The Isle of Anglesey, with its hidden coves and easy escape to open water, provided a safe haven for pirates and smugglers in past times. Other maritime outlaws reaped from the sea by stealing from ships wrecked along the coast.
During stormy weather, many vessels came to grief along the island’s rocky coastline. This happened so frequently at Rhosneigr that, during gales, groups of people hid in the dunes ready to plunder ships when they wrecked on the jagged rocks at the mouth of the Crigyll river. People came from miles around – farmers, craftsmen, mothers and even children.
When they heard the rending of timber as a ship ran aground, looters rushed
to steal the cargo and would even take the sail and ropes during the confusion.
It’s said that one notorious gang known as the ‘Crigyll Wreckers’ became so greedy that they lured ships towards the reefs by waving lamps, simulating the boats at Holyhead Harbour. The captain would think it safe to come ashore, not realisng
that his ship was doomed.
Treasures of the sea
Anglesey’s pirates and wreckers are long gone. The seaside village of Rhosneigr on the south-west coast now attracts families wanting to spend a day on the beach.
Its many rockpools entice with the possibility of finding treasure of the natural variety – all sorts of sea creatures and plants are at home here.
Beadlet anemones, barnacles and limpets line the rockpools while hermit crabs may be hiding behind the seaweed thickets. Look, too, for periwinkles and tube worms that make their homes on stones in pools. It’s also fun to see how many varieties of seaweed that can be found here you can identify.
Meandering north along the shore, you’ll arrive at Afon Crigyll, a favourite paddling spot for young children. You may like to wade across the river and explore the long sandy beach of Traeth Crigyll.
Meet madame wen
At the far corner, pass the rocks to reach Traeth Cymyran where, in the
17th century, the legendary Welsh highwaywoman, smuggler and pirate Madame Wen anchored her ship and smuggled goods on to the island. Apparently, she turned to piracy and smuggling to raise cash so that she could buy back land lost by her family during the English Civil War. She and her gang – who helped sell on the goods – hid their loot in a cave near Llyn Traffwll, a few miles inland.
Returning to Rhosneigr, follow the coast path through the dunes to a footbridge. Sample the local produce, especially seafood, at the village’s pubs and eateries.