Holyhead is the largest town on Holy Island, Anglesey. The town is best known for its role as a major seaport and it boasts an over 200-year old ferry link with Ireland. Although Holyhead remained a comparatively small fishing village until around 1800, the area was settled as far back as the Neolithic as can be seen in the many remains of circular huts, burial chambers and standing stones. In the fourth century, a Roman military outpost was established here. Archaeologists think this fort may have had connections with Segontium, located in what is today’s Caernarfon. In the sixth century, the now abandoned camp changed its purpose as Saint Cybi founded a church and monastery. Over the following centuries, the town grew around this site and the Welsh name of Holyhead, Caergybi, subsequently traces its Roman and early Christian origins.

At least since the seventeenth century, Holyhead served as north Wales’s main port for sailing to Ireland. The completion of Thomas Telford’s post road, the opening of his Menai Suspension Bridge, and the arrival of the railway in the first half of the nineteenth century considerably boosted the growth of the town. In 1819, the first steamships were employed in the transport of mail and passengers between Holyhead and Kingstown (today Dún Laoghaire), this making the service more reliable and increasing the traffic across the Irish Sea. It therefore became necessary to develop a new, much larger harbour that was also able to give refuge to up to 1000 ships in the event of bad weather. The result was the construction of Holyhead breakwater, which with its 2.7km remains the UK’s longest seawall.

(Image: Eric Jones – Entering the Port of Holyhead – CC BY-SA 2.0)