Puffin Island (Anglesey)
|Native name: Ynys Seiriol|
Puffin Island seen from Penmon Point
Puffin Island is the ninth largest island off the coast of Wales and marks the northeastern end of the Menai Strait. Puffin Island's highest point is Carboniferous limestone, at 58 metres (190 ft) above sea level having steep cliffs on all sides. It has an area of 0.28 square kilometres (69 acres). The island is privately owned by the Baron Hill estate and landing is not allowed without special permission.
The Welsh name, Ynys Seiriol, refers to Saint Seiriol, who established a monastic settlement on the island and on Trwyn Du (Penmon Point) on the mainland opposite the island in the 6th century. Seiriol is said to have been buried on the island.
A monastery existed on the island in the late 12th century and was mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis who visited the area in 1188. He claimed that whenever there was strife within the community of monks a plague of mice would devour all their food. King Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd is said to have sheltered here in around 630 when fleeing an invasion from Northumbria. Llywelyn the Great issued two charters in 1221 and 1237 confirming the canons regular, in possession of the island and the church and manor of Penmon on the mainland of Anglesey. The ruins of several ecclesiastical buildings are visible on the island, including the remains of a 12th century church.
The island is a Special Protection Area (SPA), particularly because of its Great Cormorant colony of over 750 pairs, making it one of the largest colonies in the British Isles. It also has good numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag and Kittiwake nesting, and in recent years small numbers of Common Eider and Black Guillemot. The Puffins from which the island gets its modern English name bred in considerable numbers at one time, with up to 2,000 pairs recorded. The Brown Rat was introduced accidentally to the island, probably in the late 19th century, and reduced this population to a very few pairs. A programme of poisoning these rats started in 1998 by the Countryside Council for Wales appears to have eradicated them, and the Puffin population has shown an increase since that date.
The strong currents around the island provide for an abundance of marine life, particularly on the north coast where the depths reach 15 metres (8 fathoms). Many people enjoy fishing trips departing from Beaumaris in these waters, catching mainly mackerel, but many other species are caught. Pleasure cruises are also available from Easter to October to view the island, its seal colony and birdlife.
There is one identified shipwreck, a steamship The Pioneer, which ran ashore in 1878 with a cargo of iron bars when the tow lines to it broke following its rescue from engine failure near The Skerries.