Sunday, 11 September 2016

Ynys Llanddwyn

No, it's not some sort of typing error. Yesterday I had a day off from trying to finish Simplicity 1777, and instead took a trip to one of my favourite places; Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey.

Llanddwyn Island seen from Newborough beach

Map of Wales and close-up of Anglesey

My Welsh pronunciation is a source of merriment to my Welsh-speaking colleagues (although to be fair, so are the attempts by all the other non-Welsh-speakers in the office), but very roughly, this post's title should sound like 'inis hlandwin'. Ynys means island, and Llanddwyn translates as "The church of St. Dwynwen". You can read more about St Dwynwen here.

To get to Llanddwyn you go to the village of Newborough, then carry on down a winding track through the forest.

Newborough Forest

Eventually you come to the car park, where you'll find these three sculptures, based on island landmarks and designed by pupils of the local school.

Carvings of local landmarks

Then it's a walk through the dunes and the marram grass, and onto the beach.

Marram grass holds the dunes together

The beach

As you can see, the sun wasn't shining when I arrived, so this doesn't really do Newborough Beach justice. It's over a mile of golden sand, lapped by the beautifully clear waters of the Menai Strait. The water was lovely and warm, and while I didn't go for a swim this time, I did go for a paddle. (Admittedly, spending holidays in my formative years on Scottish beaches may have skewed what I define as 'warm'!)

Llanddwyn is only an island at high tide, but I always check the tide times before I go - I know from bitter experience that if you are sitting on a rock waiting to cross, it can feel like an awfully long time until the waters drop enough!

And what rocks they are. Where the island joins the beach, and around its coast are pillow lavas, formed by undersea volcanic eruptions.

Pillow lava outcrop

Looking across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia

The sharp rocks made navigating the narrow Menai Sterait extremely hazardous, so a small beacon, called Tŵr Bach was built on the southernmost tip of the island. This was replaced by a larger lighthouse, called Tŵr Mawr, which was modelled on the design of Anglesey windmills.

Tŵr Bach, which now houses the modern light

Tŵr Mawr, with Snowdonia in the background

Llanddwyn also became the base for the pilots who guided ships through the Strait. Cottages were built to house them, and two of these have been converted into a small museum.

The pilots' cottages

The cottages and lighthouse (and sun!)

The island is part of the Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve, and home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Sadly at this time of year there weren't a lot of flowers for me to photograph, but I did find plenty of these snails.

Teeny tiny (and pleasingly alliterative) stripy snails

The beaches are fenced off, to keep the sheep and ponies which graze the island from straying onto them. Humans can reach them through these lovely gates. It was only on this visit that I finally noticed that the carvings on the gates are all slightly different.

Gate leading down to a beach

And another leading back

Near Tŵr Mawr there is also this bench.

Carved bench overlooking the sea

The inscription is from verses by the 13th century Welsh poet, Dafydd ap Gwilym.
"O Landdwyn, dir gynired. O benyd byd a’i bwys", which translates as
"From Llanddwyn, a place of great resort. Through goodness, for the world, and its significance".
Many thanks to Dave Nelson for the translation.

St Dwynwen's church was once an important place of pilgrimage, but very little of it now remains.

All that is left of St Dwynwen's church

The church, Tŵr Mawr, and St Dwynwen's Cross

From there it was a walk back along the beach to the car park (if you are staying at the nearby campsite, there is a lovely walk through the woods which comes out right by the island), and then home. I always enjoy going to Llanddwyn, and yesterday was no exception.

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