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My Favourite Planet > Blogs > Cheshire Cat Blog > 2010
back The Cheshire Cat Blog
14 October 2010

Owl Telescope user on Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Dedicated observers on Bangor Pier search in vain for owls over the Irish Sea.
The Owl and the Telescope - Part 2

the end of the pier show
Following on from last week's The Owl and the Telescope - Part 1,
which revealed the spread of the mysterious Owl Telescopes around Britain's coast,
the Cheshire Cat reports on further sightings of the strange device in North Wales.

Bangor Pier in North Wales is generously equipped with four overwhelmingly blue Owl Telescopes, and we still eagerly await the first sighting of an owl using one. Curiously, it has also so far proved impossible to observe any owls through one of these powerful optical devices. The search continues...

If you have any photos of owls, telescopes, Owl Telescopes or any combination of the above, The Cheshire Cat would love to hear from you.

For the moment though, we must take our leave the Owl Telescope universe, and next week The Cat will be taking a look at a completely different time and place.

Read more about Bangor Pier below.
An Owl Telescope on the east end of Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

An Owl Telescope on Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

An Owl Telescope keeps its beady eye on the east end of the pier,
looking out along the Menai Straits towards the town and castle of Beaumaris
on the island of Anglesey (left) and the Great Orme at Llandudno (right).

Bangor, North Wales from Garth Pier at The Cheshire Cat Blog

An Owl Telescope's-view of Bangor's wooded north coast,
with one of Snowdonia's mountains peeping over the horizon (left).
  Welcome to Bangor Pier

Garth Pier, Bangor North, Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Designed by John James Webster and completed in 1896, Bangor Pier (also known as
Garth Pier because it is in the small city's Garth distict) is 472 metres (1550 feet) long,
making it the second longest pier in Wales and the ninth longest in the British Isles.

See also the Bangor Pier panorama photos below.

Garth, the western end of Bangor's bay, is the city's seaside. From here, along the coast toward the Menai Bridge, was home to a small fishing industry as well as ferry services to the island of Anglesey, before the Telford's suspension bridge was built in 1826. The Menai Straits are less than a mile wide here but the currents can be very tricky, and in a small boat the swell can give your breakfast a turn for its money.

Since the 19th century visitors have come to Bangor to enjoy the scenery and the sea air. The fish, eels and crabs were plentiful, and while Bangor beach is not exactly Blackpool, walking or paddling along its rocky length at low tide in summer is an experience. Children especially would delight in finding various kinds of seaweed, shells and cast-up seahorses and starfish.

Garth boasts the long-established Dickie's Boatyard (where even today many boats are moored), some ancient hostelries, grand seaside houses and small fisherman's cottages.

Judging by contemporary photos, the opening of Bangor Pier in 1896 was a BIG event. It seems like the whole town was there dressed up in their summer finery. Bangor had arrived! It had a pier and everything. And a very splendid it was too. Not as grand as some, perhaps, and not as fine as others, maybe, but a thing of beauty nevertheless. The pier extended about three quarters of the way to Anglesey, and from its end you felt you could almost reach out and touch the opposite coast.

As a child I always wondered why they hadn't gone the extra quarter mile and turned it into a bridge (clever little *§+#%*!). Of course they had to leave the navigable channel free for the tall sailing ships of the time. And anyway, that would go completely against the Victorian idea of a promenade. The point was not to walk anywhere, but just to walk, see and be seen, best bonnet, new parasol and all. How glorious!

At the time the design of the pier was hypermodern - the latest thing. Here was a blend of exotic orientalism (eg. in the fluted domes of the kiosks) with the latest gravity-defying steel technology which had been further developed since its revolutionary use in the Crystal Palace, London.

During the 1960s the tourists from Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham began deserting North Wales for Spain's Costa del Watneys. Local people still came along to walk, sunbathe, fish, drink tea and fizzy drinks (Vimto, dandelion and burdock), but they weren't bringing the money in. As with many Britsh seaside resorts, Bangor's tourist trade withered. The pier grew into disrepair and became ever more rickety and unsafe. Gulp!

Finally the pier was closed, and there was much talk about demolishing it. Double Gulp!

Fortunately, following much debate, exhibition of strong feeling and public appeal, the pier was restored and reopened in 1988. Hooray!

And a very good job the restorers have done too. Cheers all round! Fine planking, all the original kiosks along its length (crammed with fishing tackle, books, souvenirs...). Only the cafe at the end of the pier looks unauthentic. Wasn't it all glass and steel with two levels? Well, you can't have everything, can you?

The idea of a pier is very British, and I dare say many volumes have been written about this phenomenon. Also very British are the small memorial plaques fixed to the benches along the sides of some of Britain's piers, including Bangor's. They mostly take the form of the kind of greetings to lost or deceased friends and loved ones which would normally be found on wreaths of flowers laid at graves. Many are very touching, and exemplify the British sense of pathos (some would say sentimentality). The pier for former generations, especially working people, symbolized a place of temporary freedom and romance. Friends, couples and families would have the time of their lives for a few short summer days before returning to the daily grind in offices, shops and factories. So it is no wonder they associate these wierd spindly structures with with youth, romance and friendship.

It would be too cynical to think that the fund-raisers for piers have exploited such emotional attachments to make money for their project. Most people involved in keeping piers going seem to be such people themselves, they have a strong commitment to this particular aspect of our culture. It seems entirely appropriate that those whose dreams and hopes have been invested in the seaside idyll should delight in reinvesting a few pounds in its conservation and leave their short messages of devotion into the bargain. We of later generations, who may puzzle over these strange embassies, give thanks to all those who made so many sacrifices on our behalf. Thanks.

Out of season there is nobody controlling the entrance, you are simply trusted to put your admittance money into the box. That's a good thing. Tickles me pink. Well done, Bangor!

First published in 2005 on

Since the glowing article above was first written, it seems that the pier is in need of further restoration work, costing, according to one estimate, as much as as 2 million pounds. At time of writing, the local authority appears to be dragging it's feet about finding the funding or even providing an exact plan for the project.

Bangor Pier

opening hours:

Summer 8.30 am - 9.00 pm

Winter 8.30 pm - 4.30 pm

The pier is closed
during high winds.

An Owl Telescope on Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

One of the four Owl Telescopes
on Bangor Pier

Try our famous scones on Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

"Try our famous scones"
Sign outside the Tea Rooms
at the end of Bangor Pier
(see below).

The view along the length of Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

It's a long, long way to the end of Bangor Pier.
Note the Owl Telescope, in the middle, right, trying to look inconspicuous.

Physics memorial bench on Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Physics bench

Happy memories of physics at UCNW at The Cheshire Cat Blog

"Happy memories of physics at UCNW - GDM"

(UCNW = University College North Wales, a.k.a. Bangor University)

As at other British piers, for a small sum you can have a plaque placed on one
of the benches on Bangor Pier. Most are memorials to deceased loved ones.
Is physics at the University College of North Wales dead, then? Surely not.

Flowers for Shirley on Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Flowers for Shirley

Memorial bench plaque for Shirley at The Cheshire Cat Blog

"In memory of Shirley 1959-2004 a brave lady.
Leapt of this pier in 1997 in her wedding dress
to raise money for charity"

The Tea Rooms on Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Tea Rooms at the end of Bangor Pier.

Parachutists beware when dropping in for tea and scones.

Seagulls on Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Not owls.
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Hotel Germany, Olympiada, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Greece
Hotel Okeanis, Kavala, Macedonia, Greece

George Alvanos

in Kavala's historic Panagia District

Anthemiou 35,
Kavala, Greece

Olive Garden Restaurant


+30 22460 49 109

Travel Agency


+30 22460 49 286

Bangor Pier panorama, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Bangor Pier panorama, May 2005.

From here it is not easy to see where the 472 metre-long pier
ends and the steep wooded hill of the Anglesey coast begins.
On the extreme right (east), behind the twin pier's entrance
kiosks, is the massive rock of the Great Orme at Llandudno.

Panoramic view from the east end of Bangor Pier, North Wales at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Panoramic view from the east end of Bangor Pier towards Garth.

At the top of the wooded hill in the centre of the photo is a large clearing,
a public park, for long known as Roman Camp, but in recent years renamed
Ancient Camp because of doubts over who actually lived there in ancient times.
Text and photos: © 2005-2010 David John

Some of the photos and information in this blog
first appeared in 2005 on

Other photos were taken in 2010.
The blog was updated in November 2015.

No animals or telescopes were harmed
in the making of this blog.

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Schliemann's owl at The Cheshire Cat Blog

Too wit to woo.
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