IOPCC Trip Report

Monday 22nd August 2011

Paddlers: Tony Sandry, John Christmas, Ian Hackworthy, Barbara Browning.

The Welsh name for Bardsey is Ynys Enlli which means ‘Isle of the Currents’ The Isle is only 3k from the Lleyn Peninsular but the exposed nature and strong tidal streams of this area require respect. Lleyn is the most westerley point in North Wales and the headland has spectacular cliffs. The crossing to Bardsey Island combines all the exposure of an open sea crossing with fast tidal streams. ‘A good weather forecast, accurate tidal planning are just as essential as excellent paddling and navigation skills.’ (hmmm well we didn’t really have any of those things but we had a nice time anyway).

We were camping on the Lleyn at Penrault Farm on the Clubs August Holiday Event organised by Dicky. The previous couple of days had seen our planned paddle prematurely curtailed due to strengthening wind and roughness. The forecast for the Bardsey day was better but we were ready to turn back if we didn’t like the view of Bardsey Sound from Pen y Cil .
We left Aberdaron a bit later than was ideal to catch the last hour of the ebb but it was neaps so we thought it wouldn’t matter that much. Dicky and Lee opted for a sheltered paddle in Aberdaron Bay and they had a a very pleasant relaxing paddle around Ynys Gwyland –fach and Ynys Gwylan –fawr. When we reached Pen y Cil all was calm – just a few ruffles to indicate that we had indeed missed the ebb and the flood had started. The view of Bardsey across the Sound is spectacular – the north –eastern slopes steep forbidding and inhospitable are all that are seen at first.

The first half of the crossing was calm with a gentle swell . The tell tale swirls and boils of tidal activity began to emerge and the 1500 metres or so towards the island were quite rough and demanding. However, there was a strip of calmness as we reached the Island and we rested in there as our heart rates returned to normal. We paddled clockwise around d Pen Cristin to a sheltered harbour which was surprisingly large and quite busy with tourist and pleasure craft. Landing is very easy and we took the opportunity to go ashore and explore for a while. The Island has a few permanent buildings as well as the ruins of the 13th century St Marys Abbey.

The normal ‘rules’ for crossing are to go at slack water. We didn’t really want to spend the next 5 hours on the Island so we set off on a dibble continuing clockwise. There were more seals than I have ever seen and some of them were huge. One even got on my stern and gave me a helping hand. The weather had tidied up quite nicely and although there was still a stiff breeze it was sunny and encouragingly Tony had his fair weather hat on. The exposed western side of the island is rugged. Low gnarly cliffs topped with heather and rough pasture give the feeling that this shore is regularly battered by the prevailing south –westerly winds. We had a great time watching the seals at play and I think they had a great time watching us too.

We paddled out to a skerry, Carreg yr Honwy, which was the home of supersize seals who were less used to visitors so we paddled by. Our attention was also drawn to the massive tidal race raging out to sea, but I decided not to think about that as we enjoyed exploring the caves on the Island.
All too soon we emerged at Trwyn y Gorlech the northeren tip of Bardsey. Although the flood was now in full flow we didn’t think it looked too bad and we decided to just go for it. That strip of calm on the Bardsey side was fairly short and we had a couple of kilometres of steep unpredictable waves to cross – all the time being dragged by the tide to our left (NE) by the tide. We could see the end of the rough water but it took a long time before we emerged close to Trwyn Maen Gwddel. This was unplanned as we were aiming at Trwyn Bychestyn a couple of kilometres to the South West but it was fortuitous. Firstly there seemed to be an eddy taking us the way we wanted to go, secondly it was calm and quite smooth and thirdly the coastline was immense with bold rocky headlands. The cliffs are broken up by a series of small bays gullies and caves which we were able to explore.
The water around Carreg Ddu and Pen y Cil has impressive overfalls in the middle hours of the tide but thankfully all was fairly quiet when we got there as we had had enough excitement for one day. We enjoyed the return paddle down the East Coast of Lleyn passing the disused mining quays wedged tightly into the tiny bays and gullies. Porth Meudwy is a small sheltered bay nestling amongst the steep cliffs which is a small natural harbour and departure point for Bardsey since ancient times.

We were delighted to be welcomed back to Aberdaron Beach by Lee and Dicky who gave us a very welcome hand with carrying the boats up the beach.
A grand day out on a committing paddle with strong tidal streams few landings and no escape routes. Definitely one to do on neaps!
John ready for the Bardsey crossing Ian and Barbara
Loadsa seals ...and some of them were HUGE
Barbara got a helping flipper from this one Barbara
Dead smooth on the far side of the island No pictures on the slightly fraught crossing back over
Lovely rock hopping along the mainland coast Looking back to Bardsey
Barbara, John and Ian relaxing at a very picturesque lunch stop on Bardsey

Pictures of the paddle are on the
Galleries Page.


Back to the Trip Report Index

Report: Barbara Browning
Pictures: Tony Sandry



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