Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – What’s in a name?

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – What’s in a name?

It’s entirely possible that when you read the heading of this article you thought that I had fallen asleep on my keyboard. Or that I had consumed a rather large quantity of alcoholic beverages. Or – to borrow a phrase from the bitingly satirical American publication The Onion in describing the Welsh language – it might have simply looked like the alphabet has vomited.

But I assure you that Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is indeed the name of the place I’m writing about. If you’re thinking someone made up that name as a bit of a laugh…well, you’d be sort of right. Its name was elongated in the 1860s with the specific purpose of pulling tourists in. Judging by the sheer number of day-trippers who troop through here to have their picture taken by the famous sign, the ploy has worked.

Llanfair PG, to call it by its abbreviated name, is the second longest single worded place name in the world (the first is in New Zealand). Its English translation is ‘The Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel Near the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave’. If you were hoping to gallivant around the neighbourhood ticking off all these things, then prepare for disappointment. The one accessible landmark these days is St Mary’s Church, sat on the banks of the Menai Sea that cleaves Anglesey from the homeland, where a statue of Horatio Nelson also resides.

There are a couple of other sites of minor interest. A toll-road gate still stands, and a monument to the Marquess of Anglesey, Henry Paget – Wellington’s right hand man at the Battle of Waterloo – looms over the town. Paget has gone down in history for the following exchange with Wellington, after having had his leg blown off toward the end of the fighting:

Paget: “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!”

Wellington: “By God, sir, so you have!”

For me, classic stiff-upper-lip British stoicism at its finest. The monument – both grand and understated at the same time – is a fitting tribute to these virtues. Apparently, you can climb to the top of it for panoramic views of the surrounding area, but it was shut when I visited. A sign, perhaps, that the local tourist board believes that people are merely interested in the cheesy photo opportunity.

St Mary’s Church

This is very believable, for ultimately, commercialism wins out at Llanfair PG. Opportunities to get pictures of the sign without others milling by it were few and far between, yet I did not spot a soul at the church itself. If you need any further proof, look no further than the huge souvenir outlet based right next to the train station that sells an extraordinary array of Welsh-branded tat.

I would not put this place near the top of my list of favourite Welsh destinations, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had a cheesy grin on my face when I first caught sight of the famous sign. Because whatever you make of it, you’re always aware of an intangible aura around Llanfair PG; the sort of aura found in those places that draw people to their otherwise unremarkable streets by the power of their name alone.

17 Comments

  • sabs

    March 20, 2017 at 7:09 pm Reply

    That name is quite a mouthful. Would love to hear what it sounds like when someone says it!

    • Joe

      March 20, 2017 at 7:42 pm Reply

      Unless you meet someone from Wales on your travels, you will probably have to visit Wales yourself to get to hear it said out loud 😉

  • Brianne

    March 20, 2017 at 8:16 pm Reply

    That’s pretty brilliant to elongate the name in an attempt to draw in tourists. I mean, a city with a name that long is definitely hard to ignore!

    • Joe

      March 20, 2017 at 11:12 pm Reply

      Indeed, and it pretty much draws in the crowds on the strength of its name alone 🙂

  • Amanda Keeley-Thurman

    March 20, 2017 at 9:20 pm Reply

    Wow, now that is a crazy long name for a town. I’ve read the pronunciation break down several times and still can’t say it. Ha. I would definitely take a day trip, but I would have to see St. Mary’s Church. I love visiting old churches. Is the Church of Tysilio still standing?
    Amanda Keeley-Thurman recently posted…Hot RVing at the Newport Dunes ResortMy Profile

    • Joe

      March 20, 2017 at 11:15 pm Reply

      The church of Tysilio is still standing, but it’s a bit further away from Llanfair than St Mary’s church is. I’ve not been to it myself, but I hear it’s not as an attractive place to check out as St Mary’s, which is probably the single best attraction to see outside of the famous signs!

  • Nausheen

    March 21, 2017 at 12:00 am Reply

    Supercalafrag….anyone else thinking of Mary Poppins with this long name? This is why I love travel, so many interesting things we stumble upon!

    • Joe

      March 21, 2017 at 7:00 am Reply

      Hahaha, yeah that is indeed an apposite comparison 😉

  • 33andfree

    March 21, 2017 at 2:32 am Reply

    Sometimes small things like that are the best when traveling. Your article is the first I have ever come across with this location! Great information and fun article.

    • Joe

      March 21, 2017 at 7:00 am Reply

      Indeed, and thanks, glad you enjoyed the read 🙂

  • Jatin Chhabra

    March 27, 2017 at 6:07 am Reply

    The name is really a tongue twister 🙂 though the town seems quite peaceful place.
    Nice snap of St Mary’s Church…

    • Joe

      March 27, 2017 at 6:12 am Reply

      Thanks Jatin. It is peaceful yeah…until the tourists arrive anyway!

  • Danijela WorldGlimpses

    March 27, 2017 at 10:40 am Reply

    There’s no way I could ever read this, or learn how to pronounce it! How do you say where you want to go: “To that L-place with 100+ letters, please!” 😀 Even “Llanfair PG” doesn’t seem “enough”. 😉 Joking, of course. It does sound interesting. Love your writing, by the way. 🙂

    • Joe

      March 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm Reply

      Thanks. I think you have to be Welsh to have a realistic chance of being able to say it! 😉

  • Tony (tonyandkimoutdooradventures)

    March 27, 2017 at 9:03 pm Reply

    Didn’t travel too far out of London, but this would have been on my list for sure. Love these sort of gimmicks to lure tourist. Great read.

  • Archana Singh

    March 28, 2017 at 6:33 am Reply

    I was actually scratching my head reading your headline. Thank god I read through your article. It’s a delightful read. I had been to London couple of times but never visited this. Guess i’ll do it next time.

  • Siddharth and Shruti

    March 30, 2017 at 7:12 am Reply

    Hahhahah. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch quite a challenge to pronounce! And we thought Eyjafjallajökull was a tricky one! Disappointing that there’s not much to do there. Maybe just one visit for the sign.

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