Penmon Priory is
located on the eastern most tip of Anglesey, where the Menai Strait
returns to the Irish Sea. The Priory sits comfortably in a pastoral
location close to the banks of the Menai Strait clustered together
with St Seiriol's Church, the Dovecote, and the ancient Holy Well of
The monastery was founded by the 6th Century celtic Saint, Seiriol,
but Viking raids have destroyed the remains of the original structure.
There are however two stone celtic crosses that date from around 900
to 1000 A.D. housed within the present church. and although now protected
from the elements the years have taken their toll on the ancient stone
Several parts of the building are in the care of Cadw and are free to
visit. Information boards explain the history of the priory.
The church and the conical tower were built in the middle of the 12th
Century under the authority of Gruffudd ap Cynan and Owain Gwynedd, and
it remains to this day as the finest example of a 12th Century church
in Gwynedd. A new chancel with richly carved arches and pillars
was added in the 13th Century. and Penmon became an Augustinian Priory
during the reign of Prince
Llywelyn ap Iorwerth.
The dilapidated three storey stone buildings to the south of the church
contained the monks' dining hall and dormitory and, although roofless,
the building is still an impressive structure to this day. A doorway
at ground level gives access to a cellar, but with the lack of floors
the whole of the building is visible on entry, including beam holes for
the floors and the remains of the large refectory windows. Adjacent
to the doorway is a 12th Century gravestone that had been used as the
door lintel for many years.
The priory survived
the Edwardian conquest before it's eventual dissolution in 1538, and
passed into the ownership of the Bulkeleys of Beaumaris. The Bulkeleys
constructed the Dovecote and enclosed much of the land as a deer park.
Considerable renovations were carried
out to the priory in the 19th Century but the atmosphere of early Christianity
still pervades the interior.
Personally I find the 16th Century Dovecote the most impressive building.
Built to house a thousand birds it starts off at ground level as a square
structure and as it rises the stones cantilever to form an impressive
vaulted ceiling and domed roof. All the while the internal walls are
pocketed with a thousand niches to house the birds.
Adjacent to the Dovecote is the pathway to the Holy Well of St Seiriol.
Pilgrims from medieval times to the present day visit this beautiful
location to take the "healing waters". The path leads past the rather overgrown
monastic fishpond, popular with a family of moorhens, to an ancient grove.
The Well springs from below a limestone outcrop and is housed within
a roofed chamber. The chamber is dated from the early 18th Century but
the stone seats in the open antechamber may be earlier. The well has
long been associated with healing qualities and there are remains of
an ancient dwelling located next to the well. Historians however doubt
this structure would have been Seiriol's 6th Century hermitage .......
but what do they know?
Whether the Holy Well has healing properties or not Penmon is a lovely
place to visit and the setting of St Seiriol's Well alone is enough to
lift anybodies spirits.
Location : From Beaumaris (the castle end) take the B5109 north
for 1.7 miles, turn right at a T junction and continue along the lane
to the priory car park. There are fantastic views of the Menai Strait
with the hills of Snowdonia as a delightful backdrop. Parking is free
outside the priory (as of 2007) but there is an option to travel further,
on the toll road, toward the point and Puffin Island for a small fee
(£2.00 as of 2007). The church is open throughout the day, all year.