The Bardsey Island apple is a medium-sized, sweet and juicy pink eating apple with a unique lemon aroma. They are excellent straight from the tree at the end of September and keep until November. A very rare apple, the old mother tree grows in a slight recess on the side of the house built by Lord Newborough in the 1870s on Bardsey Island, a small Welsh island three kilometers off the Ll?n Peninsula. Salt-laden gales have “pruned” this tree so that it lies flat against the wall. Any shoots that try to grow outwards from this recess are eventually killed by salt burn.
The origins of the mother tree on Bardsey Island are unclear. Bardsey Island was a place of pilgrimage from Celtic times and, according to legend, the burial place of saints. The remains of a 13th-century abbey attest to its lasting appeal as a religious site. There is no evidence of an orchard, but the monks of Bardsey Abbey, presumably being self-sufficient, might have had walled gardens. The Bardsey mother tree could be the last survivor from the early Middle Ages; however, given the placement of the apple in the house recess it seems to have been deliberately planted there. In 1998 Andy Clarke, who had come across the apples while studying the bird colonies on Bardsey, brought several to Ian Sturrock, local expert fruit grower, for identification. Not recognizing the variety, Ian took the samples to the National Fruit Collection, Brogdale, who declared the Bardsey Island apple a new variety.
The Bardsey Island apple is a truly unique fruit. Unlike imported foreign apples or foreign varieties grown in the UK, the Bardsey Island apple requires no chemical input and spraying. The trees are tough and disease resistant. Not only is the mother tree the only original Bardsey Apple, it is the only tree on Bardsey Island. The mother tree may be in dire straits having recently received an unfortunately aggressive pruning. The shock caused to this old tree may prove irreversibly damaging or perhaps fatal.
The variety is still rare and relatively unknown, though through work of originally grafting trees from the mother on the island, it is gradually becoming a more available fruit in North Wales. The knowledge of this apple variety is in danger of being lost; indeed, had it not been for the chance discovery of the apple and the subsequent contact with the National Fruit Collection, Brogdale, the variety may have been lost altogether when the mother tree died.