Ynys Llanddwyn

Twr Mawr and St Dwynwen's cross


19 November 2011

Newborough, Anglesey

SH 38502 62513; 53.13522°N, 4.41559°W


Ynys Llanddwyn is a tidal island — cut off only by the highest tides — on the western approach to the Menai Strait. It forms part of Anglesey’s Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve and is managed by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

Its name means Island of the church of St Dwynwen. Dwynwen — the Welsh patron saint of lovers — lived as a recluse on the island until her death in about 465 CE and during the Middle Ages Llanddwyn became an important destination for Christian pilgrims. The ruins of the 16th-century church are said to stand on the location of her original hermitage.

At the end of the island there are two early 19th-century towers — Twr Mawr (big tower) and Twr Bach (small tower). These were probably originally built as unlit markers for ships entering the Menai Strait bound for the slate ports of Caernarfon, Y Felinheli and Bangor. Twr Mawr is 35 ft high and of a design reminiscent of an Anglesey windmill. It was established as a lighthouse, with a lantern window on its ground level, in 1846 and was in service until 1975, when it was replaced by a flashing directional light fitted to Twr Bach. Twr Mawr featured in the 2006 Demi Moore film Half Light, in which its appearance was significantly altered digitally in post production.

Close to the towers stands a row of four pre-1830 two-roomed pilots’ cottages, two of which now house a CCW exhibition about the island. In times gone past the pilots would row out to approaching ships in order to guide them in their passage past the hazardous sand banks in Caernarfon Bay. A lifeboat, crewed by the pilots and also by volunteers from Newborough, was also stationed on the island up until 1903. The cannon outside the pilots’ cottages was used to call for assistance from Newborough village. The pilot station was closed in 1943.

Featured in NASA Earth Science Division’s Earth Science Picture of the Day, 18 December 2011.

Llanddwyn Island (Anglesey History);
Ynys Llanddwyn (Heliwr.com);
St Dwynwen’s Day (national museum wales);
Lighthouse, Llanddwyn Island (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales)

St Dwynwen's Cross

Twr Mawr lighthouse

Twr Mawr

Lantern window

Looking across Porth Twr Mawr towards Twr Bach

Porth Twr Mawr

Twr Bach with the modern directional light on top

Pilots' Cottages

Pilot's Cottage

The cannon was used to summon the lifeboat volunteers from Newborough village

Signal cannon outside the Pilots' Cottages

Celtic Cross

Ruins of the 16th-century St Dwynwen's Church

St Dwynwen's Church

St Dwynwen's Church

Twr Mawr, Celtic cross and Latin cross

17 thoughts on “Ynys Llanddwyn

  1. A beautiful place that I know well and love. Your photographs capture its character well, and it is interesting to see a photographic interpretation of the landmarks that differs from from mine. My favourite picture is the view across Porth Twr Mawr. The island also has some interesting geology, in particular some good outcrops of pillow lava which form part of the causeway.

    During the years that I was privileged to visit here, we rented holiday accommodation in Newborough village, which came one great advantage; free access to the Forestry Commission car park, and even better, a key to an otherwise private gated road to a car park almost at the causeway to Llanddwyn Island. Early morning and late evening visits were mandatory! If you met another person you were unlucky, and more often than not there were only seabirds and seals for company.


  2. Love this set of photos, glad you put a good few up, too. The lighting is amazing and your control of the colour – some of the shots look as if taken on a Greek island. (I’d definitely prefer to be on Anglesey- no contest!)I think 7 and 9 are my favourites.


    • Thanks for your comments, Iain. The weather was lovely but perhaps not quite Mediterranean. Although that didn’t seem to stop an older lady there from having a leisurely swim in one of the sheltered coves.


  3. Pingback: Sonnet for St Dwynwen | The Poets of Holy Island

  4. Pingback: Ynys Llanddwyn | GeoTopoi

  5. Pingback: Ynys Llanddwyn | GeoTopoi

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