Holyhead. The south-west going stream begins at 40 minutes before high water at Holyhead. The flow reaches a speed of 3 knots at springs.

Port Dinorwic (Y Felinheli): The north going stream begins at 5 hours and 15 minutes after high water at Liverpool. The south going stream begins at 1 hours and 40 minutes before high water at Liverpool. The north going stream reaches a speed of 2.5 knots at springs. The south going stream reaches a speed of 3 knots at springs.

Notes

The gathering point for sea kayakers is Anglesey Outdoors (https://www.angleseyoutdoors.com), which offers a range of accommodation options and serves fine food and beer in a sea kayaking themed bar. Kit can be acquired from the inimitable Pete Baars at nearby Summit to Sea (https://www.summittosea.co.uk). Many instructors and guides base their businesses here including: Kayak Essentials, Coastal Spirit, Sea Kayaking Anglesey and Sea Kayaking Wales.

Holyhead Port: The harbourmaster uses VHF channel 14. Given that the port is frequented by large and fast ferries, it may be worthwhile making contact to check on expected ship movements.

Malltraeth Bay: Has good, quiet surf.

Access/Egress

In general, there are lots of good access points around the coastline, although parking by many of the beaches can be busy and most of the council car parks are now pay and display.

Borthwen: (SH 272 751) g Small pay and display car park, with toilets, down a narrow and winding lane. Likely busy on summer weekends - try to arrive early. Short carry to the beach.

Porth Dafarch: (SH 234 800) g Popular get on for sea kayakers, being close to Anglesey Outdoors, and the obvious start point for trips to Penrhyn Mawr, the Stacks or just rock hopping nearby. Plenty of parking down the ramp to the beach, in the layby at the top or on the road, although this spot does get busy on summer weekends. Easy carry, although it can be longer if the tide is out.

Soldier's Point: (SH 236 838) g Parking by some old warehouses at the end of the harbour breakwater. Carry down a vegetated path to put in on a boulder beach.

Porth Tywyn-mawr: (SH 289 850) g Easy access to the beach. Limited parking on the verge. Failing that, it may be possible to park in the campsite for a fee.

Cemlyn Bay East: (SH 336 932) g A good sized car park immediately adjacent to a steep shingle beach. The carry here is short than at the put in to the west of the bay.

Cemaes Bay west: (SH 369 937) g Parking along the sea wall just by a slipway that leads to the beach. Less parking than the put in to the east, but a shorter carry to the sea, especially at low water.

Rhosneigr: (SH 317 732) g Access to beach via Beach Road, which has no parking, but likely space to unload boats. There is a pay and display car park around 400 m away off the High Street.

Bull Bay: (SH 426 943) g Limited roadside parking by a slipway leading onto the beach.

Amlwch Harbour: (SH 450 935) g There is a car park at the south end of the harbour and various parking spots around it. At high water, a long slipway provides access to the water at the south end of the harbour. The harbour dries at low water, and it may then be better to use some steep steps just inside the inner harbour wall.

Port Eilian: (SH 476 930) g Boats can be dropped at the roundabout at the end of the main road and carried down the ramp onto the beach. Parking is not permitted here during the summer months, but an excellent car park has been provided a short walk up the road.

Moelfre: (SH 513 863) g Small car park, with easy access to beach (short walk across a grassy area).

Menai Strait, Mermaid Inn: (SH 475 646) g Limited roadside parking by houses at the end of the road. The Inn has long since closed.

Menai Bridge Slipway: (SH 558 718) g Small car park, which may flood on spring tides. Easy carry down the slipway to put in.

Menai Strait, Sea Zoo: (SH 478 652) g Small layby, with more and easier parking than at the old Mermaid Into the south. Short carry down a shingle beach.

Trwyn y Penrhyn North: (SH 630 798) g Small layby at south end of beach - avoids the toll payable if you drive further down the headland.

Trwyn Du: (SH 641 813) g Large car park, approached by a toll road. Easy access to sea on beach to the north.

Trwyn y Penrhyn South: (SH 627 795) g Larger layby to the south of the small headland of Trwyn y Penrhyn. Easy access to water, some seaweed-covered rock at low water.

Menai Strait, Pwll Fanogl: (SH 530 708) g Small parking area at the bottom of a steep track, with easy access to the water.

Menai Strait, Moel-y-don: (SH 519 678) g Small parking area, easy access via slipway and shingle beach.

Port Trecastell: (SH 333 708) g Parking by the beach, may be busy in summer. Length of carry will depend on height of tide.

Four Mile Bridge: (SH 280 783) g Easy access to water at either end of bridge, although the west side is easier. Possible to unload boats near the water. Roadside parking to the west in the village - be considerate!

Penrhos Beach West: (SH 260 816) g Car park with height barrier, but some limited parking outside. Short carry to the beach, but there will be a lot of beach at low water.

Penrhos beach East: (SH 265 815) g Small car park, short carry to the beach.

Church Bay: (SH 300 892) g Pay and display car park at the top of the cliffs. Carry down the steep road to the beach - a tiring prospect after a long day on the water.

Cemlyn Bay West: (SH 330 936) g A good sized car park with a short carry to the beach. Take a moment to inspect the old tidal mill at this put in.

Cemaes Bay east: (SH 375 937) g Pay and display car park by the beach, with plenty of space. The walk across the beach can be a long one at low water.

Morfa: (SH 434 575) g Large car parking area along the beach

Holyhead harbour*: (SH 243 833) g Limited roadside parking near steps down to water, or beach at lower tide.

Traeth Bychan*: (SH 514 850) g Ramp onto beach - the charge to use this applies only to powered craft. Space to drop boats by the ramp. Large pay and display car park just back from the beach to the west.

Benllech*: (SH 523 825) g Ramp down to beach, large car park just across road. Can be busy on summer weekends.

Beaumaris*: (SH 607 760) g Beaumaris Green car park is on the seafront. However, it will likely be easiest to launch near the sailing club, around 100m to the west of the car park.

Suggested trips

Many options are possible, as much of the coastline is interesting. Several of the classic excursions are described here.

Puffin Island: The paddle out to Puffin Island is a good short trip in good conditions, especially when seabirds are nesting. The car park just south of Trwyn y Penrhyn may be the best launch point, although it is possible to pay a toll (£3 in 2020, £10 for vans) to access the car park at Trwyn Du, overlooking the island. The tide flows swiftly through the Sound, necessitating a ferry glide. Conditions here could be tricky with wind opposing tide. Shallow water at the north-east tip of the island can necessitate a slightly longer paddle, especially if there are seals to be kept clear of. The island is a seabird colony and puffins are starting to return following the extermination of rats. The seals can be remarkably curious. In the summer months, tour boats with loudspeakers can detract from the experience somewhat.

Swellies: The part of the Menai Strait between the Britannia Bridge and the Menai Suspension Bridge is known as the Swellies. The tide flows swiftly through this part of the Strait and it is a popular destination for sea kayakers looking to hone their skills, especially when the wind makes more exposed options impractical. It is possible to link this section into a journey (perhaps a downwind run), but most will choose to paddle from Menai Bridge or Pull fanogl, depending on the flows. A high scale chart (1464) of the area is available, and it has often been the scene of night navigation practise when the weather is poor elsewhere. Eddylines, fast water and sometimes waves form, especially under the bridges, and around the island of Gored Goch. Eddies and slower flow occur north of the main channels and it is normally possible to make progress against the flow in most parts of The Swellies.

Rhoscolyn: The headland of Rhoscolyn offers fine and varied paddling. It is possible to explore this area as part of a trip from Four Mile Bridge or Rhosneigr to Trearddur bay, but many parties chose to launch and return to Borthwen. The coast to the east of Borthwen offers good rock hopping with less tidal flow. To the west, the tide runs through Rhoscolyn sound, creating steep seas when it opposes the wind. Ferry out across here to the Islands and Rhoscolyn Beacon. The channels among the islets are usually host to a number of seals. The race beyond the Beacon can be substantially bigger than that in the Sound. The shoreline west of Borthwen is laced with gullys, rocks, arches and inlets, and the interest continues much of the way to Trearddur Bay.

The Stacks: The paddle between Porth Dafarch and Soldiers Point, known as 'The Stacks' is one of the most iconic in British sea kayaking. It takes in 3 headlands with substantial tidal races: Penrhyn Mawr, South Stack and North Stack, so it would be wise to be proficient in tidal planning and tide race paddling before attempting the trip. Aside from the races, the scenery in Gogarth Bay is stunning. The paddle is a committing one - with the only viable escape route a steep and muddy path at the back of Abraham's Bosom.

Carmel Head: The area around Carmel Head offers a pleasant day out, whether approached from Cemlyn Bay or Church Bay. I have particularly enjoyed taking less experienced paddlers out from Church Bay - the tidal flow only really becomes apparent at Ynys y Fydllyn - which is usually a good spot for a lunch stop.

The Skerries: The Skerries are a small island group situated 3 km offshore in an area where tides flow at up to 6 knots. Getting there and back is thus something of a challenge, requiring accurate planning and good navigation skills. The trip is usually done from either Church Bay or Cemlyn Bay, with the choice being dictated by the tide times.

Porth Wen: The old brick works at Porth Wen is a popular destination and lunch stop for paddlers on the north coast of Anglesey. The trip is most frequently undertaken from Bull Bay, often with the aim of avoiding bad weather coming from the south or west. A longer paddle is possible starting from Amlwch or Porth Eilian. It is also possible to start from Cemaes, although this makes for a much more committing and exposed paddle given the lack of shelter to the west and the need to round Llanllieana Head.

Ynys Dulas: The island of Ynys Dulas makes for an interesting destination. The island throngs with seabirds and seals, the latter often joining paddlers playing in the small overfalls that form around the island. The easiest start point is Moelfre. By sensible use of inshore eddies, it is possible to reach the island and return to Moelfre irrespective of the direction of the stream.

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