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Bardsey Isle, Carnarvonshire

Historical Description

Bardsey Isle, an extra-parochial island in Carnarvonshire. It lies at the NW extremity of Cardigan Bay, 2½ miles S by W of Braich-y-PwIl headland, 7 SW of Aberdaron, and 15 SW of Pwllheli. The sound between it and Braich-y-Pwll is swept by so strong a current in spring-tides as to be called Bardsey Race. The island is nearly 2 miles long, measures — of a mile at the north end, contracts into a narrow headland on the south, and comprises 430 acres. Part of it, on the north-east, is a high rugged hill, with precipitous sea-face, but the rest is chiefly low fertile plain. Population, 77. A lighthouse, built in 1821, and 108 feet high, stands on the southern headland, and shows a fixed light, visible at the distance of 5 miles. The islanders are employed variously in farming and fishing. The island is called Ynys-Enlli by the Welsh, signifying "the island of the current," in allusion to the tidal stream in the sound; but was called Bards-Y, or Bards' Island, by the Saxons, whence its present name Bardsey, and Insula Sanctorum, or the island of the saints, by the monks, in allusion to its early ecclesiastical history. A monastery was founded on it, prior to 516, by Cadvan, king of North Wales, and became the retreat and the deathplace of Dnbricius, archbishop of Caerleon, and also the asylum of numerous refugees from the massacre of the monks at Bangor-Is-y-Coed. The bards allege that 20,000 saints were buried here, and Fuller, in his " Worthies," remarks that " it would be more facile to find graves in Bardsey for so many saints, than saints for so many graves." There is a monument 9 feet high, erected by Lord Newborough, to. their memory. The monastery was reconstituted an abbey for canons in the 13th century, but is now represented by only a fragment of its church-tower, St Deiniol, the first bishop of Bangor and the founder of the original cathedral, was buried liere in 584.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Registration districtPwllheli1837 - 1937
Registration districtPwllheli1837 - 1937
Registration districtPwllheli & Portmadoc1937 - 1974
Registration sub-districtAberdaron 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Bardsey Isle from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Carnarvonshire is available to browse.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers online: