A wander around Ynys Gybi or Holy Island, 23 June 2018

A solo trip report written by Richard Janes – Photos by Geth (from a similar trip)             

Richard (right) on another summers day at the Skerries


High Water Liv. (Gladstone): 0813 (8.1M)

Wind: NW F3-4

Sunny (ish)


Saint Cybi was a 6th-century Cornish Bishop who worked in Wales. The Island is called

‘Holy’ due to the numerous religious sites on the small island and are a source of much interest.

However, the island’s history has not only been one of Religious tranquillity. The bustling Port and Town of Holyhead will have had it’s share of ‘Sporting’ events with ‘Home’ and ‘Away’ games, possibly started by Cadwallon Lawhir (‘Longhand’), who defeated Irish Pirates on Holy Island (c.500)


What to do on a Saturday when all your Mates are working, on holiday, doing domestic stuff or don’t fancy an early start?


The Circum navigation of Holy Island includes fast tidal streams, paddling which ranges from shallow water over sand/mud banks to massive exposed cliffs, great wildlife, busy harbour and Port, two tunnels and a precise tidal ‘gate’. All in all, an interesting way to spend a Saturday Morning!


The tidal gate for this trip is Stanley Embankment where the water rushes  (floods) into the Inland sea and then drains (ebbs) to the North East.  After around half an hour the water is travelling much too fast to paddle against and forms dangerous stoppers. The plan is to be there just before the turn of the tide. My plan was to paddle anti clockwise around the island to make best use of the tides.


My starting point was Porth Dafarch . The origin of Dafarch was probably from a persons name; ‘Tafarch’ but I prefer to believe the less likely origin, ‘Dau Farch; two stallions. Especially when considering the tide races of Penrhyn Mawr and South Stack!

I set off at 0530. Probably around half an hour too early but I’m like that. Besides, it was a stunning morning and the temptation to launch with an early sun and oily smooth sea was simply too great!

Having the West Coast to yourself is an extraordinary feeling but far from lonely. I enjoyed stunning displays from Shearwater and the occasional fly past from Fulmar with their silent, knowing stare. Paddling South towards Rhoscolyn Beacon was a joy. Whilst the flood was still running, I took a  landward line and stayed in close down to the start of the Cwmyran Straits.

The paddle through the Cwmyran Straits to Four mile bridge is a peaceful delight! Heron, Egret and all sorts of wading birds within an environment which ranges from salt marsh to rocky shore. Getting lost is a real option here and another reason for my early start. The sea and air was mirror calm and the tunnel or what felt like a big drain to enter the Inland sea was surprisingly noisy. As my kayak took the drop, I seriously thought it might ‘ground’ but there was plenty of water followed by a wave train and tidal rapid.

Excitement over, it was a short paddle to Stanley and a long wait (over an hour) for the tide to turn and allow my exit from the Inland Sea. Stopping for a drink, I also felt hungry. Sadly, the soft sand of Porth Dafarch and a hungry seagull had earlier consumed my lunch. So I waited. And waited for what seemed like ages. My phone said about an hour, my broken watch said longer. A few times I tried to take the flow by storm but uphill paddling never was my thing and some stray pieces of rope dangling down gave me the ebegeebies, by the thought of getting tangled in them. Eventually, the flow gave up to my persistence and allowed me through.

The view now broadened to include the Skerries to the North East and my target, Holyhead harbour to the North West. A little further and I was talking to Port Control on VHF Ch 14. All very formal. I noticed he called me ‘Sir’, not been called that since I was teaching when I was called many other things besides. I had a good time window until the fast ferry was due but crossing the Harbour does make me feel strange. This is the World of proper big boats. Boats which don’t see you and with big propellers and stuff. So I paddled hard. Stupid hard, breathing a sigh of relief as I past the lighthouse on the end of the pier. Port control said they had been watching me on camera, so I waved. You can be a bit silly on your own. I’d already said ‘good morning’ to several seals and I’m sure the pretty one answered?

Phew! … Back on more familiar water, North Stack was a bit white and feisty. I tried surfing a few waves but they were too broken for whoops of joy. South Stack race was smooth. Oily, sexy smooth but not big enough for my enthusiasm. The cliffs and birdlife hereabouts are simply magnificent. The sea was littered with rafts of Guillemot, Razor bill and a good number of Puffins. I stayed offshore using as much push from the ebb as possible. Penrhyn Mawr came and went. A sleeping Stallion before his stable door would be opened?

Very soon Porth Dafarch came into view along with some good friends on the water (Steve Miles and Sarah) where I stopped for some of our usual intellectual discourse. And so back to the beach and a heavy, hot carry back to the van. I think it was about lunch time but my watch said the same time as when I left.

Biggest decision of the day. Sensible cup of tea or a cold beer. What would Cybi have done? What would Longhand have done…. and he did see off the Irish Pirates, after all!






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