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Exploring Porth Dafarch

Winter scenes at Porth Dafarch
Winter scenes at Porth Dafarch | © Alex Jones

This stretch of the Wales Coast Path is popular for its rich history, sandy bay, caves, and ancient rock formations. The cliffs are home to the many choughs which can be seen and heard in the area.

Geology at Porth Dafarch

It is hard to miss the amazing and ancient rock formations around this rugged coastline.

The research into the geology of Môn (Anglesey) and Wales has had a significant historical impact on the growth of geology as a science.

Many of the rocks on Môn have undergone a process known as metamorphism, which involves being heated, buried deeply, and modified. The rocks of folds and strata that you will see around the coastline of Porth Dafarch went through metamorphism around 600 million years ago.

A grey seal bobbing in the sea at Godrevy
A grey seal | © National Trust Images/Nick Upton

Wildlife

Listen out for the chough’s ‘chee-ow’ and be mesmerised by their acrobatic swoops and dives along the coastline. The chough is the least common member of the crow family, easily recognised by its red bill and legs.

Choughs typically live along high coastal ledges because they prefer to nest in sea caves, abandoned structures, or cracks and fissures in cliffs. Here in the UK they are only found on the far Western rocky shores and are reliant on management of grazing to offer sufficient foraging grounds.

Porth Dafarch is also a great location for spotting marine life. If you’re patient, you might catch a glimpse of a porpoise coming up for air or see some seals basking on the rocks or bobbing in the waves.

Watersports at Porth Dafarch

Porth Dafarch offers great snorkelling and rockpooling opportunities for those interested in sea life and is a popular destination for kayakers due to the many crags and sea caves dotted around the area.

Several people in tandem kayaks are paddling in the water at Mullion Cove, Cornwall.
Kayaking the caves | © National Trust Images/Ben Selway

The Missouri shipwreck

The largest shipwreck in Anglesey lies off the coast of Porth Dafarch. The Missouri, a 3,000-ton vessel was sailing from Boston in the United States to Liverpool, carrying a cargo of cattle, cotton and palm oil.

Heavy winds and snow drove the ship onshore at Porth Dafarch. Efforts were made by the Holyhead lifeboat and cliff rescue team to save the Missouri from wrecking but unfortunately failed. However, the crew onboard all survived. Later, much of the cargo was retrieved, but sadly only 50 of the 395 cattle onboard the vessel were saved.

Today Porth Dafarach is a popular location for scuba divers wanting to explore the famous wreck, along with the plethora of marine life.

Irishmen’s huts

In the field right behind the beach and car park lies an ancient settlement dating back to the prehistoric era. In Welsh they are called ‘Cytiau’r Gwyddelod’ which translates to Irishmen’s huts. This term can be deceptive, as there is no historical relationship between them and the Irish. Irish tribes have occasionally resided in west Wales in the past, which undoubtedly explains the name given to these archaeological ruins.

Due to its potential to advance our understanding of prehistoric settlement and burial, the monument is significant on a national level. It is possible to anticipate that the structures themselves will hold archaeological data pertaining to date and construction methods.

A young child and her mother bending down to look at flowers in the Sunken Garden in May at Castle Ward, County Down, Northern Ireland

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