After just four days on the Isle of Anglesey I found myself completely flabbergasted. It had crept up on me each time I went somewhere new or saw something different: the sunset over South Stack lighthouse, the bewildering history at Beaumaris Castle. It was all utterly spellbinding. But the best thing about Anglesey for me – and my Manchester Terrier, Arty – is just how dog-friendly it is.
This region of North Wales, an island connected to the mainland by a pair of bridges over the fierce waters of the Menai Strait, is simply stunning. It has a 130-mile (200km) long coastline with a footpath that offers access to all of it, and it has some of the finest scenery in Wales, including views over towards the brooding mountains of Snowdonia National Park from its southern tip.
My delight in our chosen destination was matched, if not exceeded, by Arty’s passion for racing along Anglesey’s many sandy beaches without summertime restrictions for dogs. He found great pleasure in sniffing the undergrowth of Newborough Forest and clambering across the dunes backing Traeth Llydan near Rhosneigr. But it wasn’t just natural wonders we had at our disposal – the fortified walls of Beaumaris Castle made a fascinating day out, and a boat trip out to Puffin Island was an adventure.
Throw in some brilliant pubs and even a rather fancy restaurant and it’s safe to say we were both charmed by the region’s highlights.
Explore: Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle could have been the most spectacular castle in Wales. It was set to be the pièce de résistance for Henry I, who had already constructed the impressive fortifications at Conwy and Caernarfon. But come 1320, money troubles set in and, coupled with unrest in Scotland, building at Beaumaris was paused, never to resume.
Today, it’s a supremely handsome semi-finished ruin, with a water-filled moat, 12 turrets and perfectly symmetrical concentric walls with an impressive 300 arrow loops carved out of them. Dogs and their owners are allowed in all the ground floor and outdoor areas of the castle, taking in the weaponry room, the inner courtyard and a small cinema where a film charts the history of the castle.
If you’re travelling as a pair, take it in turns to climb the steps onto the top of the walls for views across Beaumaris and the Menai Strait (the slippery, steep steps aren’t suitable for dogs). After you’ve explored the castle, don’t miss a bara brith ice cream at the Red Boat Ice Cream Parlour.
Walk: Newborough Forest
On a sunny day, strolling through Newborough Forest with the dog can feel like you’re in the Mediterranean. Though that’s hardly surprising – the whole reserve is made up of lanky Corsican pine trees which create a gorgeous dappled shade on the forest floor, offering respite for panting pups enjoying the warm weather walk. The best place to start from here is the car park at Malltraeth (LL62 5BA) and take the wide track that wends its way through the forest and opens out onto a scenic, spectacular sandy beach with dunes and Ynys Llanddwyn, a promontory with a ruined church and spectacular views of Snowdonia National Park.
Book: a boat trip to Puffin Island
The uninhabited isle that sits just beyond Penmon Point is a fascinating little spot for its bird life and seals. Its name is something of a misnomer nowadays, as the plentiful puffins that once nested here in summer are long gone after a rat colony was introduced to the island some years ago. You might still see puffins, though, and the guides on the Seacoast Safaris cruises will do their utmost to point them out to you on their dog-friendly trips. Plus, there are cormorants, shags, kittiwakes and seals to be spotted on its rocky face.
Eat: at Anglesey’s best restaurant
On an island surrounded by ocean it would be remiss to not order seafood at least once. Some of the finest seafood in Anglesey can be had at The Oystercatcher, a vast venue that sits behind the dunes of Traeth Llydan near Rhosneigr. Dogs are allowed inside but the outdoor terrace is most pleasant when the weather’s good; order crab, scallops or even surf and turf, then take them for a runabout on the beach after.
Stay: in style in Rhosneigr
Stroll along the coastal roads in Rhosneigr and you might mistake your surroundings for the Hamptons in the USA. This is where Anglesey’s well-heeled residents and visitors hang out, largely in the huge ocean-front homes akin to enormous American beach houses. It’s here that you’ll also find one of the region’s best, most stylish hotels: Sandy Mount House.
It has a distinctly Mediterranean feel, with bright and breezy rooms in neutral tones and ocean blues, and some of the bathrooms have roll-top baths. The hotel welcomes two dogs per room for a fee of £15 per dog per night, and they’re even allowed in the breakfast room with you in the mornings.