The Skerries, Anglesey

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The Skerries
Welsh: Ynysoedd y Moelrhoniaid


The Skerries Lighthouse (Ynys Y Moelrhoniaid) off NW Anglesey. - - 96494.jpg
The Skerries Lighthouse
Location: 53°25’17"N, 4°36’29"W
Grid reference: SH268948
Area: 42 acres

The Skerries are a group of sparsely-vegetated rocky islets, with a total area of about 42 acres, lying two miles off Carmel Head at the north-west corner of Anglesey. The islands are important as a breeding site for seabirds, and they attract divers, who come to visit the numerous shipwrecks.

The islands can be visited by charter boat from Holyhead. The individual islets are accessible from one another at low tide and by small bridges.

The name "Skerry" no more than a common word for such scattered islets (originally from the Old Norse "sker"), while the Welsh name Ynysoedd y Moelrhoniaid, means "the Islands of Bald-headed Grey Seals".[1]


The islands have a seabird colony, which is particularly important for Arctic terns, numbers of which are nationally important; roseate terns breed occasionally in very small numbers. The following species also breed: Atlantic puffin, black-legged kittiwake, herring gull and ;esser black-backed gull.

Because of these birds, in particular the terns, the island has been designated as part of the "Ynys Feurig, Cemlyn Bay and The Skerries Special Protection Area" along with two other nearby sites, Cemlyn Bay and Ynys Feurig. All three are also classed by Birdlife International as an "Important Bird Area". The Skerries have also been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Terns interchange regularly between all three sites, and form part of a larger Irish Sea tern population together with birds at sites in Ireland such as Rockabill Island.

The islands are not left to nature. The RSPB has taken a hand and management measures they have undertaken here include control of introduced tree mallow and provision of nestboxes; these measures as aimed particularly at helping to increase the attractiveness of the site to breeding roseate terns, although it is accepted that the future number of pairs of this species here is primarily dependent on the overall health of the Irish Sea population.


The Skerries Lighthouse was established on the highest point of the largest island after 1716. A patent for the lighthouse was subsequently obtained in 1824. The builder was William Trench, who lost his son off the rocks and died in debt in 1725. He is said to have originally been allowed a pension from the Post Office, rather than payment from shipping tolls. An act of 1730 allowed his son-in-law, Sutton Morgan, to increase the dues charged for shipping and confirmed the patent on the light to Morgan’s heirs forever.

It was rebuilt around 1759 by Morgan’s heirs for about £3,000. The rebuilt lighthouse was a slightly tapering limestone tower, 22 feet in diameter and about 28 feet high. It was lit by a coal brazier on top of the tower. Morgan Jones, who was twice high sheriff of Cardiganshire, inherited the lighthouse in 1778; he raised the top of the tower by 22 feet and built an iron balcony with railings enclosing the oil-burning lantern. The lantern was glazed all around with square panes and covered by a cupola.

Trinity House took the operation of the lighthouse over under an Enabling Act of 1836, but not without a fight from the original owners, who wanted to protect their asset from a low takeover price. It was lavishly restored by James Walker, exhibiting two of his characteristics: a decrease in diameter and a solid parapet (as seen at his Trwyn Du Lighthouse). The stone-built gallery was 2¾ feet wide and bracketed out on corbels with a crenellated parapet. A new cast-iron lantern, 14 feet in diameter, was glazed with square panes around a dioptric light with mirrors, later replaced by a lens. On the north side of the tower there is a former external doorway exhibiting the Trinity House coat of arms, which now leads to the engine room.

The light shines at a height of 118 feet above the average high tide, with an intensity of 1,150,000 candelas. It flashes twice every 10 seconds and can be seen 22 nautical miles away. In 1903–4, a solid circular tower, about 10 feet in diameter, was added to the south-west side of the main tower to carry a sector light. This shines at an elevation of 85 feet above the sea. The light was automated in 1987 and is now controlled from Holyhead.

Nearby are castellated dwellings having cobbled yards and entrance stairs, along with symmetrically sited privies, a garden, a stone bridge connecting two islets, and a unique stone well-head building. An axial corridor leads from the dwellings to the lighthouse tower's base. The early date of the lighthouse keepers' cottages makes the buildings of considerable interest. For a number of summers, they have been used by wardens working for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Tidal power

The area between the islands and mainland Anglesey is the site of the planned Skerries Tidal Stream Array, being developed by Marine Current Turbines and RWE npower.

Outside links


  1. Cadw - The Skerries
  • Hague, D. B., Lighthouses of Wales: Their Architecture and Archaeology, ed. S. Hughes (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 1994) ISBN 1-871184-08-8