This market town's rather exotic looking name simply means 'salt-water pool' (pwll=pool, heli=salt-water or brine) and derives from the fact that during medieval times the borough was sited next to a large tidal pool. The port was once a big ship-building centre, launching over 460 ships during the period 1759-1878. At the start of the 20th century around 100 ships a year were sailing in and out of Pwllheli, exporting agricultural produce and importing coal. Wine from the continent also used to be imported through here, and smuggling was a major part of the economy. However, the siltation of the harbour and the rise of the railways brought about the demise of the port's shipping activities. During the war, the site near Pwllheli now occupied by the Haven holiday park was a training centre for the Admiralty and Merchant Navy known as HMS Glendower. In 1947 the site was transformed into a Butlin's holiday camp with, at its height, a maximum capacity of 8,000. A miniature railway and a chairlift were installed for transporting the guests, and an extensive programme of entertainment was laid on, including none other than Ringo Starr in his pre-Beatles days, performing with his band Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.
Nowadays, Pwllheli is a busy market town with an open-air market on Wednesdays, and Sundays in the summer. The town's Blue Flag beaches are mainly south-facing, and there is a promenade backed by pastel-coloured terraced houses. The town is also a magnet for sailors, and is classed as a 'European Centre of Excellence' in sailing, with a 400-berth marina. The Sailing Club hosts both national and international sailing events. A new Sailing Academy is planned for the town, although this has been hit by delays due to technical problems and the opening is scheduled for 2015.
Map of the area.
|Photo by Alan Fryer, via Wikimedia Commons|