Porth Wen Brickworks is a derelict and abandoned Victorian brickworks located on the Northern coast of Anglesey. A hark back to a seemingly distant past, the kilns, chimneys, and rusty remnants of old machinery have a haunting beauty that makes this site a “must-see” on your Anglesey holiday itinerary.
Such is the industrial beauty of this place; you’ve probably already encountered this place on Instagram or other similar photo-sharing platforms. But, beautiful as it may be, accessing the site is not for the faint of heart, and there are other issues to contend with, such as a lack of parking nearby and the fact that the site sits on private land.
Before getting into those details, let’s first run through a little bit of the brickworks’ history and explain how they first came into being before slowly falling into a state of disrepair.
Porth Wen Brickworks: A Brief History
Porth Wen Brickworks was first built as an addition to the quartz quarries already in place around the community of Llanbadrig in 1850. The purpose of the brickworks was to support steel production, which was vital to the Victorian economy. With huge furnaces a vital element of the steel-making process, factories needed bricks that could withstand extreme temperatures without degrading.
Silica bricks made from quartz were required for this process, and it was these bricks that the site would focus on producing. Though a little off the beaten track, the quartz buried in the nearby hills made this spot a perfect location for setting up production.
Despite operating (mostly using manual processes) for over 50 years, the brickworks did not take the shape of what remains today until businessman Charles E. Tidy took over the site in 1908. He replaced the traditional moulding and wire cutting of the bricks and replaced it with a simple shape pressing technique. This proved to be one of the undoings of the barely-profitable venture, and the site closed at the outset of the First World War.
The other major stumbling block was the harbour (or the lack thereof) serving the brickworks. While the site may have been perfect for brick production, there were substantial stumbling blocks concerning the transport of bricks away from the site. Ships often sustained severe damage on the jagged rocks when trying to dock and load, and it was a significant contributing factor to its rapid decline.
Production did start up again after a period of dormancy in 1924, but by 1949 the site closed permanently as the world had long moved on to modern brick production techniques.
Visiting the Brickworks: What Do You Need to Know?
As alluded to above, visiting the brickworks is far from straightforward. Firstly, even though the site has been designated a scheduled monument by Cadw, the land the brickworks sits on is privately-owned, meaning every visitor is technically trespassing. Keep this in mind and be respectful of this derelict property by leaving the site as you found it and removing all litter etc.
Next, parking is limited, to say the least. There are a couple of parking options available (more on this later), but on sunny summer days, you may find yourself having to abandon your excursion before you’ve set off.
Lastly, the brickworks are pretty dangerous. There are numerous steep drops, with some 30ft or more. If you have children or dogs, this is something you need to bear in mind, especially if either is inclined to be unruly from time to time.
So, with the disclaimers out of the way, let’s tell you all of the information you need to plan your visit.
Getting to Porth Wen Brickworks
The only realistic option is to travel by car from either Cemaes Bay or Bull Bay. From either, take the A5025 until you pass a couple of laybys that act as mini roads in their own right. You can choose to park here and tackle the rest of the journey on foot.
Alternatively, take the small, single-lane road adjoined to the layby positioned furthest West and head down for approximately 400m. After passing a farm on your left, the road will start to bear left and at which point there are a few off-road parking spots on the grass verges. You’ll see the gate for the footpath/track here that you’ll take for the initial portion of your journey.
Once Out of the Car and On Foot
Head through the gate off the road onto a grassy track/public footpath. As you meander down the winding path, the visibility of the bay opens up, and the brickworks will come into view. After around a quarter of a mile, the path splits, and you need to take the one bearing right through the gorse bushes.
As you start to descend, you will eventually meet a gate with several padlocks, which you need to climb over. You’ll then start the very steep descent to the brickworks on the narrow, slippery, and often muddy path. At the bottom, take great caution, as there is a three-storey sheer drop that needs to be traversed in order to gain access to the site.
What Can I See and Do While at Porth Wen Brickworks?
Once you’ve arrived at the site, it’s yours to explore. There are various buildings, including a crushing house, moulding shed, winding shed, drying sheds, kiln, and an incline tramroad from the quarries to the works. Our personal favourites are the “Beehive Kilns”, which are one of the best-preserved features of the site.
At lower tides, you can while away hours on the beach enjoying the views of the bay or having a picnic. You can also continue along the Angelsey Coastal Path once you’ve seen everything and visit other hidden gems such as the Llanlleina Porcelain Works, located just a mile or so along the coast.
Porth Wen Brickworks FAQs
How Long is the Walk to Porth Wen Brickworks?
The length of your walk to the site depends on where you are coming from. If you manage to secure a spot on the nearest country lane, then it’s around half a mile to the bottom of the site. If walking from the laybys position just off the main road, the walk is closer to two miles.
You can also walk to the site from Bull Bay or Llanbadrig, which is closer to three or four miles there and back.
Is Porth Wen Brickworks Suitable for Children?
In short, yes. However, children need to be closely supervised due to the sheer drops located at various locations around the site. This site is not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchair users.
Is Porth Wen Brickworks Dog-Friendly?
Yes, you can bring your dog to Porth Wen Brickworks. However, they should remain on a lead at all times (unless on the beach) due to the steep drops at various points around the site. Dogs should also be promptly cleaned up after to ensure the safety of children and other site visitors.
When is the Best Time to Visit Porth Wen Brickworks?
Opinion is split as to when is the best time to visit Porth Wen Brickworks. High tide allows you to try and envisage the brickworks as it once was, with ships battling the waves as they tried to dock on the quay. Low tide, however, reveals a quaint and secluded beach that represents an excellent spot for a picnic and photos.
Concerning the best time of day, the sunrise and sunset periods enhance the eerie beauty of the spot. But make sure you don’t leave it until it’s gone dark to leave the site.