Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli in Welsh), the legendary ‘Island of 20,000 saints’, lies almost 2 miles (3 km) off the Llŷn Peninsula. The Welsh name means ‘The Island in the Currents’, although its English name implies it is the ‘Island of the Bards’, or possibly the island of the Viking chieftain, Barda.
Bardsey is just over half a mile (1.0 km) wide, and 1 mile (1.6 km), and it has been an important religious site since a monastery was built here by Saint Cadfan. In medieval times it was a major centre of pilgrimage and, by 1212, belonged to Augustinian Canons. The monastery was dissolved and its buildings demolished by Henry VIII in 1537, but the island remains an attraction for pilgrims to this day.
Bardsey Island is now as famous for its wildlife and rugged scenery. A bird observatory was built in 1953, largely due to the island’s position, like much of Anglesey, on important migration routes, and a nesting place for Manx shearwaters and choughs, its rare plants, and habitats undisturbed by modern farming. It is one of the best places in Gwynedd to see grey seals, and the waters around the island attract dolphins and porpoises from time to time.
The spirituality and sacredness of the island, its relative remoteness, and its legendary claim to be the burial site of King Arthur, have given it a special place in the cultural life of Wales.