This small tidal island, which can easily be reached on foot between high tides, is named after Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers. She lived in the fifth century. Her father may have been Brychan Brycheiniog, a King of Powys who was a devoted Christian.
She fell in love with a man called Maelon but refused to marry him, possibly because her father had arranged a different match. Angered by his rejection, Maelon threatened her. One version of her legend says an angel helped Dwynwen to turn Maelon to ice, and she later prayed for him to be thawed. She committed herself to helping others who were unhappy in love, and eventually established a cell in this remote corner of Wales.
The remains of the mediaeval church dedicated to her can be seen on the island. The 14th-century poet Dafydd ap Gwilym claimed to have seen a golden image of Dwynwen when he visited the church. He responded by asking her to help him marry the woman of his dreams, who was already married. Since then, many people have visited the island to ask for the saint’s help in love. St Dwynwen’s Day, 25 January, is celebrated in Wales as an equivalent to St Valentine’s Day.
St Dwynwen’s Well, also on the island is said to have contained a sacred fish which some believe could predict the future of viewers’ relationships. Another tradition is that unsettled water in the well is a portent of good fortune and happiness in love.
To hear how to pronoune Dwynwen, press play: Or, download mp3 (10KB)
To hear how to pronounce Ynys Llanddwyn, press play: Or, download mp3 (20KB)
Two lighthouse towers still stand at the western end of Ynys Llanddwyn. The newer of the two, resembling an Anglesey windmill tower, is disused. Nearby are cottages built for pilots who would board ships to guide them through the difficult waters of the Menai Strait. A lifeboat was stationed here from 1840. Over just seven days in December 1852, the lifeboat rescued 36 sailors from three separate wrecks: Athena (Greek), Die Krone (Prussian) and Juno (Russian).
The rocks and geology at Ynys Llanddwyn date from the pre-Cambrian era of c.500 million years ago. Volcanic pillow lavas on the beach stand testament to the phenomenal under-sea forces which shaped this landscape, which started its geological life to the south of New Zealand.
The island is part of a National Nature Reserve which also includes Newborough Warren to the south and the Cefni saltmarsh to the north. The reserve is managed by the Countryside Council for Wales.
Other SHIPWRECK HiPoints in this region:
Holyhead lifeboat – gold and 10 silver medals for rescue before ship sank at South Stack
Newborough Warren – 79 passengers died when ferry capsized during argument over fare in 1664