Llanddwyn Island, Wales
The stunning and rugged coastline of Wales is well documented in the photography world and no more so than Llanddwyn Island on the coastline of Anglesey – one of the most beautiful spots in Wales that I have had the pleasure of visiting.
This wild and wonderful piece of Wales is steeped in history – the name Llanddwyn translates to the The Church of St. Dwynwen, Wales’ patron saint of lovers, who’s feast day is celebrated on the 25th January (to mark the date of her death in the year 465). This is basically the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine’s Day, but without the huge marketing campaign and profitability of the card selling stores!
Llanddwyn Island is a small headland jutting out into the sea (it’s only technically an ‘island’ during a high tide) and can be reached by walking along the Newborough Warren Beach which is situated to the south west of the Isle of Anglesey (an actual island). Driving through a pine forest before parking up at the large car park of Newborough Beach (tip: It gets super busy on summer weekends and there is £5 charge to park), there’s a great sense of anticipation with the views hidden by the large sand dunes that run the length of the beach.
Climbing up the dunes with the beach coming into view, on a sunny day you could be forgiven for thinking you were on a Greek island, looking across the sea at the neighbouring islands. But no, this is North Wales and the view across the sea is of the Snowdonia mountain range and the Llyn Peninsula.
Newborough Beach’s golden sands stretch for miles along the coastline, making it the ideal destination in the summer for visitors to the area. The beach makes up part of the Newborough Warren Nature Reserve, including the adjacent dunes and pine forests, which are owned by the Forestry Commission. The forests and surrounding areas have miles of walking trails and paths to explore.
From the beach car park to Llanddwyn Island, you can take a walk along the beach for about a mile, heading right, before you arrive at some unusual outcrops – pillow lava rocks which were formed by undersea volcanic eruptions.
There are two options once you arrive here. A pathway that takes you directly across the centre of the island, which includes some steps, or a meandering trail around the edge. We took the steps up and then followed the trail which had some boardwalk sections. The great things about this trail was the view across the headland.
The first point of interest on Llanddwyn Island are the ruins of St. Dwynwen’s Church which was built in the sixteenth century, funded by the offerings of people who would make a pilgrimage to the spot in medieval times to the location of Dwynwen’s original chapel.
Walking further along from here towards the tip of the headland, there are many small coves and inlets that you can see from the cliff tops. Many of these areas are not accessible as they are nesting grounds for sea birds, but still nice to admire. As you reach the southern end of the island the main features here are two lighthouses – Twr Mawr and Twr Bach.
Twr Bach (Small Tower), the original lighthouse was built to guide ships into the Menai Strait, the narrow stretch of water between Anglesey and the mainland. This lighthouse in now back in use after a modern lamp was fitted.
Twr Mawr (Big Tower), built in 1845 and the larger of the two lighthouses provides the iconic images that you may have seen of this location – with the winding steps leading up to the entrance.
The building is no longer accessible, but you are able to walk up the steps and take a look around the tower.
Around the time the lighthouses were built and first in operation, four pilot’s cottages were also constructed on the island. The pilots would guide the ships in to the straits, as well as operating a lifeboat from the island, along with volunteers from nearby Newborough. Two of the four cottages have been restored, one which houses an exhibition.
I recently read that a reality show is due to be filmed there this autumn, where people will live on the island in conditions as they would have done when the cottages were inhabited.
A cannon is also located nearby, which would have been used to summon the lifeboat crews when required.
Walking back to Newborough Beach, we headed back along the other trail which gave us different views back across at the lighthouses. From every angle, Llanddwyn Island really is beautiful, magical, wild and wonderful. The views are stunning, especially with the mountain backdrops and the clear blue waters.
It’s worth noting, that there are no facilities available on the island, and it’s a long walk back to the car park – allow 30-45 minutes from the lighthouses, but this is a place that you really shouldn’t miss if you want to see some of the most beautiful North Wales coastline. We were lucky to visit on a quiet weekday, out of season, so it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves, with the occasional few people, some dog walkers on the beach and a few kite surfers.