The Roman Fort at Holyhead
Photo : Tim Snow

caer gybi roman fort holyhead

This small late Roman fort which is in excellent condition can be found next to the church in Holyhead on Anglesey. It now over looks the Port of Holyhead, but originally the shore would have come up to its walls. It was probably part of a system of coastal defences developed around the Welsh coast in the later part of the 4th century to repel Welsh and Irish raiders, and may have been linked to the Roman Signal or watchtower at Caer Y Twr on Holyhead mountain. This watch tower, a square construction measuring just over 5 x 5 m which was excavated during the 1980’s, when a coin hoard consisting of 24 Late Roman coins was also discovered.

Roman Fort gateway at Holyhead

The fort was little more than a defended landing place, built on a low cliff overlooking the beach (where the inner harbour is now). This defended compound provided secure accommodation for the local naval command staff and the crews of the ships beached below on the shore.

Although repaired and partially rebuilt, the Roman defences are extremely well preserved, still standing about 4 meters high - their herringbone pattern masonry a typical Roman technique. They were originally topped with a rampart -walk and parapet, and the stub of the walling outside the left hand tower shows that they once extended down to the sea. The circular towers have been extensively rebuilt and the double arched gateway is a 19th century replacement.

Until about the 1800’s the shoreline would have come up to the front of the Fort where the Roman Galleons would have been beached until use. Today this is where one of the main roads passes through to the main harbour, but as you look up you can still see the main walls and the towers.

North wall at holyhead roman fort

When the Romans withdrew from the Northern and Western parts of Britain it was around 383AD. Some time after this period Prince Maelgwyn of Gwynedd gave the site to Saint Cybi where he built his monastery. Today the walls of this excellently preserved Roman fort surround Saint Cybi’s church which is a tranquilly place with some great views of the port of Holyhead.

the romans landed on anglesey at brynsiencyn

Place of Roman landing on shore at Brynsiencyn

Recently two other Roman settlements have been discovered on Anglesey, the first in Brynsiencyn two excavations have recently taken place at Tai Cochion, a property very close to the shores of the Menai Straits. So far the remains of 25 Roman buildings and a Roman road which is approximately 8 meters wide.

This site at Brynsiencyn on the shores of the Menai Strait is almost opposite the Segontium, a large Roman Fort in Caernarfon, on the other side of the Menai Strait. This was the stronghold for the attack on Anglesey.

another roman discovery on anglesey

The second an exciting new discovery at the end of 2015 saw the discovery of a small Roman fort or “fortlet” by Gwynedd Archaeological trust in Wylfa. Work is continuing at the site but geophysical survey has already outlined the site which shows possible buildings surrounded by ditches. It has been suggested to date to the first century AD when the Romans first came to Britain.