Travelling Welshman
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Europe,  Wales

Llanfair PG: The Story Behind Europe’s Longest-Town Name

As much as I hate to admit it, not much is commonly known about my beloved homeland of North Wales. Other regions of the UK certainly have their icons – Scotland has whiskey and kilts, London has Big Ben and big dreams, and even the Irish Isles has Guinness and a good old craic. However, little old Wales, particularly North Wales, is left without a talisman.

However, there is one place that has managed to bury itself into the collective consciousness of the British public and map viewers alike. It’s a town with a big ol’ name and one that leaves everyone perplexed at the sight of the randomised alphabeti spaghetti arrangement.

Wonder no more, my friend. Come with me as we explore the myth and the timeless legend of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

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The lands of Llanfair have been home to human settlements since 4000 BC, becoming one of the first contact points for people migrating from the mainland.

The town also passed through the hands of the Romans, who built the still functional roads that led from the copper mines of Amlwch through Llanfair toward the coast. Following the departure of the Romans, the area fell under the control of the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Despite the village’s impressive history by this point, its population was still no more than 80.

In the 16th century, estates were established and most of the surrounding land came under the control of the Earls of Uxbridge, who later became the Marquises of Anglesey – a position which still exists today.

The 19th century brought a population boom to the village thanks to the completion of the Menai Suspension Bridge which finally connected Anglesey to the Welsh mainland. In 1850, Llanfair was even connected to London and the rest of the UK when the Britannia Bridge and the North Wales Coast railway line were completed.

How Did Llanfair PG Get its Name?

The original name of the medieval township was simply “Pwllgwyngyll”, though that was still a mouthful for most outsiders! Records from the 16th century showed that the name had then evolved to “Llanfairpwyllgwyngyll” – we’ll explain why a little later.

However, it was sometime in the 19th century that the town’s name would take its final form. Where could such an idea have come from? Perhaps it came from a Welsh legend? Maybe a reference to some national heroes or border-changing battles? Well, sadly it wasn’t anything quite as glamourous

Local leaders in an apparent attempt to attract more visitors held a competition to rename the town in a way which would make it stand out on any map. From there, the name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch was born!

Llanfair name
The train station sign sporting the long name of Llanfair PG

Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t actually a single word. Instead, it’s a collection of words that’s simply been bundled together. So what does it say?

Cool fact, the prefix “Llan” in Welsh signifies their historical connection to a church or religious settlement. That’s why many towns across Wales – Llanelli, Llandudno, Llangefni – start in that repetitive way. “fairstands for Mary, which together translates as “St. Mary’s Church“.

The rest of the name is made up of descriptions of the landscape beside the church of “St. Tysilio” all strung together in a tongue-twisting manner. Despite looking like someone speed-typed a random name for a file, “pwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll” translates to mean “the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool“.

The best part is at the end when you get an additional layout of the landscape with the addition of “by the red cave” in a very acoustically pleasing rhythm of “ogogogoch“. Put that all together and you have a random Scrabble title collection of a name…

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

It’s a name that almost every UK resident is familiar with simply because of its absurdity. Llanfair PG has become a common meme that regularly makes the rounds online. Scrollers are left with their mouth agape as they come across English weathermen reciting the entire name to the best of their ability. Terrible pronunciation aside, there’s always a faint tingle of homeland pride when seeing its substantial mark left on the map.

Most significantly of all, this otherwise unassuming little Welsh town had suddenly become relevant.

Considering the immense publicity, Llanfair and its residents must have gone all out to accommodate the tidal wave of tourists flooding into this peaceful little town. High-rise hotels and cocktail bars likely line the scenic railways and overlook the breathtaking Eryri Mountain range (any red-blooded Welshman might bite your hand off if you were to call it Snowdonia). Sadly, it’s nothing quite so glamorous.

Despite the immense number of American-filled tour buses that arrive by the hour, Llanfair PG doesn’t really have much to offer, other than the novelty of seeing the various signs of course. The train station, the local supermarkets and even the welcome signs all ensure you’re fully aware of the town’s full title.

Llanfair name
Yet another example of the name of Llanfair PG. Barely fits.

To this day, the Marquises of Anglesey still reside in the lavish estate of Plas Newydd. The estate is even open to guests as part of the National Trust, and certainly one of the must-sees on Anglesey.

The true highlight though may not secure a place in the UK’s top 10 sights anytime soon, but it is dear to my heart nonetheless – the James Pringle Weavers department store. A place that echoes a bygone era, this department store was and still is, a one-stop shop for items and souvenirs. In truth, it’s just an oversized nick-nack stall, but a place I truly treasured in my childhood regardless.

Despite the lacklustre entertainment on offer, it’s Anglesey itself that is the true gem in the Welsh crown. As a native of the island, I see it as my duty to draw people’s attention to the beauty of my homeland.

So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets now and come for a day of fun at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

Thank You for Reading! Check Out These Other Helpful Links!

Thank you so much for reading Llanfair PG: The Story Behind Europe’s Longest-Town Name! Check out these other helpful articles! See you next time!

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