Riddle of the Singing Sands

22 Sep

Porth Oer, an attractive if unobtrusive beach hidden on the north Wales coast is an unusual location for one of the UK’s strangest unsolved mysteries. This small, picturesque National Trust beach, backed by steep grassy cliffs, is famously known as ‘Whistling Sands’, a nickname based on the sound the granules make underfoot when you walk over its gleaming sand. The sound is created due to the stress of weight that is put upon the sand, and interestingly Porth Oer is unique among the beaches of Europe for this unusual effect. ‘Singing sands’ do exist in other places in the world, but usually these take the form of vast desert landscapes – the singing dunes of Almaty in Kazakhstan for example, or the Kelso dunes in California’s Mojave Desert – rather than a cute little beach on the Llyn Heritage Coast. Although there is a general consensus among scientists as to the best conditions for the ‘singing sand’ effect, why places like Port Oer exist at all remains something of a mystery.

Without doubt, while the coal valleys are the defining feature of the south of the country, Snowdonia is the crowning glory of North Wales. This tightly packed bundle of soaring cliff faces, jagged peaks and plunging waterfalls is widely acclaimed as the most dramatic and alluring of all Welsh scenery, a compact, barren land of tortured ridges dividing glacial valleys. It was to this mountain fastness that Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last true Prince of Wales, retreated in 1277 after his first war with Edward I; it was also here that the sorcerer Owain Glyndwyr held on most tenaciously to his dream of regaining Wales for his people. Not even Snowdonia can match the remoteness of the Llyn peninsula, however, which is the most westerly part of North Wales. Nowhere in Wales is more staunchly Welsh: road signs are still bilingual but the English is frequently obliterated; the term Stryd Fawr is used instead of ‘High Street’, and in most local shops you’ll only hear Welsh spoken. Porth Oer lies at the heart of this ancient land.

The small, lime-washed fishing village of Aberdaron backs onto the Whistling Sands two miles short of the tip of the Llyn. For a thousand years, from the 6th century onwards, it was the last stop for pilgrims to Bardsey Island, just offshore (three visits there were proclaimed equivalent to one pilgrimage to Rome). Many pilgrims came to die there, earning Bardsey its epithet ‘The Isle of Twenty Thousand Saints’. The final gathering place before the treacherous crossing is the 14th century Y Gegin Fawr (‘Great Kitchen’), a stone building which still operates as a cafe. So, while today scientists may tell you that the ‘singing sand’ effect at Porth Oer is created by a certain indefinable concentration of silica, humidity and grain thickness, knowing locals will tap their noses before giving you a very different explanation. The sound of the Whistling Sands, they say, is the murmuring of twenty thousand saints as they go to and come back from pilgrimage at Bardsey Island across the centuries.

Advertisements

5 Responses to “Riddle of the Singing Sands”

  1. angryscholar September 22, 2013 at 2:25 am #

    Makes me wish I’d made it to the north of Wales. Only spent time in the south, alas. Next time.

  2. Claudia McGill September 22, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    What a – I don’t want to say haunting – maybe bittersweet? story.

  3. wildninja September 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Da iawn Anil. Rhagorol!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New post on Anilbalan’s Ghost Cities Blog Riddle of the Singing Sands | Hugh Paxton's Blog - September 22, 2013

    […] Riddle of the Singing Sands […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

CBS Sacramento

News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of Sacramento

CBS San Francisco

News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of SF

Going Places with Embry-Riddle Career Services

A blog for students and alumni of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

jessasmiley

the secrets of my scratch paper

hungarianportrait

Portrait and Glamour Photography from Laszlo Racz

Indie Hero

Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller

criticaldispatches.com/

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @RichyDispatch

A R T L▼R K

An Alternative Cultural Daybook

Snapping Twig

A Lit & Art Magazine Publishing a Diverse Collection of New & Established Writers & Artists everywhere [for the THRIVE ART CREATIVE]

Gmail Technical Support|1-888-551-2881|Helpline

Gmail Tech Support, Helpline Number, Customer Care Phone Number, Contact Technician for Recover Gmail Forgot Password

Books, Brains and Beer

"Words, words. They're all we have to go on."

Illa Poeta

A Female Scribe Who Loves To Rhyme

A Round of Words in 80 Days

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life

Elizabeth Willse: Surrounded by Books

Writer, Book Blogger, Librarian

The Blog of Funny Names

Celebrating Great People With Greater Names.

ARMAND ROSAMILIA

Official Site for Author Armand Rosamilia

COTTIDIANUS

Daily Life Photographs by PC Silva

thekitchensgarden

farming, gardens, cows, goats, chickens, food, organic, sustainable, photography,

Maurice Sapiro

TONALIST AND REPRESENTATIONAL FINE ART

%d bloggers like this: