A good photograph is knowing where to stand - Ansel Adams

Penmon Point Lighthouse
Tuesday, 29 December 2009 22:37

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Penmon Point Lighthouse, Anglesey

A lighthouse should get it's feet wet at least twice a day in my opinion. It always seems a terrible shame to me that such a beautiful, and invariably historic structure as a lighthouse should be placed out of reach of it's raison d'être, the sea. Penmon Point lighthouse at the eastern tip of Anglesey has no such failings; it stands at the end of a low-lying rocky point, it's base submerged and tantalisingly inaccessible to we landlubbers.

This is an atmospheric location; it's history speaks of the wreck of the Rothesay Castle, which departed Liverpool in 1831 to meet its end here, taking the lives of 117 passengers and crew with it. Every 30 seconds, a 178Kg bell tolls, warning other ships of the fate of the Rothesay Castle, and ensuring that seafarers do not founder on the same rocks in the thick fogs that can occur here.

Click the Play button below to listen to a short audio clip of the Penmon Point bell on a very quiet and still morning:

All things considered, Penmon Point lighthouse (also known as Trwyn Du in the Welsh language) is one of my favourite locations on one of my favourite islands. It's appeal is as much in it's variability as in it's natural beauty; I've seen this location with millpond still winter morning seas, and on scorching summer days with a gentle swell lapping the shore. The seas here can be wild also, with monstrous waves crashing against the foot of the lighthouse, and whipping winds blowing spray far inshore. Penmon Point is truly a location that should be visited in more than one season in order to capture the different sides of it's character.

There is more to see in the vicinity also. Penmon Priory and St Seriol's Well are close nearby, as are the cottages that once served the lighthouse and lifeboat station. You may also want to pay a visit to the ruined quarry buildings of Flagstaff Quarry, located at the north end of the bay to the south of Penmon Point. The quarry is apparently accessible via a walk along the beach from the point, although I haven't as yet been able to tear myself away from the lighthouse in time to visit it.

Penmon Point Lighthouse, Anglesey

As always with any coastal location, you should consider a tripod essential as the vicinity of the sea means you may want to get creative with longer exposures. In addition to your standard wide-angle landscape lens, in rougher weather you may consider taking a telephoto to save you clambering over wet rocks in heavy seas. The incoming tide once left me with bit of a daring leap back to dry land, after becoming a little too engrossed in photography and being left stranded on a ever shrinking rock. Perhaps I should heed will own advice on future visits.

As I indicated earlier, there is no 'correct' time to visit this location. Summer can bring beautiful blue skies and calm seas, whereas winter can bring some seriously moody weather. Naturally, the fickle Welsh weather can turn this advice on it's head and treat you to stormy weather in the middle of July, so check the weather report before you leave. Whichever season you visit however, be sure you check the tide tables, and visit during high and low water. The character of the lighthouse is altered dramatically with the changing tides, and you'll want to see the best of both. If a gun was put to my head and I was forced to pick however, I'd choose an early morning low tide as the best time to visit. My first visit was under such conditions, and a mirror like sea was only disturbed by an incredible fishing display put on by dozens of diving cormorants and a passing porpoise - magical!

While access to the lighthouse itself is not possible, access to the point is easy. You can take the A545 to Beaumaris, and carry on along the road as far as the crossroads, turn right, follow the signs to Penmon and simply follow the road. Alternatively, those with more inclination to burn some shoe leather can follow the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path, turning inland should the mood take them, and following any of the footpaths marked on OS Explorer 263. There is a small fee to park at Penmon Priory, or a toll to continue along the road at this point, whereas walkers can access the site freely.

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I am on a constant lookout for new and interesting locations. If you know of a potentially photogenic location you'd like to see included in the guide, please let me know.