Visitors to the island can see the fragmentary remains of the thirteenth century abbey of the Augustinian Canons who took over from the ancient Celtic foundation of the sixth century. The roofless tower has been adapted for those wishing to hold informal services in the open air.
Nearby a Celtic cross stands commemorating the now mostly christian religious past and very numerous, 20,000, saints reputed to have been buried in or near the site.
In 1875 a chapel was built by Lord Newborough and remains open for the purposes of worship and meditation.
R.S. Thomas wrote in his poem ‘Pilgrimages’ that Bardsey is ‘an island there is no going / to but in a small boat the way / the saints went’.
Travellers to Bardsey are following the path of the countless saints said to have journeyed to the island over many centuries. It has been a place of pilgrimage since the medieval period, and continues to draw pilgrims from all over the world.
Bardsey is the final destination of the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way , and a significant stage of many other personal journeys of faith. For those visiting just for the day, there is a short pilgrimage route which can be followed as a way of exploring the island, pausing for reflection at symbolic places such as the lighthouse, the abbey ruins and the holy well. Those who stay longer are also welcome to join the informal ‘pilgrim prayers’, held in the oratory on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings, which invite us to pause on our life’s journey and ‘learn the unforced rhythms of grace’.
Bardsey Island is one of those ‘thin places’ where it is especially possible to feel the closeness of eternity. It has become a favoured location for spiritual refreshment, whether simply for a few days of quiet personal contemplation or taking part in an organised retreat.
There are nine self-catering houses available to rent between April and October, ranging from a two-person cottage to several larger houses suitable for groups who wish to hold a shared retreat. For more information on the accommodation available click here.
Bardsey is a place where we can sense that ‘prayer has been valid’ (to borrow T.S. Eliot’s words), and it continues to host regular short services in the chapel and oratory, as well as offering untold opportunities for private prayer amidst the natural beauty of the island. Away from the pressures and trappings of everyday life, visitors discover the freedom to pray, read, meditate, discuss, walk, write, draw, sing, explore, beachcomb... in other words, to do whatever is appropriate to recharge their spiritual batteries. Here are some resources that may provide inspiration for those seeking spiritual refreshment on Bardsey.
During the summer months there is generally a chaplain in residence on the island, as part of an ecumenical scheme co-ordinated by the Spirituality Committee of the Bardsey Island Trust. The chaplain arranges and publicises services in the chapel and oratory, and is available for quiet conversation with day visitors as well as those staying on the island. This is an important and rewarding voluntary service, and anyone considering applying to be a chaplain is invited to consult the job description and, if appropriate, fill in and submit an application form.
Bardsey Island has a long and deep spiritual history. There were monks living and praying on the island for over a thousand years, and in more recent times many people of profound faith have been associated with this special place.