The place with Europe's longest name

9 Jun

At 58 letters, strung together without gaps, the unusual name of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogoch in Wales definitely stands out, and is the focus of part one of our "Extreme Places" series.


It does have a significant history, however,   Anglesey — or Ynys Môn, as it is called in Welsh — was once a center of druid culture, and for many centuries served as a place of refuge for Celtic high priests. Numerous myths surrounding this period survive to this day. One place especially feels like a relic from this era. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is the name of the 3,000-resident village in the southeast of the island. Translated into English it means: The Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel near the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave.

Travelling from the Welsh mainland across the Menai Suspension Bridge to Anglesey, you first reach the place with the most unusual name on the island.

With 58 letters, it's the longest single-word place name anywhere in Europe. Pronouncing it correctly is an almost impossible task for non-Welsh speakers, and even those who live on the island simply call the village "Llanfairpwll" for the sake of convenience. But if you suspected this might be a legacy of the Celts, you're wrong. The almost unpronounceable name is in fact a very recent invention. The village was connected to the railway network in the middle of the 19th century. Craftspeople and traders settled here, but business was slow. An ingenious tailor invented the tongue twister in order to make the place more interesting. His creative strategy worked, the Welsh village became well-known around the United Kingdom and attracted an increasing number of visitors.

Today people are still drawn to the village due to its unusual name, with the sign at the railway station a popular image for photos by tourists. The town's tongue twister name secured Llanfairpwll an entry into the Guinness Book of Records in 2002: for the longest single-word internet domain name in the world.

Reason enough for DW reporter Hendrik Welling to pay the place a visit. For the series "Europe to the Maxx" in the lifestyle and culture magazine "Euromaxx" he explores superlatives all over Europe. In Llanfairpwll, he had the locals tell him the story behind the crazy collection of letters and, of course, practiced some Welsh. Find out in our video whether, with their help, he managed to pronounce the full place name correctly in the end!

Special tip: Plas Newydd, the country estate of the Marquess of Anglesey, is also worth a visit. The manor house from the late Middle Ages is located just outside the village and houses several exhibitions. 

The accompanying book

Europe at its most extreme: The series "Europe to the Maxx" on DW's lifestyle and culture magazine Euromaxx makes Europe's superlatives experienceable — from extraordinary architecture to spectacular landscapes to unique cultural phenomena. Accompanying the series, the book 111 Extreme Places in Europe That You Shouldn't Miss was published in cooperation with Emons Verlag. It is an alternative travel guide, both informative and entertaining, for avid travelers, fans of Europe and anyone who likes to show off with unusual pub quiz trivia. It's packed full of guaranteed record-breakers!


Author Patricia Szilagyi


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