Menai Bridge (Welsh: Porthaethwy) is located on the banks of the Menai Strait in the shadow of the Menai Bridge on Anglesey North Wales. It sits between the towns of Beaumaris to the east and Llamfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch to the west; yes, the town with the long name is close by!
Menai Bridge is a busy little town with a wide range of buildings including the old court house, a number of old pubs and the buildings associated with the wood-yard. There is a number of churches and chapels including a Welsh Presbyterian church and Catholic church. To satisfy the demand for accommodation in this picturesque location many properties have been converted into holiday cottages including: terraced cottages, redundant chapels, harbour buildings, port workshops and warehouses. Times are changing and many of the old businesses have closed or moved out of town. However a walk around the town shows the wide variety of services still available in Menai Bridge: travel agents; estate agents; banks; cafes; music shops; stationers; ironmongers; chandlers; and, probably because of its seafaring connections, a disproportionately large number of pubs for a town of it's size. I suspect that nowadays many of the pubs are rather more "restaurants that serve beer" than old-fashioned drinking dens.
The town owes its beginnings to it's location at the narrowest crossing point of the Menai Strait. It has been an important crossing point of the treacherous waters for many thousands of years, indeed artifacts from the Bronze Age through to the Romans have been found in Menai Bridge. The first written documentation of Menai Bridge concerned the Battle of Porthaethwy in 1194, when Llywelyn the Great defeated his uncle Rhodri, son of Owain Gwynedd.
The present town starts to take shape circa the 16th century. Fishing weirs were constructed and ferries were established for crossing the Strait. The ferry businesses flourished until the construction of the Menai Suspension Bridge in the early 19th Century. The demise of the ferry trade did not however diminish Menai Bridge's connection with the sea. A local businessman Richard Davies established a successful fleet of ships that traded world wide including shipping emigrants to North America.
By the early 20th Century although the Davies' fleet was sold off, the town was again benefiting from it's seafaring traditions, with the arrival of the Steamships that plied their trade from the English city of Liverpool bringing tourists to the North Wales towns and holiday resorts. Many seaside resorts were established along the Welsh coast and Menai Bridge with its mooring facilities was once again able to capitalise on its location.
In 1914, the town was helped by a group of refugees from Mechelen in Belgium. They sought asylum in Menai Bridge following the German invasion of their country and as a gesture of appreciation, the refugees constructed the "Belgian Promenade" that extends from Carreg y Halen to the Causeway at Church Island.
Come the 21st Century and the Steamships have long gone; Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences research vessel, The Prince Madog, occupies their berth at St George's Pier.
With the increased leisure time we now enjoy and the interest in our environment, there is a great demand for activity holidays including sailing, sea kayaking, shore angling, fishing boat trips, dolphin watch trips and Menai Bridge is again in the right place at the right time. The beautiful location of the town makes it an ideal centre for all these activities and more.
Menai Suspension Bridge: The jewel in the crown of the Town of Menai Bridge, indeed one of the jewels of North Wales, is the Menai Suspension Bridge. The bridge dominates the town, and what a bridge! I would recommend anybody to pay a visit to the base of the Bridge at the water's edge to appreciate its splendour: huge dressed limestone blocks form the columns that are topped with elegant arches. It gives a lie to the old adage that man can't improve on nature. The magnificent structure created by Thomas Telford and all those stonemasons, labourers and engineers in the early 19th century is the best "work of art" I've seen in a long time. If those unmade beds, piles of bricks and cracks in the floor in the Tate Gallery are worth millions of pounds then the Menai Suspension Bridge is truly priceless. Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, and dare I say it Kyffin William's fans, visit Menai Bridge and eat your hearts out! I digress...
Pili Palas Butterfly Farm: The popular tourist attraction Pili Palas is to be found on the outskirts of Menai Bridge.
Walks, Cycle Trails and Other Activities
The Anglesey Coastal Path passes along the shoreline but if the full Island Walk is not your cup of tea you might prefer a pleasant walk to Church Island and the ancient Church of St Tysilio with fantastic views of Menai Bridge, the Britannia Bridge and the beautiful Menai Strait.
Saint Tysilio's Church: The 15th Century church of St Tysilio's sits on Church Island in the Menai Strait. It is reached by following the path from the Suspension Bridge to the Belgian Promenade and causeway that connects the island to the mainland. A short and winding path leads under the overhanging branches of a large yew tree to the old oak church door. A plaque above the door states that St Tysilio founded the church in the 7th Century, although it is generally accepted that the present church was built in the 15th century.