Bardsey Island (or Ynys Enlli in Welsh meaning ‘the island of tides’) is a place of pilgrimage that has been of great importance throughout Welsh religious history. It is one of the largest islands off the coast of Wales and with its mountain, sea cliffs, beaches and lowland area, provides a wide variety of habitats for wildlife.
Tradition speaks of Cadfan as the founder of the earliest Celtic monastic settlement on Bardsey. But many rightly claim that it was almost certainly a place of spiritual significance in pre-Christian times. The earliest record of a monastic presence on the island is an inscription found at the Anelog hill which records the burial of a priest called Senacus along with many brethren dating from the late 5th or early 6th century. (the stone can still be seen today in Aberdaron church). The monastic settlement suffered severely during the 9th and 10th centuries from Viking invasions and the name Bardsey is of Norse origin, meaning ‘Bard’s Island’. The outlines of early Celtic foundations of small round huts on the mountain can be seen in the winter or early spring before the bracken grows.
By the 12th century Bardsey was already established as a place of special significance in Wales. Even Pope Callixtus 11 in 1119 said that three visits to Bardsey is the equivalent of one pilgrimage to Rome! And in the 1120 ‘Book of Llandaff’ Bishop Urban described the island as ‘the Rome of Wales’ and that 20,000 saints are buried there. Modern day pilgrims can still see the remains of the 13th century Augustinian Abbey that replaced the earlier Celtic foundation.
Bardsey was bought in 1979 by the then newly formed Bardsey Island Trust and today it can be seen as a working island with a small all year-round population. The land is farmed in a way that balances sensitive ecological and environmental goals with modern farming techniques and most of the houses are let to summer visitors. The Trust now has responsibility for the island and maintains it as a place for religious and spiritual renewal and a centre for ornithology, marine biology and fishing as well as other natural sciences.
Below is a list of useful contacts: