Anglesey Bridges over Menai Straits

The Bridges Rib Ride Tour

Menai & Brittania Bridges trip on a RIB boat

On the same rainy July day as our Puffin Island RIB Ride tour, while we were still wet through, we jumped on another tour by Seawake. This time was The Bridges tour along the Menai Straits, passing under both the Menai suspension and Britannia bridges.

Apart from the obvious thrill of racing down the Menai Straits at high speed on the powerful RIB boats, the trip also included plenty of interesting facts and stories of the past, providing a fascinating and entertaining insight into the history of this remarkable water way.

And typically, the weather turned heavier the closer we got to the bridges, hampering our viewing somewhat, so you’ll find the pictures a bit grey, but that didn’t spoil the fun! So, grab your raincoats and let’s dive in (metaphorically speaking)!

It's all about the gear

Picture of Ged & Louis before boarding for the Rib Ride to Puffin Island

As we’ve mentioned on our Puffin Island Tour blog, regardless of whether it’s a lovely summer’s day or not, it’s recommended you bring at least a waterproof jacket as it’s likely you’ll get wet!

With a number of operators and options to choose from for Menai boat trips, we opted for the high-speed RIB with Seawake at Anglesey Boat Trips, launching from Beaumaris Pier. Note that this particular tour isn’t dog friendly, for obvious reasons.

You’ll find details and a special offer for Gwendon guests at the end of this blog.

The boat

Seawake Discovery RIB boat

‘Discovery’ is powered by twin 300HP Mercury V8 outboards, producing a humongous 600HP! Custom built to accommodate 12 passengers and 2 crew, she sports state-of-the-art electronic navigational aids to ensure the skippers can take you safely up and down the Strait.

The journey to the bridges - gawping at the neighbours

Safety briefing done, we hopped aboard our trusty vessel, the rain pelting down around us only adding to the sense of excitement and anticipation. Our expert skipper revved the engine, and we took off, slicing through the choppy waters of the Menai Straits with ease. 

Soon we passed Garth Pier at Bangor, a charming, elegant late 19th century Victorian pier, the second longest in Wales. Dotted along the banks were lots of stunning properties, all commanding magnificent views, as well as magnificent price tags, commonly known as ‘Millionaires’ Row’. One day, eh? Keep doing the lottery, Ged…

One controversial building is Glyn Garth Court, an apartment block built in the 1960s that’s so out of character for the area, I’m surprised it passed planning (cue brown envelope … cough). At one time, film stars such as Richard Burton and Roger Moore lived there.

Included in these magnificent houses is Chateau Rhianfa, built in 1849 by Sir John Hay-Williams, Baronet of Bodelwyddan, as a gift for his wife, Lady Sarah. Beautifully positioned on the water, the artistic design was influenced by the couple’s travels in the Loire region of France. Today it’s a beautiful country house hotel, popular for weddings and events.

Glyn Garth Court
Glyn Garth Court
Chateau Rhianfa
Chateau Rhianfa

Menai Suspension Bridge

First up is the Menai Suspension Bridge. Built by Thomas Telford and opened in 1826, this elegant masterpiece was the world’s first and biggest suspension bridge. Sixteen huge chains held up 579 ft of deck, allowing 100 ft of clear space beneath. This allowed tall sailing ships navigating the seaway to pass underneath, whilst spanning the Straits at its narrowest point. 

The bridge is a Grade I listed structure and still carries road traffic on its narrow carriageways to this day. There’s pedestrian access so you can walk across the bridge and admire the spectacular views of the Menai. From the water, it’s equally impressive.

Ynys Gorad Goch

Ynys Gorad Goch an island in the middle of the Menai Strait

Next up, we pass the famous island in the menai straits – Ynys Gorad Goch, which means Red Weir Island in Welsh. It’s a private island situated in the middle of the Menai Strait, between the Menai Suspension bridge and the Britannia Bridge in a body of water known as the Swellies (Swillies in Welsh).

The Swellies has always been popular for fishing due to the volume of fresh sea water changing when the tide comes in. More on this below.

Several weirs (or fish traps) were constructed around 1824 along the shores of the Menai Strait between the two bridges. The remains of the weirs can still be seen today at low tide, but the best example of them are on Ynys Gorad Goch. With the eddy currents, fish were drawn into the weirs, trapping them. A smoke house was built on the island and small rowing boats used to ferry passengers to the island for fried whitebate teas and smoked herring & mackerel.

Navigating The Swellies

Located centrally between the two bridges, the Swellies is is a unique environment with strong, reversing tidal flows, rapid currents and swirling whirlpools, caused by the sea washing in at either end, and makes for treacherous waters. The currents find their epicentre at the Swellies.

The trick to navigating the swellies is lining up markers located in different places. Our skipper was a dab hand at changing course, with whirling eddies of water spinning around us in all directions. Quite exhilerating!

View to Menai Bridge from The Swellies

Brittania Bridge

Brittania Bridge from the Menai Strait

After successfully navigating the Swellies safely, we approached Robert Stephenson’s Grade II listed Britannia Bridge (Pont Brittania in Welsh), which was built in 1850. In those days, it looked very different and only carried trains. It was guarded by four magnificent monumental lions at each corner. After a disasterous fire in 1970 which devastated the bridge (teens looking for bats using burning paper as torches),  the bridge was rebuilt as a two level bridge carrying both trains (underneath) and road traffic above, using the orignal pillars. The lions are still there, but are sadly forlorn and hidden by the road bridge, as traffic thunders by. 

Brittania Bridge Lion

Lord Nelson's Training Ground

Lord Nelson Column viewed from the Menai Straits

The next attraction on our trip after Brittania Bridge was a small statue. “Who’s that”, Louis asked?

“Lord Nelson”, the skipper explained, and relayed the story. The straits are some of the most difficult & dangerous waters to navigate anywhere in the world.

Legend has it that Lord Nelson himself was the first to succeed. He took a short cut through the straits wheras most ships sailing up the coast of Wales went around the outside of Anglesey. He even used this stretch of water as a training ground for his sailors.

Plas Newydd House and Gardens

Plas Newydd House and Gardens, viewed from the Menai Straits

Our final stop on our trip before heading back took us to the enchanting mansion and gardens of Plas Newydd. With spectacular views of Eryri (Snowdonia) and the Menai Strait, it was the home of the Marquess of Anglesey, and is now owned by the National Trust. It’s well worth a trip to see this beautiful house and gardens, and I’ll cover that on another blog.

From the straits, you can see a small slipway connected to a tunnel leading up the house. It was thought to be used for supplies entering the house via the menai, but legend says it was really an elaborate guise for smuggling high taxed goods. When questioned by the authorities on the use of the tunnel, it was said to be used for the ladies of the house wanting to bathe in private!

Thrilling ride back to Beaumaris!

It’s at this point that we turned around to head back to Beaumaris. There are other trips that continue down the straits to Caernarfon, which we’d love to do one day.

Although the weather was windy & rainy, it didn’t detract from the wonderful sights on the most beautiful breathtaking coastline. Our skipper ‘let rip’ and we sped back to Beaumaris, in a series of turns, swirls, speed and fun! 

Fantastic experience for both young and old and our skipper made it safe, fun and very interesting. Highly recommended!

Duration and cost

There are several operators for boat trips that embark from both Beaumaris and Menai Bridge. From high-powered RIBs to more sedate cruisers, (safe for babies, gran and your four-legged friends).

We chose Anglesey Boat Trips from Seawake, which operate two RIBS, departing daily from Beaumaris Pier LL58 8BS. Below are prices at the time of writing, but visit their website for their most current prices.

Tel: 01248 716335


Email or call to book your trip and get 10% off if you mention Gwendon Holiday Home! 


The beautiful town of Beaumaris is situation around 35 mins drive away from Gwendon. There are several car parks in the town, with the main one being the Green. The rates for the Green are £6 for up to 24 hours if entering before 6pm and £3 if entering after 6pm. There are also pay and display car parks located above the Castle heading out of town on the left, and at the leisure centre Canolfan Beaumaris.

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