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Anglesey, William and Catherine's remote island hideaway

By Mairi Mackay, CNN
  • William and Catherine will live on the remote Welsh island of Anglesey
  • William works there as an air force search and rescue helicopter pilot
  • Locals are very protective of the couple, who have lots of freedom on the island
  • Couple chose to launch lifeboat on island as their first official public outing

Anglesey, Wales (CNN) -- With about as many sheep as people, the remote Welsh island of Anglesey isn't the most obvious place for William and Catherine, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to set up home.

Royal newlyweds tend to live in London or nearby, taking advantage of the many palaces and residences there, but the picturesque isle off the northwest coast of Wales has one thing on offer these places just can't beat: freedom.

Far away from the paparazzi, William has been quietly working as a Royal Air Force search and rescue helicopter pilot based on the island since early 2010. Catherine would visit regularly and the couple have been able to lead a relatively normal life on Anglesey.

William rents a cottage on the island and, accompanied by inevitable security, is able to drive himself to work and socialize with his air force buddies. Catherine, meanwhile, has been spotted picking up a few cuts of meat in the local supermarket.

Just 70,000 people share the island's 250 square miles of windswept beaches, cliff tops and farmland -- three times as many people are crammed into a fraction of the space around Clarence House, William's official residence in London.

Island hideaway for engaged royals

What really makes a difference, though, is the particular attitude of those living on this predominantly Welsh-speaking outpost.

"The Welsh mentality is to leave (William and Catherine) to their own devices," said Elgan Hearn, Chief Reporter at The Holyhead and Anglesey Mail, the local newspaper.

Hearn says the Welsh word "parchus," which loosely translates as respectable, sums up the approach.

"It means respect and having a slight distance between people," he said. "They wouldn't want to intrude on them. You wouldn't want to appear to be too much of a royalist."

They wouldn't want to intrude on (William and Catherine).
--Elgan Hearn, Chief Reporter, The Holyhead and Anglesey Mail

The Welsh have a strong national identity separate from the United Kingdom, but they are fond of William's father, Charles, Prince of Wales, who studied Welsh at Aberystwyth University as a young man.

William was transferred to RAF Valley air force base on the southwest side of Anglesey in January 2010 and is slated to stay for the duration of his 30-36 month air force tour, which will end in 2014.

Flight Lieutenant Wales, as he is known to his air force colleagues, flies Sea King helicopters, doing everything from rescuing lost climbers in the nearby mountains to helping distressed sailors and divers off the coast.

He rents a cottage not far from RAF Valley, on the southwest side of the island near a feted three-mile stretch of golden sand called Llanddwyn Beach.

Locals say they sometimes see his Black Audi A3, sandwiched between two security cars, zooming along Anglesey's little roads as he makes his way to and from work.

The couple are able to go to some of the island's pubs and restaurants, including The White Eagle in Rhoscolyn and the Ship Inn on the north side of the island.

Catherine has also been spotted grocery shopping at the local supermarkets, prompting a few die-hard fans to stake out them out hoping for a glimpse of her.

"It shows the power of Will and Kate," says Robert Jones of Visit Wales. "They go to Tesco (a supermarket) and it ends up on the tourist trail."

But tourists, fans and journalists stalking the couple are kept firmly in their place by the locals who often deny they have seen them.

They get a lot of peace and quiet here (on Anglesey).
--Aubrey Diggle, Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Anglesey

Tim Davis is the director of Sea Croft restaurant in Trearrdur Bay, where the couple are said to have eaten. "I wouldn't like to comment on whether they've been here or not -- they might never come back again," he said.

But some locals think the couple's presence should be used more to promote the island.

"They should be making more of it ... we're suffering here," said Simon Price, owner of Jwmpin Jacs cafe in the capital, Holyhead. "Anglesey really is out on a limb. We get forgotten because we're at the end of the line."

Over one million tourists come to enjoy Anglesey's natural beauty each year, according to Visit Wales, but for the locals not involved in the tourist industry times have been hard. Last year, a big aluminum plant closed down, with 500 jobs lost and two years ago an electronics factory closed taking another 200 jobs with it.

But William and his bride obviously appreciate the protection and freedom they get on Anglesey. It's one of the reasons they chose to launch a new lifeboat on the island as their first official engagement as a couple in February, according to one local.

Aubrey Diggle, is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution Lifeboat Operations Manager at the Trearddur Bay station. He has worked with William on rescues and was there at the launch.

"They get a lot of peace and quiet here (on Anglesey)," Diggle said. "They get left alone."

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