It was the seahorses that encouraged Alison and David Lea-Wilson to start making salt in North Wales. 

Before launching their saline seasoning business, the husband and wife duo, who met while studying at university in Bangor, set up and ran an aquarium (now Anglesey Sea Zoo). Here, they noticed that their seahorses – incredibly delicate and spectacularly hard to please creatures – were happy to breed in the water drawn from the Menai Strait, a fast-flowing channel that separates the island of Ynys Môn (Anglesey) from the North Wales mainland.

Keen to find a business that could operate on the island year-round, rather than relying on seasonal tourist trade, the two decided to set up a salt making venture, with a hunch that this seemingly pure Welsh sea water would produce an excellent flaky product. 

How right they were. Today Halen Môn salt is regarded as the finest sea salt in the world. It has been the seasoning of choice at royal weddings and the London 2012 Olympic Games, and is a go-to for top chefs around the world, including Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay. 

It’s a product that can enhance almost any dish, and a visit to the place where it’s made can add a sprinkle of the unexpected to any North Wales holiday itinerary.

A pair of hands wearing blue rubber gloves hold palmfuls of Halen Môn salt.
hands holding 2 contianters of Halon mon pure white sea salt.

 Halen Môn sea salt, produced on the Island of Anglesey

The Lea-Wilsons and the sea salt factory

Alison and David started Halen Môn sea salt company around the turn of the century. They weren’t, however, the first to try their hand at it, with records showing salt being produced on the island of Ynys Môn as far back as Roman times. The practice continued up until the latter part of the 18th century, when makers were found to be scandalously turbocharging their brine with rock salt from Cheshire.

Such behaviour would be unthinkable to the Halen Môn team, who have refined salt making down to a fine art. Within the walls of their modern Saltcote and Visitor Centre, the team utilise a pairing of natural filtration (through things like mussel beds) and innovative technologies to produce their award-winning product, which is still harvested by hand. They also keep one eye on the organisation’s environmental impact, with the company winning the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2017 in recognition of their efforts around sustainability.


A man and a woman outside the Halen Môn headquarters.
exterior of the Halen Môn headquarters.

Alison and David Lea-Wilson, Tŷ Halen, Saltcote and Visitor Centre, Anglesey, North Wales

Visitors can learn more about this salt-making process on one of the company’s Behind The Scenes Tours, which run from Thursdays to Sundays through most of the year. While a visit to a distillery or vineyard may include a whisky or wine tasting, a tour of the company’s headquarters features a guided salt tasting, where anything from classic to oak-smoked varieties are carefully crunched before their differing attributes are chewed over. The tasting includes other products too, like a slab of the company’s own salted caramel and a swig of the salt-infused Jin Môr (Gin of the Sea).

‘The salt tasting in particular goes down really well with our guests,’ says founder Alison. ‘People are just fascinated by how salts differ, how interesting salt can be, and how much care we put into our handmade products.’

A seaweed spa experience

But a salt tasting session isn’t the only out-of-the-box activity on offer at the company’s Saltcote and Visitor Centre.

On a grassy spot in an isolated part of the grounds, visitors may be able to spy a row of upcycled whisky barrels, looking out over the Menai Strait towards the mountain peaks of Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park. From April to October, these wooden drums are filled with pure warm water (generated as a by-product of the sea salt harvesting process) and topped with a few fistfuls of local seaweed, offering guests the chance to indulge in a revitalising soak.

Why seaweed? In warm water, the marine algae (which is also a culinary delicacy in Wales!) releases its mineral-dense oils, which are said to be great for the skin and help to soothe tired muscles.

‘We are the first company in Wales to offer a seaweed soak, celebrating the unparalleled view in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,’ says Alison. ‘As well as leaving your skin feeling amazing when you get out, you sleep incredibly well. I can vouch personally for that.’

An attraction worth its salt

Visitors who haven’t quite had their fill of surprises can finish a visit to the centre with a stroll around the large on-site shop, where an eclectic range of items line the shelves. 

Alongside Halen Môn’s wide variety of seasonings, spreads and other culinary products (including their Oak Smoked Water, created at the request of boundary-pushing chef Heston Blumenthal), the shop also stocks homeware, cookbooks and gift sets, plus clothing, jewellery and rugs made from recycled plastic bottles.

With an inviting café also operating at the site during the summer months, it’s clear a visit to the Halen Môn HQ extends far beyond your average factory visit.

And it’s no surprise, given Alison and David have a history of thinking a little outside the box. Before eventually settling on their salt selling business, the duo toyed with a number of whacky alternative business ventures, from selling bottles of multi-coloured sand to manufacturing solid sandcastles.

Looking at the success of the business today, you’d have to say they backed the right seahorse.

An internal shot of the Halen Môn shop.

Halen Môn gift shop, Anglesey

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