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Ynys Llanddwyn a place of pilgrimage for Welsh Lovers

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How does a visit to the Anglesey Coast in February sound? Winter is one of my favourite times to visit beaches, they are much quieter and offer a very different experience to that gained in summer.  This visit was to Newborough Beach and Llanddwyn Island on the South West Coast of Anglesey, North Wales. The weather was cloudy, so I took bracketed photos to process as HDR, which brings out the drama in the skies and seas.
The beach is signposted from Newborough Village. Passing the church and the excavated remains of Llys Rhosyr, a former court of Welsh Princes, you arrive at the edge of the Newborough Forest. Cars follow the toll road to reach the car park located between the pine trees and sand dunes.  Look out for red squirrels, as Anglesey is the only place in Wales where they exist without grey squirrels.

Celtic cross on Llanddwyn

Celtic cross with Newborough beach and Snowdonia in background

Newborough beach is one of Britain’s Blue Flag beaches, which means the sea and beach are clean and safe. Toilet facilities, wheelchair access and environmental information boards are provided. Another key requisite for the award is environmental management, therefore motorised or wind powered vehicles are not allowed on the beach.
Ynys Llanddwyn (Ynys is Welsh for Island) is an enjoyable walk from the car park. It is part of the 200 km Anglesey Coastal Path and in May 2012  it will become part of the 1385 km Wales Coast path.  Joined to land for most of the time, Llandwyn does become an island at the highest tides, a check of tide tables might be a good idea.

St Dynwen's church

Ruins of St Dynwen’s church

I won’t attempt to describe the story of St Dwynwen except to say that she was the daughter of a Welsh Prince and that the story of her unrequited love was not exactly happy, so she decided to live out the rest of her days as a hermit on Llanddwyn. With the views of Snowdonia and the Llyn Peninsula, I can think of worse places to live as a hermit! Being a true Christian she wished other lovers, the love she herself missed out on.  Later lovers came to the well on Llanddwyn to see whether their partner was faithful. St Dwynwen’s Church became an important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages but did not fare well in the Reformation. Dwynwen, the Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers has her Saint’s Day on January 25, the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine’s Day.

The isle is also very attractive to lovers of geology. The rocks here are some of the oldest in Britain. They formed when this area was where tectonic plates met deep below the ocean. Lava oozed out forming the characteristic pillow rocks on view today.

Beach at Llanddwyn Island

Beach on island with Llyn in background

February is one of the best months to watch the waves break over the ancient rocks around the island.

St Dynwens Cross and old lighthouse

St Dwynwens Cross and old lighthouse

The island occupies a strategic position on the approaches to the Menai Straits.  The oldest of the island’s two lighthouses resembles a traditional Anglesey windmill.

Ponies on Llanddwyn

Ponies on Llanddwyn

Ponies and sheep graze the island, adding something to the overall atmosphere. I loved my February visit, but I am sure that sitting on the rocks or lying on the beach in summer taking in Anglesey, Snowdonia and the Llŷn Peninsula across a glistening blue Irish Sea will be equally moving.

Getting there

Bus: Bus 42 Bangor to Llangefni
Nearest train station: Bodorgan Station, a 3km walk from Maltraeth. It is probably best to alight at Bangor and take the bus.
Car: Take the to Newborough turn off down Church Street until you reach Forestry Commission Toll Road. £3 (take some £1 coins).

Further info

Llandwyn Island on Wikipedia
Forestry Commission Panel

All photos by the author. More in this post: A Welsh Day Trip in February.

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