parys mountain

The Copper Kingdom Centre tells the story of the discovery of copper at Parys Mountain (Mynydd Parys) which is located south of the town of Amlwch in northeast Anglesey, Wales. The history has left a colourful lunar landscape at the mountain and a delightful, pretty harbour with two museums down in Amlwch Port. There is also a heritage trail which was the reason for my visit.

People have mined the metals harboured within Parys Mountain since the  Bronze Age. A mass of copper ore that was discovered there in the late 1760s prompted large scale mining, with yields so great that Amlwch came to dominate the world copper market for a decade. It became known as the ‘Copper Kingdom’. The mine owner, Thomas Williams became known as the ‘Copper King’. 

Even today, there is thought to be a reserve of about 6 million tonnes beneath the old mine workings.  The dramatic, stony landscape appears barren, but it supports a variety of wildlife, including birds such as skylark, meadow pipit, and chough.  Plants that are able to tolerate high concentrations of copper and zinc are able to survive there.  The area has distant views of Snowdonia, with the peak of Snowdon visible on clear days.  There is nowhere quite like Parys Mountain! 

Great Opencast

parys mountain
Great Opencast

The heritage trail starts at the car park and there is a network of walks around the weird landscape of the ancient copper mine. A sight not to be missed is the spectacular Great Opencast – shaped by miners using nothing more than picks, shovels and gunpowder!  There is a level walk around the top of the Great Opencast and a viewing area with a stunning panorama that shows off the excavation’s amazing colours – an artist’s palette of reds, oranges, pinks, browns, purples, blacks, greens, yellows, and greys.

I was following the trail around the whole of the mountain and further on there was another view of part of the Great Opencast mine which gave me the opportunity to capture a closer view of those extraordinary colours. This image also shows the windmill tower on the top of the mountain but more of that later.

Great Opencast 2

It is here that most visitors turn off to cut out the loop around the mine and head straight for the summit and the windmill but I decided to carry on following the full trail which is what I would recommend.

Just beyond the turnoff, the trail begins to climb and this next image reminded me of the “yellow brick road” except it wasn’t made of bricks and it wasn’t exactly yellow. It did, however, provide good leading lines in the image. There was such a contrast between the heather-covered landscape on the right which appeared to be untouched by the mine’s workings and on the left the overspill mine deposits on the slope.

“Yellow Brick Road”

Pearl Engine House

Continuing over the brow the trail eventually arrived at the Pearl Engine House, a Grade II Listed Building. This distinctive building, prominent on the skyline at the east end of the mountain, once housed a Cornish Beam Engine. It was one of the earliest steam engines in north Wales, installed in 1819 to pump water from the adjacent Pearl shaft.

Pearl Engine House

Parys Mountain Summit

The trail then climbed up to the summit of Parys Mountain and the windmill tower which was seen in the background of the Great Opencast images above. Built in 1878 on the summit of the mountain, in the hope of reducing operating costs, the windmill was used to pump water from the underlying mine workings. The windmill was unique amongst the many on Anglesey in that it comprised five sails. This is the second Grade II Listed Buiding on the site.

The Windmill

In the background of the windmill image, you can just see the trig point at the highest point of the mountain at 482 feet. Not the highest I have ever summited but probably one of the more extraordinary landscapes with a trig point within it. Although this is called a mountain nowadays, the Ordnance Survey defers to local customs and traditions but generally defines a mountain as having a minimum height of 2000 feet. 

Parys Mountain Summit.

From here it’s a gentle stroll back downhill passing the Brimstone Yard to the starting point of the trail.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief visit to this attractive corner of Anglesey with its spectacular colour variety of the exposed mineral deposits, best seen on a sunny day, with colours ranging from yellow to purple.

You can see further images of Anglesey in the Snowdonia and North Wales gallery where you can purchase prints and canvases as well as image downloads.

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