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The south facade of St Cybi's Church - - 742776.jpg
St Cybi's Church, Church in Wales
Holyhead is located in Anglesey
Population 11,431 2011 Census
OS grid reference SH2482
  • Holyhead
Principal area
Ceremonial county
Country Wales
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HOLYHEAD
Postcode district LL65
Dialling code 01407
Police North Wales
Fire North Wales
Ambulance Welsh
EU Parliament Wales
UK Parliament
  • Ynys Môn
Welsh Assembly
  • Ynys Môn
List of places
53°18′32″N 4°37′59″W / 53.309°N 4.633°W / 53.309; -4.633

Holyhead ( Welsh: Caergybi "Cybi's fort") is a town in Wales and a major Irish Sea port serving Ireland. It is also a community and the largest town in the Isle of Anglesey county, with a population of 13,659 at the 2011 census. Holyhead is on Holy Island, which is separated from Anglesey by the narrow Cymyran Strait and was originally connected to Anglesey via the Four Mile Bridge.

In the mid-19th century, Lord Stanley, a local philanthropist, funded the building of a larger causeway, known locally as "The Cobb", it now carries the A5 and the railway line. The A55 dual carriageway runs parallel to the Cobb on a modern causeway.

Prehistoric and Roman history

Sketches in Wales - Holyhead market
View of Holyhead market; activities, stalls and Welsh dress

The town centre is built around St. Cybi's Church, which is built inside one of Europe's few three-walled Roman forts (the fourth boundary being the sea, which used to come up to the fort). The Romans also built a watchtower on the top of Holyhead Mountain inside Mynydd y Twr, a prehistoric hillfort. Settlements in the area date from prehistoric times, with circular huts, burial chambers and standing stones featuring in the highest concentration in Britain. The current lighthouse is on South Stack on the other side of Holyhead Mountain and is open to the public.


Neuadd Y Dref Caergybi, Holyhead Town Council (geograph 3662368)
Holyhead Town Hall

The Port of Holyhead is a busy ferry port. Stena Line, Northern Europe's biggest ferry company, operates from the port, as do Irish Ferries. Ferries sail to Dublin, in Ireland and as of 2021 on weekends, ferries sail to Belfast in Northern Ireland; this forms the principal link for surface transport from central and northern England and Wales to Ireland.

Holyhead's maritime importance was at its height in the 19th century with a 1+34-mile-long (2.8-kilometre) sea breakwater. Holyhead Breakwater is the longest in the UK and was built to create a safe harbour for vessels caught in stormy waters on their way to Liverpool and the industrial ports of Lancashire. Holyhead's sea heritage is remembered in a maritime museum.

The post road built by Thomas Telford from London strengthened Holyhead's position as the port from which the Royal Mail was dispatched to and from Dublin on the Mail coach. The A5 terminates at Admiralty Arch (1822–24), which was designed by Thomas Harrison to commemorate a visit by King George IV in 1821 en route to Ireland and marks the zenith of Irish Mail coach operations. Holy Island and Anglesey are separated by the Cymyran Strait which used to be crossed on the Four Mile Bridge; so called, because the bridge was 4 miles (6 kilometres) from Holyhead on the old turnpike.

Stanley embankment - - 41967
Stanley Embankment
towards Holy Island

The Stanley Embankment, or "The Cob", is an embankment that connects Anglesey and Holy Island. It carries the North Wales Coast Line railway and the A5 road. The embankment was designed and built by Thomas Telford. When the A5 was being constructed between London and the Port of Holyhead, a more direct route was needed. Construction started in 1822 and completed a year later. It gets its formal name after John Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley of Alderley, a significant local benefactor.

In 2001, work was completed on the extension of the A55 North Wales Expressway from the Britannia Bridge to Holyhead, giving the town a dual carriageway connection to North Wales and the main British motorway network. The A55 forms part of Euroroute E22. The Anglesey section was financed through a Private Finance Initiative scheme.

Seiriol Wyn - - 404566
'Seiriol Wyn' one of a series of glass mosaic panels created by artist Gary Drostle for the new Celtic Gateway bridge entrance.

With the opening of the railway from London to Liverpool, Holyhead lost the London to Dublin Mail contract in 1839 to the Port of Liverpool. Only after the completion of the Chester and Holyhead Railway in 1850 and the building of Holyhead railway station did the Irish Mail return to Holyhead, operated from London Euston by the London and North Western Railway.

Holyhead is the terminus of the North Wales Coast Line and is currently served by Avanti West Coast and Transport for Wales services. Avanti West Coast runs direct trains to London Euston and Transport for Wales operate direct trains towards Cardiff and Birmingham International via Wrexham and Shrewsbury, and two direct trains per day to Manchester Piccadilly. The rail and ferry terminals are connected (for pedestrians and cyclists) to the town centre by The Celtic Gateway bridge.


Like the rest of the British Isles and Wales, Holyhead has a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters, and often high winds exacerbated by its location by the Irish Sea. The nearest official weather observation station is at RAF Valley, about 5 miles South East of the town centre.

Climate data for Valley 10m asl, 1981–2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.2
Average low °C (°F) 3.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 75.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 62.3 86.5 123.1 177.8 231.8 207.8 201.1 189.5 146.7 109.7 63.6 51.6 1,651.4
Source: MetOffice

Culture and sport

Sketches in Wales - Holyhead market
View of Holyhead market; activities, stalls and Welsh dress
Holyhead, Isle of Anglesea
Holyhead, c 1850

Holyhead's arts centre, the Ucheldre Centre, is located in the chapel of an old convent belonging to the order of the Bon Sauveur. It holds regular arts exhibitions, performances, workshops and film screenings. The library is located in the old market hall. The Holyhead Maritime Museum is housed in what is claimed to be Wales's oldest lifeboat house. The lifeboat station was established in 1828. The 1927 National Eisteddfod was held in the town. Holyhead High School (previously County Secondary school) was the first comprehensive school in the UK.

According to the United Kingdom Census 2001, 47% of the residents in the town can speak Welsh. The highest percentage of speakers is the 15-year-old age group, of whom 66% can speak the language. According to the 2011 Census, of those in the community who were born in Wales, 52.2% of the population could speak Welsh.

The town's main football team is called Holyhead Hotspur and they play in the Cymru North, the second tier of Welsh football, with their reserves playing in the Gwynedd League. Caergybi F.C. play in the sixth tier Anglesey League. Holyhead Sailing Club provides members with facilities for sailing and kayaking with swinging moorings, a dinghy park and a clubhouse with restaurant and bar. It is on Newry Beach in the historic port of Holyhead. Holyhead & Anglesey Amateur Boxing Club was founded on 1 April 2012, located in Vicarage Lane, Holyhead. The club is open to anyone over the age of 10, having a class for male and female trainees. Holyhead's cliffs are used for coasteering, a water sport which involves jumping off cliffs at different heights. The is the start and finish point of the Anglesey Coastal Path.

Holyhead was officially twinned with Greystones, County Wicklow on 20 January 2012, and this is celebrated on a new road sign.

In the fictional universe of Harry Potter, The Holyhead Harpies is an all-female Quidditch team that plays in the British and Irish Quidditch League.

Notable people

  • Captain John Macgregor Skinner (1761–1832) moved to Holyhead from the US in 1793. Master on packet ships between Holyhead and Dublin but was washed overboard. The town erected an obelisk in his honour and his house is an exhibit at the Holyhead Maritime Museum.
  • John Walpole Willis (1793–1877) a Welsh-born judge, and a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales
  • Lillie Goodisson (1860–1947) a Welsh Australian nurse and a pioneer of family planning in New South Wales
  • Francis Dodd RA (1874–1949) a British portrait painter, landscape artist and printmaker
  • John Fox-Russell (1893–1917) winner of the Victoria Cross, was born in the town
  • Ceinwen Rowlands (1905–1983) a Welsh concert soprano and recording artist
  • R. S. Thomas (1913–2000) a Welsh poet and Anglican priest poet, grew up in Holyhead
  • David Crystal (born 1941) linguist and chair of the charity behind Holyhead's Ucheldre Centre, lives in Holyhead
  • Glenys Kinnock (born 1944) a politician, was educated at Holyhead High School
  • Dawn French (born 1957) comedian and actor
  • Kevin Johnson (born 1960) is a managing partner at Medicxi Ventures, a venture capital firm
  • Jason Evans (born 1968) a Welsh photographer and lecturer on photography
  • Ben Crystal (born 1977) an English actor, author, and producer, brought up in the town
  • Gareth Williams (1978–2010) worked for GCHQ and SIS died in suspicious circumstances


  • Donough O'Brien (1879–1953) a Welsh-born Irish cricketer.
  • Ray Williams (born 1959) is weightlifting Commonwealth Games gold medallist
  • Tony Roberts (born 1969) is Welsh international footballer
  • Gareth Evans (born 1986) weightlifter, Commonwealth gold medalist and 2012 Summer Olympics competitor lives in the town.
  • Alex Lynch (born in 1995) professional footballer, educated in Holyhead High School

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Holyhead para niños

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