Storm Callum makes Llanddwyn island inaccessible
Dwynwen’s Tale – Llanddwyn, “The church of St. Dwynwen” is located on Llanddwyn Island off the coast of Anglesey, itself an island, in North Wales. She is the patron saint of lovers and lived during the 5th century AD, one of 24 daughters of St. Brychan, a Welsh prince. She fell in love with a young man named Maelon, but rejected his advances, and depending upon which story you believe, was either because she wished to remain chaste and become a nun or because her father wished her to marry another.
In any event she prayed to be released from the unhappy love and dreamed that she was given a potion to do this. However, the potion turned Maelon to ice and so she prayed that she be granted three wishes: 1) that Maelon be revived, 2) that all true lovers find happiness, and 3) that she should never again wish to be married. She then retreated to the solitude of Llanddwyn Island to follow the life of a hermit. Dwynwen became known as the patron saint of lovers and pilgrimages were made to her holy well on the island.
It was said that the faithfulness of a lover could be divined through the movements of some eels that lived in the well. This was done by the woman first scattering breadcrumbs on the surface, then laying her handkerchief on the surface. If the eel disturbed it then her lover would be faithful. Visitors would leave offerings at her shrine, and so popular was this place of pilgrimage that it became the richest in the area during Tudor times. This funded a substantial chapel that was built in the 16th century on the site of Dwynwen’s original chapel. The ruins of this can still be seen today.
Llanddwyn Island is situated near the southern entrance to the Menai Strait and became important in the shipping of slate. A beacon was built at the tip of the island to provide guidance to ships and another more effective lighthouse was built nearby in 1845. The older lighthouse has now returned to service after a modern light was placed on top
Llanddwyn is not quite an island and remains attached to the mainland at all but the highest tides. I was there at the peak of storm Callum at high tide so access was impossible and there was only a fleeting glimpse of the remains of St. Dwynwen’s chapel.
Saint Tanwg – A vague story but a historically interesting location.
Around 1 hour drive from Llanddwyn is Llandanwg, the “church of Tanwg”. Nestled in the sand dunes, the current small church is medieval, probably dating from the 13th century, although the presence of an inscribed stone which has been dated to the 5th century suggests the church was already in existence when Tanwg and his brothers arrived in the area early in the 6th century. This Llandanwg Stone is inscribed with two names, one being Ingenui; the other is indecipherable. Interestingly, the stone is not local and is believed to have come from the Wicklow Hills in Ireland and it is a reasonable conjecture that Ingenuus may have been the founder of the church in the late fifth century, and that St. Tanwg lived here a generation or two later.
Another stone, called the Equester Stone, is of 6th century date. It is inscribed Equestrinomine, an unusual form of wording otherwise known only from 4th century inscriptions in Italy and Gaul. The church still holds occasional services.