Holyhead Port Overview | 5 Best Things To Do In Holyhead Wales

Holyhead cruise port - The view from Holyhead Mountain

Welcome to Holyhead port! (Post updated: January 2024)

Holyhead is the largest town in the Isle of Anglesey (Wales) and the main gateway to North Wales and Snowdonia National Park. It is a commercial and ferry port serving routes to Dublin (Ireland), operated by Stena Line Ports Ltd, one of the leading ferry companies worldwide. In this article, read about:

  • Holyhead port info (Holyhead cruise terminal, getting around the port)
  • 5 best things to do in the port of Holyhead & Holyhead shore excursions

Visit also our cruise port guides to Greenock (Glasgow), Belfast, Cork (Cobh)Dover, Dublin, Invergordon (Inverness), Amsterdam, Le Havre

Holyhead Port Overview

All cruise ships dock at the commercial port of Holyhead which consists of 2 berths: Orthios Jetty, a long deepwater port that can accommodate cruise vessels up to 300 m long, and the Refit Berth located in the Inner Harbour for passenger ships up to 100 m long. Vessels longer than 300 m will anchor in the harbour and use tender boats to transfer passengers ashore.

Large cruise liners dock at Orthios Jetty pier. Visitors are not allowed to walk down the long and narrow pier. The Port Authorities offer a complimentary shuttle bus to Holyhead city center with a stop at the port parking lot.

Only cruise line shore excursion buses are allowed to park next to the ship, so if you have booked a tour with an independent tour operator, you must take the complimentary shuttle bus to the parking area to meet their guides. A friendly tourist information staff is also available quayside to give all necessary tips and suggestions for your independent exploration of the city.

Holyhead ferry port is located in the Inner Harbour (Old Harbour) and serves daily routes to Dublin. Check the timetables and fares at https://www.stenalinetravel.com/

Holyhead port map
Holyhead port map. Source: google.com/maps/

Getting Around & Local Transportation

  • The complimentary port shuttle bus will take you to the heart of the city which can easily be explored on foot. The bus ride takes approximately 5 minutes (the distance between the port and the city center is less than 1 km/0.5 miles). Taxis are available at the port parking lot.
  • Holyhead railway station is located less than a 10-minute walk from the city center and the ferry terminal. Check the fares and timetables at https://tfwrail.wales/
  • The official currency in Wales is the British Pound (£). Local currency and credit cards are widely accepted.
  • If you decide to stay closer to the cruise port, I suggest you take the opportunity to try out Welsh cuisine. You will find a good number of restaurants and pubs in the city center offering Welsh authentic dishes including Welsh rarebit and the Conwy Mussels.
  • For souvenir and local craft shopping head over to Market Street, the main shopping area, where you’ll find a variety of shops, pubs, and restaurants. History buffs should visit St Cybi’s Church (located at the end of Market Street) and the Maritime Museum (located on the waterfront) featuring local maritime history exhibits.
  • Keep in mind that Holyhead is hilly, so make sure you wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Some parts of the city are not suitable for wheelchair users.
  • Liverpool John Lennon Airport is the nearest international airport to Holyhead and is located 104 miles/167 km (a 1-hour 50-minute drive) east of the port of Holyhead. Another international airport is Manchester Airport, located 112 miles/180 km (a 1h 50-minute drive) also to the east.
  • Book a private transfer to/from Holyhead cruise port
  • Explore Holyhead tours and activities
  • Find accommodation near Holyhead port

5 Best Things to Do in Holyhead Port

1. South Stack Lighthouse

Sitting on top of Ynys Lawd, a small island on the northwest tip of Holy Island, the lighthouse was built to warn ships of the dangerous rocks below. Backed by mountains, the lighthouse is one of the main landmarks of Wales and Holyhead and boasts incredible sceneries. To access the island, visitors must be able to handle a steep stairway of 365 steps down the cliff face.

Visitors can enjoy a tour of the engine room and learn the history of this lighthouse built in 1809. You can also climb up to the top of the lighthouse to get breathtaking views of the Irish Sea and the Holy Island’s rugged coastline. Make sure to wear non-slippery shoes, bring a light jacket (weather changes are unpredictable), and consider your fitness level before choosing this experience.

South Stack Lighthouse Holyhead
South Stack Lighthouse. Source: Pixabay.com

How to Get to South Stack Lighthouse from Port Holyhead?

  • The South Stack Lighthouse is located around 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from Holyhead port. You can hire a taxi, however, the best way to explore the lighthouse is on an organized shore excursion, as normally the tours include some other stops as well so you’ll get the chance to visit other Holyhead attractions on the same day.
  • You can also take the Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path from Holyhead and the journey can take around 1h 15 minutes on foot.
  • If you decide to rent a car during your visit, there is a small parking lot at RSPB South Stack Café where you can leave your car. From there, you can start your 10-minute walk to the lighthouse.

2. Holyhead Mountain

If you are a nature lover then you should hike to Holyhead Mountain, the highest point in Anglesey, Holy Island, lying about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Holyhead cruise port. Standing at 220 meters (722 feet) above sea level, the place offers breathtaking views that extend to the coast of Ireland on a clear day for those who conquer the summit. The mountain is home to an ancient Roman watchtower and an Iron Age stone circle settlement.

Holyhead port - The view from Holyhead Mountain
The view of Holyhead harbour from Holyhead Mountain. Source: Creative Commons

Unless you are an experienced hiker, I suggest getting a local guide to lead the way. You can check with your Shore Excursions team onboard the ship, the tourist information center in Holyhead, or arrange your trip online through an independent tour operator. There are different trails you can take and the length ranges from 2 up to 6 hours hike.

Check out the Holyhead Mountain tours and activities

3. Caernarfon Castle

Located in the northwestern corner of Wales, the waterfront castle is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture whose construction was ordered by King Edward I in the late 13th century. The castle was one of the eight great strongholds known as the Ring of Iron and the most expensive castle ever built by the King of England.

Twelve towers surround the grounds, two of them currently housing the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, an interactive infantry regiment history museum. The biggest and most impressive tower of all is the Eagle Tower, one of the first structures to be built, known for its carvings of eagles decorating the battlements.

Caernarfon Castle Wales
Caernarfon Castle and the Eagle Tower. Source: Pixabay.com

Explore the grounds and learn the history and importance of this impressive UNESCO World Heritage. The metal thumping reenactment that takes place every day is one of the visitor’s favorite attractions and will take you back to medieval times. In 1969 the castle was the chosen place by Queen Elizabeth to formally invest Prince Charles as the 21st Prince of Wales.

It is recommended you purchase your tickets ahead of time to avoid the long lines and waiting. There is limited access for wheelchair users as the entry is through the Eagle Tower and guests must be able to handle 50 steps. It’s advisable to inform the castle in advance and pre-arrange your entry.

The town of Caernarfon is situated right at the foot of the castle. You can stroll along the colorful streets, enjoy a cuppa at a local café, or explore the lively Market Street.

How to Get to Caernarfon Castle from Holyhead Port?

  • Caernarfon is located approximately 29 miles (47 km) southeast of Holyhead cruise terminal, around 35 minutes drive each way. The easiest way to get there is on an organized shore excursion, but you can also take a taxi/book a private transfer.
  • You can also take the train from Holyhead train station to Bangor (Gwynedd) and then the 5C bus from there to Caernarfon. The trains leave hourly and the ride takes around 30-40 minutes, while the bus portion lasts the same. This is the cheapest way to get to the castle but the journey is long and takes up to 2 hours one way. Therefore, it’s not recommended for cruise travelers. 

Check out Caernarfon Castle tours and activities

4. Snowdonia National Park

Visit one of the largest UK National Parks and home to the highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdon, with its 1.085 meters (3.560 feet) high peak. Many visitors choose to climb to the top of Snowdon, but I suggest you enjoy a relaxing journey aboard the Snowdon Mountain Railway, passing beautiful waterfalls and remnants of one of the largest medieval settlements in Wales while admiring the stunning landscape of Snowdonia and the Welsh Countryside.

The trains depart from Llanberis station and finish at Snowdon Summit Visitor Center “Hafod Eryri”, the United Kingdom’s highest visitor center offering breathtaking views of the valleys and surrounding mountains. Alternatively, you can get off at Clogwyn Station and walk to the summit. The overall duration of the train ride is around 45 minutes to 1 hour (one way).

 

Snowdonia National Park, Wales, UK
Snowdonia National Park. Source: Pixabay.com

How to Get to Snowdonia from Holyhead Cruise Port?

The distance between Holyhead cruise port and Llanberis Station is approximately 30 miles (48 km), and the drive takes 40 minutes. You can take a taxi or a train from Holyhead train station to Bangor (Gwynedd) and then a 25-minute ride to Llanberis station, but please take into consideration that the train option will get you to your destination in approximately 1 hour 30 minutes each way.

Alternatively, you can book a shore excursion with a cruise ship, just make sure you pre-purchase your tour online because availability is limited and this tour sells out quickly. The cheaper option is to book a tour with a reliable independent tour operator or book a round-trip private transfer.

Check out Snowdonia tours and activities

5. Llanfair PG

This is the short name for a small village located in the southeast of Anglesey, in the North of Wales, one of the most popular destinations for visitors because it holds the title of the second-longest one-word place name in the world.

The actual full name is 58 letters long and it is “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” which means “St Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool of Llandysilio of the red cave”. Make sure you take a picture at the Llanfairpwll Railway Station and ask your guide or a local to teach you the pronunciation, however, don’t expect it to be successful. 🙂 Next to the train station, there is a quite big souvenir store where you can get all sorts of souvenirs and Welsh handcrafts.

Llanfair is located 21 miles (34 km) southeast of Holyhead cruise terminal and this popular attraction is included in many organized shore excursions. The train ride from Holyhead to Llanfairpwll takes 30 minutes.

Check out Llanfairpwll tours and activities

Llanfairpwll Railway Station, Wales
Llanfairpwll Railway Station. Source: Tripadvisor.com

Wrapping Up

The Holy Island and the port of Holyhead have a lot to offer, regardless of your preferences. No matter how you choose to spend your day, make sure you plan it according to your cruise ship’s schedule and time in port.

Visit also our cruise port guide to Greenock (Glasgow), Belfast, Cork (Cobh)Dover, Dublin, Invergordon (Inverness), Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Le Havre


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