By FAITH RIDLER FOR MAILONLINE
The mysterious island of Bardsey has only four inhabitants.
This small community can only be reached by boat from a small fishing village in north-west Wales.
But centuries ago, just three miles from the Llan Peninsula, the piece of land was one of the most important religious sites in Britain.
The 1.5 mile long island was a Christian pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages – when three visits to Bardsey were said to be similar to Rome.
Bardsey Island, 3.2 km from the Llŷn peninsula in north-west Wales, can only be reached by boat from a small fishing village
The island was once home to a community of 2500 monks, but now has a population of just four
Some even believe that this is the final resting place of the legendary King Arthur.
But despite its declining population, Bardsey has traces of civilization dating back 12,000 years to the Neolithic Period.
The island, Ynys Enlli, would have become an important religious hub in the sixth century when Einon, the king of Llyn, invited the Breton St Cadfan to Bardsey.
Together they built St Mary & # 39; s Abbey – where a community of 2,500 monks lived in the seventh century.
Bardsey Island (viewed from the Llŷn peninsula here) has traces of civilization dating back 12,000 years to the Neolithic period
It is believed that many of them indicated that they wanted to be buried in Bardsey, which may be the reason why the land is known in folklore as the & # 39; island of the 20,000 saints & # 39 ;.
This story is honored in a graveyard where an inscription reads: & Respect the remains of 20,000 saints buried in the vicinity of this site & # 39 ;.
It may seem like a piece that such a huge population is hiding under an island that is only 1.5 miles long, but locals believe that you can dig anywhere on Bardsey and find a body.
In fact, during an excavation near the modern chapel in the 1990s, archaeologists dug up 25 medieval graves.
The island, Ynys Enlli, would have become an important religious center in the sixth century (photo, Bardsey Lighthouse)
One of the bodies was found with a 10th century coin in his mouth, reported the BBC.
St Mary & # 39; s Abbey flourished until 1537 – when it was destroyed by Henry VIII in his Dissolution of the Little Monasteries.
Of the building and its Augustinian counterpart from the 13th century, only an eight-meter-high stone tower remains in the Bardsey Chapel cemetery.
It is perhaps not surprising that this island, with its rich, illustrious history, is the source of many of the myths and legends of Snowdonia.
A community of 2,500 monks lived in St Mary & # 39; s Abbey during the seventh century. The remains of the church can be found in the Bardsey Chapel cemetery (photo)
St Mary & # 39; s Abbey flourished until 1537 – when it was destroyed by Henry VIII in his Dissolution of the Little Monasteries
Some believe this is King Arthur's final resting place – although it is one of the dozens of rumor locations.
Others claim that the wizard Merlin sleeps in a & # 39; magic glass castle & # 39; on the island with the & # 39; thirteen treasures of Great Britain & # 39 ;.
It is here, authors Chris Barber and David Pykitt say, that he is & # 39; in enchanted sleep waiting for the return of Arthur & # 39 ;.
It has even been suggested that Bardsey is the legendary island of Avalon – where King Arthur was healed from his wounds after the Battle of Camlann.
To the monastery of St Mary & # 39; s, no less.
Some even believe that the island is King Arthur's final resting place – although it is one of the dozens of rumor locations
Bardsey was owned by Lord Newborough until 1979, when the Bardsey Island Trust assumed custody of the land
A community lived on the island until the end of the 19th century, when a population of lobsters and oysters caught in the Irish Sea continued to sell.
But by 1841 the population had fallen to just 90 and in 1961 it plummeted to 17.
The island's school, opened in a former chapel in 1919, was closed in 1953 and in 2003 the community reached its current population of four all year round.
Bardsey was owned by Lord Newborough until 1979, when the Bardsey Island Trust took custody of its cliffs, stacked with sea birds and waters filled with dolphins and seals.
But the decreasing population of the island makes the island no less special than when it served as a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.
Bardsey is now home to more than 30 species of birds, 200 gray seals, 310 Welsh mountain sheep and about 30 cattle
Two families, who run the bird observatory, the only farm on the island, and who act as island manager, make up residents all year round
It is home to more than 30 species of birds, in addition to its 200 resident gray seals, 310 Welsh mountain sheep, sea anemones and crabs.
In 1953, a bird observatory was even established to give visitors the opportunity to view chiffchaffs, prospectors and tapes as they were en route to hibernation areas.
Two families, who run the bird observatory, the only farm on the island, and who act as island manager, are residents all year round.
Artists and writers visit Bardsey all year round – and visitors are invited to spend a week in one of the five farms, lofts and cottages.
Artists and writers visit Bardsey all year round – and tourists are invited to spend a week in one of the five farms, lofts and cottages.
The island has no signal for cell phones, paved roads and it is not connected to an electricity grid
The island is not as isolated as it seems because it does have internet access and uses solar panels to generate enough electricity to power a refrigerator and lighting.
There is even a backup generator and an oil-powered oven.
Bardsey Island is by no means the past today as one of Britain's most important religious sites.
But whether it is the island's flora and fauna, history or the apparent connection to King Arthur – something about Bardsey has encouraged visitors to make the journey through the Irish Sea for centuries.
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