Bardsey is undoubtedly a very special place, somehow apart from this modern clamouring world and hugely important for its wildlife, history, spirituality and Welsh culture. Since 1979 these values have been safeguarded under the ownership of the Bardsey Island Trust which protects the delicate ecosystems of the island and their wildlife, protects its historical sites and encourages people to visit the island as a place of natural beauty and pilgrimage. Boat trips (weather dependent) are available from Porth Meudwy or Pwllheli.
Bardsey has always been a place of pilgrimage since the earliest years of Christianity but there are relics of settlements from pre-history. It is believed that St. Cadfan founded a monastery on the Island in AD546, but the present ruins date from the thirteenth century Augustinian Abbey of St Mary’s. The Island is reputed to be the burial site of 20,000 saints.
After the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537, Bardsey was left to pirates and marauders, until the establishment of farming and fishing community in the mid-eighteenth century under the ownership of Lord Newborough. Most of the buildings on the island were built by him during the 1870’s.
Bardsey is nationally and internationally important for wildlife. The Bardsey Island Trust, together with RSPB who are its tenant farmers, ensure that traditional farming sustains the special flora and fauna; grazing with Welsh Blacks, restoring clawdd walls, and planting weedy root-crops for livestock and birds.
The coastal heathlands and grasslands are rich in biodiversity with blue carpets of Spring Squill followed by pink Thrift and purple heathers. The surrounding sea is rich in marine life with anemones and sea-squirts, sponges and crustaceans, Risso’s Dolphin, Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seals.
Bardsey is especially renowned for its birds, and since 1953 has been home to the Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory which studies and records the birds and their migration. The Observatory has an impressive list of rarities including exotic vagrants such as Summer Tanager, Black-browed Albatross and Dark-eyed Junco. Some 40,000 birds may land around the lighthouse at the time of the October new moon, with up to 4000 Willow Warblers passing through on migration in a single day.
Birds include Peregrines, Auks, Wheatears, Choughs. However the island is perhaps most important for its breeding colony of 10-16,000 pairs Manx Shearwaters. The cackling of these birds coming ashore at night is just bizarre.