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The Lleyn Peninsula has a very different landscape to the rest of North Wales. The mountains on Lleyn fall sheer into the sea, but they are broken by wide bays and rocky coves. There are charming little fishing villages on Lleyn and white-washed farms with small, protected fields. Lleyn is a very beautiful place.
The Lleyn has been populated since early times by man. You will find Iron Age hill forts, Neolithic tombs, ancient trackways and standing stones on Lleyn
Bardsey Island, off the very tip of the Lleyn peninsula, was once a place of pilgrimage. Legend has it the Merlin, of Arthurian fame, lies buried there in a suspended animation on Bardsey, ready to awake when King Arthur returns to Britain
In more modern times, Lleyn was the birthplace of David Lloyd George
(at Criccieth) and T E Lawrence (Tremadog)
Almost the end of the Lleyn peninsula, though you can get further west by following the National Trust's two mile track to Uwchmynydd, a superbly wild headland with views to Bardsey Island off Lleyn. In fact Aberdaron was once the port for the pilgrims going to Bardsey, today it is a very pleasant village, with narrow winding streets and a pub worth a stop at for lunch
Known foremost for sailing, Abersoch's harbour and estuary on the south side of the Lleyn, are choc a bloc with sailing craft of all shapes and sizes. If you do not want to sail, then there are plenty of sandy beaches, or try a spot of mackerel fishing off the St Tudwal Islands - the sea off Lleyn is rich in fish. The St Tudwal Islands themselves are privately owned, but there are regular trips from Abersoch to view the caves and seabirds round the islands.
The next bay, Hells Mouth Bay (Porth Neigwl) occupies the south facing
cusp at the end of the Lleyn. It is known for its strong rip tides,
that grind the boulders on the beaches
Guarded by the ruins of a 12th century castle on the cliffs above, Criccieth has been relatively unspoilt by modern developments. The south facing resort on the Lleyn, is very sheltered, and has good sand and shingle bathing beaches
The local name is David Lloyd George, born and lived just outside Criccieth, he is buried at Llanystumdwy a few miles away, where there is also a Lloyd George museum. Lleyn is a mecca for those researching Lloyd George
The town has a long history, dating from Saxon times, continuing with a visit by Edward I in 1284. While 4 miles away is the old smuggling port of Porth Dinllaen on the north Lleyn coast. And four miles north of the town there is a magnificent walk up to the Iron Age encampment, the Town of the Giants (Tre'r Ceiri), from where you get panoramic views
Porthmadog is your entry point to the Lleyn Peninsula
At the mouth of the River Glaslyn, the twin towns of Porthmadog and Tremadog, were built on reclaimed land by a local MP in the 19th century. Today there is a picturesque harbour and sandy bathing beaches.
Shelly, the poet, was a regular visitor here, and is said to have written "Queen Mab" in the area.
Portmeirion is close to Porthmadog at the base of the Lleyn.
Built by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion is something altogether different. Started in 1926, its design is based on Portofino in Italy. Gardens were planted with exotic plants (which grow well in the mild climate in Lleyn) , an Italian campanile, castle and lighthouse were built. The hotel is today the centre of the village life, and many of the buildings are available for rent.
Film makers have naturally been interested in Portmeirion, particularly the Prisoner, the cult series of the 60's. Noel Coward wrote Blythe Spirit at Portmeirion
Pwllheli is the largest resort on the Lleyn Peninsula. The five mile sweep of South Beach has led to the development of a modern seaside resort at Pwllheli. The town's harbour is a good base for sea fishing the seas off Lleyn - mackerel, bass and pollack in particular.
With nearly 100 miles of coastline stretching around three sides of the peninsula, you are never far from the sea on the Lleyn Peninsula, and of course many glorious beaches! The south coast of Lleyn is often referred to as the Welsh Riviera, with its long sandy beaches and calm seas. The north and western coasts are more rugged, with towering cliffs, offshore islands, long bays and hidden coves. With all this diversity, there is bound to be a beach the suits exactly what you want.
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In the isolated Lleyn peninsula you can find a real ancient Iron Age hillfort connected to the Vortigern legends. Below the superb viewpoints from Yr Eifl (anglicised to ‘the Rivals’, but in Welsh ‘the Fork’) lies one of the most spectacular hillforts, Tre’r Ceiri. On a rocky heather-covered plateau below the eastern peak some 150 huts, that might have supported up tp 500 people, can still be seen clearly.
Locally known as the ‘Town of the Giants’, the walls are still
more than 4 metres high in places - no wonder how it received
its name.The hight of the walls might very well be caused by
its isolation and position 457 metres above sea level, which
has prevented all too much stones being looted, as was the case
for so very many similar hillforts.
The City of Vortigern?
Local tradition places Vortigern in Nant Gwrtheyrn (the ‘Valley of Vortigern’), a rocky valley leading down from Yr Eifl to the west coast of the Lleyn peninsula. Vortigern was supposed to have once had his headquarters there. His grave, Bedd Gwrtheyrn, is also to be found somewhere around here, as ther are several locations bearing names familiar to us, such as Carn Fadrun, or the 'fort of Modrun' (she was a granddaughter of Vortigern) further south.
Here we also find his ‘city’: Castel Gwrtheyrn, once so marked on Ordnance Survey maps, but now unlocated. The best candidate for this fortress surely is Tre'r Ceiri, which lies just on the other slope of Yr Eifl, very close to the valley.
The view from Yr Eifl makes a choice for this castle very understandeble:
there are fantastic views towards Snowdonia and across Caernarfon
Bay to the island of Anglesey and Holyhead Mountain. Across
Cardigan Bay to the south you can see the outline of Mynydd
Preseli, where the bluestones of Stonehenge once came from.
To the west lies Ireland, where you can see the Wicklow Hills
across the Irish Sea. Occupation has been attested from AD 150
right into the fifth century, so this site is a very good candidate
for a 'City of Vortigern'! A complete street plan of the Roman
town has been revealed under the heather, complete with terraced
enclosures, probably used for cultivation. A very suitable place
for a headquarters, indeed.