Isle of Anglesey

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Anglesey is an island off the northwest coast of Wales. It is connected to the mainland by two bridges spanning the Menai Strait: the original Menai Suspension Bridge (carrying the A5), designed by Thomas Telford in 1826; and the newer reconstructed Britannia Bridge (originally designed by Robert Stephenson); which carries the A55 and the North Wales Coast Railway line.

Anglesey is also a county which includes Holy Island and other nearby small islands.

With an area of 276 square miles (715 km²), Anglesey is the largest Welsh island, and the fifth largest surrounding Britain.

There are numerous Megalithic monuments and Menhirs present on Anglesey testifying to the presence of mankind in prehistory.

Historically, Anglesey has long been associated with the Druids. In AD 60 the Roman general Suetonius Paulinus, determined to break the power of the Druids, attacked the island, destroying the shrine and the sacred groves. News of Boudicca's Revolt reached him just after his victory, causing him to withdraw his army before consolidating his conquest. The island was finally brought into the Roman empire by the governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola in AD 78. The Romans called the island Mona.

Môn is the Welsh name of Anglesey, but its origin is obscure, coming from the British enisis mona, appearing first during the Roman era as 'Mona'. The 'English' name is in fact derived from the Old Norse, meaning 'Ongull's Island'. The alternative "isle (ey) of the Angles" is discredited. Old Welsh names are Ynys Dywyll ("Dark Isle") and Ynys y Cedairn (cedyrn or kedyrn; "Isle of brave folk"). It is the Mona of Tacitus (Ann. xiv. 29, Agr. xiv. 18), Pliny the Elder (iv. 16) and Dio Cassius (62). It is called Môn Mam Cymru ("Môn, Mother of Wales") by Giraldus Cambrensis, for the claimed ability of the fertile land to produce enough food for the whole of Wales. In reality, the claim was probably more directed at an ability to sustain Gwynedd. Clas Merddin, and Y fêl Ynys (honey isle) are other names. According to the Triads (67), Anglesey was once part of the mainland. 28 cromlechs remain on uplands overlooking the sea; e.g. at Plâs Newydd. The Druids were attacked in 61 by Suetonius Paulinus, and again in 78 by Agricola. The present road from Holyhead to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll may originally have been a Roman road, and a network of such roads on the island may await formal discovery. British and Roman sites, coins and ornaments have been dug up and discussed, especially by the 19th century romantic antiquarian, the Hon. Lord Stanley of Penrhos. The foundations of the fort in Holyhead are Roman.

At the end of the Roman period in the late 4th century and early 5th century pirates from Ireland colonised Anglesey and the nearby Llŷn Peninsula. In response to this a Brythonic warlord from the north of Britain called Cunedda came to the area and began the process of driving the Irish out. This process was continued by his son Einion ap Cunedda and grandson Cadwallon Lawhir until the last Irish were defeated in battle in 470. As an island Môn would usually be a good defensive position and because of this it was the site of the court or Llys of the kings and princes of Gwynedd at Aberffraw. Apart from a devastating Danish raid in 853 this was to remain the case until the thirteenth century when improvements to the English navy made it indefensible.

After the Irish, the island was invaded by Vikings, Saxons, and Normans before falling to King Edward I of England, in the 13th century.

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