Divernet

Once, before the mists of time washed them from the lands, the Celts and Druids of Britain had their final stronghold on the isle of Anglesey. It was a British version of that tiny Gaulish village in the Asterix stories we remember from our youth.
For half a century they held out against the invading Romans, paying homage to the earth and sea gods, standing at the edges of the water with their flowing robes and raggedy beards, chanting arcane incantations and dancing worse than your dad ever did at a family wedding.
Of course, the Romans in their skirted tunics conquered, eventually left, and were replaced by various peoples over the ages, from reclusive monks who built monasteries at Holyhead and Penmon, to the Vikings famous for their drug-crazed berserker raids, horned headgear and matted beards.
These people are all long gone. But one thing has remained constant about the isle of Anglesey: the fact that, from the beginnings of time, people obsessed with strange outfits have been drawn there. The Celts, Druids, Romans and Vikings were all immediately recognisable by their distinctive apparel.
Could it be some strange primal force which draws these oddly attired types to the island Is Anglesey the convergence point for mystical leylines of eccentric dress-sense, the sort of force that draws hippies to Glastonbury

Well, whatever. The thing is, nothing has really changed. They still flock there, week in, week out. Oddballs in their oddball outfits, but where once it was wool, moleskin and hair covering their torsos, its now crushed neoprene, rubber, latex and trilaminate; instead of flaming torches its HID lamps, and as for ritual sacrifice, its lobsters rather than goats at the waters edge pre-barbecue.
And its not leylines of bad dress-sense that bring divers to this small island bordering the Irish Sea, its the simple fact that on good days North Wales can offer some of the best UK diving there is to be had.
The diving opportunities stretch from Anglesey itself, a jewelled cap on the pigs head that is Wales - no disrespect to the Welsh, thats just what it looks like on the map, guys - to the charming Lleyn Peninsula, not forgetting the 400-plus wrecks in the Irish Sea.

The most visited location is Holy Island, just off Anglesey, where Trearddur Bay has a slip for RIBs and makes an excellent base for anyone planning to spend time diving North Wales.
It is home to the only two dive shops and compressors for miles around, as well as two cheap campsites - one with a bar - and lots of B&Bs.
Best bet here if you dont have a club boat or need orientation is to hook up with a guy called Diggsy, real name Aubrey Diggle, a former fisherman and now senior helmsman with the RNLI. Diggsy is based by the slip in Trearddur, and runs a RIB to scenic and wreck sites.
He can also get you cheap deals on meals at the local Hoseasons holiday camp, which is nice for the evening as long as you like everything very well done, and an Elvis cabaret.
Diggsy has a list as long as your arm of good dive spots for all conditions, and after 25 years on the water is a trustworthy man to have at the helm, Harking back to the Asterix comparison, he bears a remarkable resemblance to the bard Cacophonix, often seen tied up and hanging from a tree. Trust me, its uncanny.
You can night-dive Trearddur. Channels run out from the bay, but during the day the volume of boats and jet-skis makes beach entry inadvisable.
Jump on a RIB, however, and within 20 minutes you can be on top of any number of recreational-depth wrecks and scenic dives. Worth checking out is Englishmans Rock (Maen Y Sais), which is a fantastic scenic dive sure to impress anyone used to UK waters. Its best dived on high-water slack, where you will hit a maximum depth of around 20m. Time it right and the visibility can stretch beyond 10m.
Youll find forests of kelp, giant sponges, spiroworms, wrasse, blennies, lobster, edible, ghost and spider crabs, the odd dogfish, giant starfish - the list goes on.
There isnt a great deal in the way of corals, but the plant life more than makes up for this. Dont ask me where exactly, but swim for long enough through the maze of trenches and youll come to a flat expanse about 15m by 10m, where the bottom has become an entire field of dead mens fingers, both eerie and leery as the fat, distended digits take it in turn to flick you the bird. The topography is fantastic, the viz is usually good and the sights will keep even jaded divers amused.

The Missouri wreck takes about five minutes to reach from Trearddur, and lies in the shadow of a holiday home which looks not a little like the house on the hill from Psycho.
A former cotton-carrier, the three-masted steamer was carrying cattle from Liverpool to Boston when it ran into a terrible snowstorm and hit rocks here in 1886.
The Missouri makes a perfect wreck dive for any beginner, though even the most seasoned diver can return to discover new parts as the sands shift with the tides. Lying in a sheltered bay at a maximum14m, with next to no current, you can drop down on the hull for a good, long look around.
The wreck is quite badly broken up, but the large recognisable sections make this a fun and easy dive, with lots of plaice and dogfish around, as well as the ubiquitous wrasse.
About 20 minutes from Trearddur, beside two sharp pinnacles known as the Fangs, is the wreck of the Editor, which ran aground in fog in 1897 and is again pretty broken up. Drop down the line onto the boilers, which are home to some big wrasse. There are a few plates on the sea floor, popular with big crabs, lobsters and plaice, and once youve had a good look here you can fire up an SMB and take a drift.
Heading away from the shore, you will find gullies which octopuses and some of the biggest crabs Ive ever seen call home. As you drift through scores of bright yellow sponge-decorated trenches at a comfortable pace, keep an eye out for the great wildlife down under.

The sister-ship to the Cutty Sark is the Norman Court, a tea-clipper considered in its time one of the most beautiful sailing ships of its kind. She was carrying sugar in 1883 when she was wrecked in Cymmeran Bay in a violent gale and stranded.
Two crewmen died, but the remaining 20 were eventually rescued by the lifeboat.
The wreckage lies in shallow water across a reef, and is well worth a visit when the viz is right. The Norman Court is not as badly broken up as the Editor, but has plenty of life on it and makes a good second dive, as it lies between 7-11m.
There are too many wrecks and scenic dives to go through one by one, but well worth checking out about seven miles north are the Skerries, three islands with a lighthouse and some excellent underwater life and topography, and Rhoscolyn Beacon, where seals play on the rocks. The Kimya, Primrose Hill, Dakota and Hermione are all excellent easy wrecks.
For shore-diving, go across the bay to Ravenspoint Road, where you will find a beach entry exactly opposite Diving Services Anglesey, a shop run by former commercial diver Mike McGee. He charges a fiver to park your car and wash your gear. Mike collects trains and supplies nitrox, and not a lot of people know that.

There are two ways to approach Ravenspoint, following the rocks to the left or right out of the bay. This is a very shallow dive but be wary of the weather, and if possible speak to Mike in the shop before deciding which way to go.
From the beach, make a left where a channel runs out of the bay. There are also steps cut into the rock on the grassy knoll here. If you are diving on this side, do so when the tide is either coming in or at slack, because when it turns on the run the water moves pretty fast through here.
Swim through the channel, which is just a few metres deep, and at the end theres a small drop-off to about 8m. If seaweed is your thing, youll find oodles of the stuff, but for more marine life head straight out with Mikes shop behind you and swim till you find an anchor chain on the bottom.
Take a left and follow the chain to some rock outcrops which are awash with crabs, shrimps, wrasse and pollack.
If you want horror stories, go to Porth Dafarch, about three miles north of Trearddur along the coast road.
The horror is not in the water, and in fact I have heard some of the most jaded bubblemakers comment that they have enjoyed their best British water dive here - like an aquarium, I thought I heard one say. And you cant get that narked at only 8-10m. No, the horror comes from the resident burger van, run by an old mariner who revels in tales of the bodies hes seen pulled from the sea, minus eyes, lips and ears.
Its the crabs, you see, they go for the softest tissue, he enthuses as your burger spits and smoulders on the grill, and your appetite wanes.
Close by is Anglesey Diver Training College run by Martin Sampson, about a mile up the road opposite Dafarch and down a dirt road past a watersports centre. This is the only place in the area to supply trimix - by prior arrangement.
To dive Porth Dafarch from the beach, either route you take out of the bay provides a decent scenic dive, in a maximum of 8m at high tide. Its best to dive at high slack, as the sandy bottom can get kicked up in the bay.
Head out and follow the rocks around on either side. Take a torch for the small nooks and crannies, where butterfly and tompot blennies dwell.
If youre lucky youll find young cuttlefish and octopus as well as the more usual pollack, wrasse and dogfish.
This is another good second dive. As always, weather is a concern, and in summer boats may stop here, so using an SMB on the way back in is a good idea.

Shore dives and RIB launches are possible from Holyhead harbour, close to the old RNLI station. It all looks much the same below the surface, but catch it on a good day and youll go home smiling. Better still, take a boat out to the Stacks. A broken-up B24 bomber lies close to the North Stack between 10-20m, depending on the tide.
The north-east side of Anglesey offers various shore dives but limited access for launching a RIB. From Red Wharf Bay to Amlwch there are quite a few north-facing bays which are good for when the south side is blown out, offering gullies and plenty of life.
The rest of the north of the island round to Holyhead can be pretty dull, with a sandy bottom and access restricted.
The other jewel in Angleseys piggy-crown is the Menai Straits drift. Not to be taken lightly, this can become a Formula One drift, reaching nine knots. You hear tales of lone divers clambering from the water miles down the road and having to hitch back to their cars in full kit.
Look for yellow diamond signs on either side of the strait close to the bridge. These mark out an underwater cable running from one side to the other, which makes orientation a lot easier. Maximum depth is 17m along the cable.
The strait is stuffed with life, and is being put forward as a marine reserve. There are soft corals, small scorpionfish and the famous Hole, which runs from 20-40m. This is not a dive for beginners - expect low viz, but lots of life.
For tekkies, the northern side of the island can be virgin wreck heaven, as this part of the Irish Sea was a shooting range for U-boats during WW2. And a charter from Amlwch which visits shallower sites is the Julianne, run by Elfyn Jones from the harbour. There is no shortage of B&Bs or pubs in Amlwch.
The North Welsh mainland is not that well-equipped for diving. If you go into a watersports shop and ask where you can get some air, theyll point you towards the nearest garage. This is a shame, as there are several sites well worth a look when the weather holds out.
One good all-rounder is the pier at Trefor, on the north of the Lleyn Peninsula, just off the A499 some 12 miles south of Caernarfon. After skirting the harbour wall you can spend an age at 8m or so among more crabs and shrimps than you could shake a shiny stick at. Stay under the pier, however, or risk a snagging and a bollocking from the fishermen above. Currents are rarely a problem here.
To the south there is Criccieth, a sandy beach, and another shallow dive. This is good to visit by night, as there is often a strong bioluminescence and little current.
Sealife here is pretty much for the macro enthusiast, though the odd ray and scorpionfish can be spotted. However, one little swine, the lesser weeverfish, can give bare flesh a nasty sting, and they often hang around in the sand here.
Close by is Tynrhos Diving, which prides itself on providing the three As - thats air, advice and accommodation (from£5 a night in the bunkhouse).
The only other place to get air on the mainland, apart from at Vivian Quarry, is by contacting a chap called Richard Bafton, an ex-commercial diver who runs a compressor from his garage. And I mustnt forget to mention Dorothea, that very deep quarry near Caernarfon where the tekkies go to practise. There... mentioned it.