January 25th marks St. Dwynwen’s Day, the Welsh holiday celebrating the Patron Saint of Lovers. Saint Dwynwen was a fifth century princess who set up a convent on the island of Llanddwyn, praying to God to help all true lovers. We visited Llanddwyn island in March 2022, when it was deserted due to the bitter Spring weather, making the island and its various features all the more magical. St. Dwynwen’s Day had us reminiscing about our visit to this awe-inspiring tidal island – here’s what to you need to know when visiting Llanddwyn island yourself.

How to get there

We drove to Llanddwyn island, parking at the Newborough Forest car park which is right on the beach. At the time of writing, the charges are £2 for the first two hours, 40p for every additional 20 minutes, and a £7 maximum charge for the day. Your car’s number plate is scanned on the way into the car park and you pay the charge upon exiting. The island itself is accessible on foot via the beach, though only at low tide, so it’s essential to check tide times for your visit. You don’t want to travel there only to find you can’t walk across, or worse – find yourself stranded if the tide comes in during your time on the island!

From the car park it’s a short 15 minute walk along the beach to the island, or around 20-25 minutes following the various zig-zagging trails through the forest. We chose to walk the outward journey via the beach so we could admire the island on our approach, and through the forest on our way back to our car. If you visit at a particularly cold time of year, as we did, the forest will provide some welcome shelter from coastal winds but we think it’s a shame to miss the sweeping view of the island – you can always shelter in the forest by taking one of the many carved-out pathways from the beach if needed!

Llanddwyn island isn’t particularly large (30 hectares), and has well-trodden footpaths in a loop around the island, so it’s easily manageable no matter your walking ability. Walking from the car park, around the island, and back is possible in around 1.5 hours if you keep moving. Our visit took us closer to 2 hours, between admiring its many historic sights and stopping to take photographs. Trust us – you’ll want to allow extra time for both!

What to see

There are many eerily beautiful points of interest on Llanddwyn island, each with their own fascinating history:

  • Tŵr Mawr Lighthouse. This Grade 2 listed building was constructed in 1845, and deactivated in 1975. Climbing the unsheltered stone steps here, we suddenly felt the chill of the wind! Luckily the hand-built stone wall leading to the boarded-up lighthouse entrance gave us a brief respite. It’s not possible to enter the lighthouse, though you can peer into one of the windows for a look inside the deserted building, where letters lie covered in dust on the windowsill and furniture remains in situ.
  • Stone crosses. Both St Dwynwen’s cross and the Celtic cross memorialise the death of St. Dwynwen. The former was erected at the end of the 19th century, and the latter at the beginning of the 20th century. Both sit atop respective small mounds, protruding from the undulating landscape of the island.
  • St. Dwynwen’s Church. Saint Dwynwen is said to be buried at the 16th century church, which was built on the island in her honour. Only the ruins remain today, making it all the more beautiful and poignant.
  • Pilots’ cottages. A row of four simple, single-story houses built before 1830 for the lighthouse keepers, pilots and lifeboat workers operating on Llanddwyn island at the time. A small cannon stands outside the cottages that was used to summon the lifeboat crew in the days before phones and alarms. Today, nobody inhabits the houses and visitors can only view them from the outside.
  • Old lifeboat station. In use between 1840 and 1903, it’s incredible that this old lifeboat station is still in remarkably good condition for being right on the water. In its years of use, the crew members in charge of the sole lifeboat saved 101 lives in 35 separate rescues. We spent some time admiring the building, and sheltering from the wind, while looking out to sea from the gorgeous beach at the mouth of the station.

Our tips for your visit

  • Be wary of the tide! As we’ve already mentioned, Llanddwyn is a tidal island that can only be accessed by foot, when the tide is out. Make sure you check the tide times before your visit, and ensure you allow plenty of time to explore all the island has to offer.
  • Plan your visit. We visited the island in March 2022, when it felt a little wild with the wind chill coming off the sea, but this meant the island was empty! If you don’t fancy braving lower temperatures, a visit at sunrise will ensure the island is peaceful for your visit and you’ll enjoy a breath-taking sky as a backdrop for your photos! And of course, the island is a pilgrimage site for couples on January 25th when St. Dwynwen’s Day is celebrated throughout Wales – the perfect time to visit with your loved one.
  • Choose appropriate footwear. Visiting the island will see you walking across sand on the beach, narrow gravel paths and boardwalks on the island, and forest floor as you make your return journey. We recommend hiking boots, or at least sensible, sturdy shoes to ensure you’re prepared for the varying terrain.

This little island feels frozen in time, with so much character and history making it a must-visit spot in Wales!

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