Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey

We actually visited Llanddwyn Island over three separate days, twice as a couple and once with the children in tow. Each time we found it to be a magical place, even on the first day when it was a bit of a route march due to the need to get back in time for the end of school.

The island is in fact a tidal island, a narrow tongue of rock sticking out from the end of Llanddwyn Beach at Newborough, which can be walked to at low tide. Apparently it's an easy wade even when the tide is in fully. If you decided to visit the beach and not the island you would still have a wonderful day, with fine relatively white sand on a beautiful spreading crescent bay with a planted pine forest behind. There's a £3 toll to get down to the car park, which has facilities including toilets and outdoor showers, and at least on one visit vans selling ice cream and hot food. The beach and island seem to be very popular for dog walking, although there are restrictions on dogs in the summer.

The beach also has wooden walkways running along between forest and sand, which, although occasionally clogged up with sand drifts, promises a pleasant way to access this beautiful area for wheelchairs, pushchairs, and the infirm.

It's a longish walk down the beach to the island - on our hurried route march it took ten minutes, with the children it took an hour, and of course it varies according to whether the tide is in or not. But once you're on the island you can explore to your heart's content. You will find the ruined church of St Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers, grazing ponies, the pilots' cottages painted brilliant white with an exhibition inside, fascinating geology, a couple of stone crosses (both relatively modern), and a lighthouse on an elevated crag. There are numerous little sandy bays and, when the weather is clear, views over towards Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula.

On our third visit the tide was well in, the island was a proper island, the sun was out and the sands were waiting. The trees are the very edge of Newborough Forest, a pine forest planted to protect the nearby village from sand and provide timber and jobs. Some of the trees right on the edge are dead, but the forest itself is thriving, and is one of the areas on Anglesey where you might see red squirrels.
Looking back across the Menai Straits towards the mountains of Snowdonia and the Lleyn Peninsula.
The first two times we visited the Lleyn Peninsula wasn't visible at all through the haze, but the third time the mountains reared up on the horizon.
This is the neck of the island where it meets the beach, on one of the previous visits, when the tide was well out when we arrived.
In contrast, this is the same area on our third visit, with the sea cutting the island off from the rest of Anglesey.
Looking back towards the mainland again.
There were throngs of dogs, and this plucky little one had a wonderful time in the water.
People were gathering at the neck of the island, waiting for the tide to go out, unwilling to wade through the water.
Some of the lovely outcrops of rock, with the island to the right.
Noticeboard about the island.
This board is about the geology of the island.
The end of that same board.
Another noticeboard about the horses. We didn't see any cows.
A set of narrow rocky steps in striking blue-green rock is one of the ways up onto the island.

A first glimpse of the island's many features - from right to left, a Celtic cross, the chimneys of the pilots' cottages, the ruined church of St Dwynwen, the lighthouse Tŵr Mawr, and a conventional cross, with some of the horses grazing too.
The ruins of St Dwynwen's Church, which fell into disrepair after Henry VIII's split with the Catholic Church, when it lost its revenue from pilgrims.
St Dwynwen's Church. Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers. Her day is celebrated on January 25th, much like Valentine's Day.
Noticeboard about the church.
I think this is the east window.
The place fell into such ruin because the timbers and lead were stripped from the roof, exposing it to the elements.
Remnants of a staircase.
Looking towards the south-west of the church.
Looking more toward the north-west.

On our second visit ponies were grazing along the low wall around the church. I got within a few feet but the stallion wasn't happy, and warned the females away.
A greeting between the stallion and one of the females.
Lining up for a grass bar along the wall.
Horses at the church.
Church and horses from further away. The stallion was happier with this.
The pilots' cottages seen from the site of the church.
Horse and Celtic cross.
The church ruins with the lighthouse in the distance and a cross to the right. Apparently the lighthouse was based on a windmill design, or may have been a windmill once, depending on what you read, but either way, it doesn't seem to have a light, which you would think disqualifies it from being a lighthouse. It is, however a light house, being painted a brilliant white, and would have been quite visible in the right weather. Its name, Tŵr Mawr, means Big Tower.
Cross and lighthouse again. This was on one of the hazy days when we couldn't see the mountains beyond at all.
This cross is dedicated to St Dwynwen.
Up by the lighthouse there's an information board about the various landmarks you can see.
This part of the board has some information about the  lighthouse.
The lighthouse on a clear day, with the mountains in the background.
You can't go in to the lighthouse but I did take this photo through the window, looking through toward the doorway into the room which contained the light.
The lighthouse from another part of the island.
It sits atop an impressive outcrop of rocks.
The older lighthouse on the island is Tŵr Bach (Little Tower) - and it's easy to see why a new one was needed. It seems the new tower, Tŵr Mawr, was lit through a large curved window at the base, but there was no light high up. This site has some interesting information about the two towers, with more detail here. It seems that Tŵr Bach is the functioning lighthouse, as such, now, due to being fitted with a navigational beacon.
Tŵr Bach with its modern gadgets on top, including a solar panel.
Just below Tŵr Bach, built into the rocks, is some kind of boat house, perhaps, although it seems too high to be of much use.
Tŵr Bach with the Lleyn Peninsula in the background.
Not far from Tŵr Bach are the Pilots' Cottages, a lovely terrace of houses built for the pilots who lived on the island to guide ships through the Menai Straits.
Apparently the cannon was there to summon the lifeboat crew when they were needed.
The cottages are in beautiful repair and brightly painted.
Inside part of the row of cottages is an information centre, and part have been restored to show how they would have looked when they were lived in. There are bars separating the visitors from the exhibit.
Looking up to the crog loft in one of the rooms. Crog lofts are quite a familiar sight in cottages around here.
The cottages, and the lighthouse in the background.
Not only does the island have cool historical features, but it also has cool geology, including this mélange at the end of the island.
The colours in the rocks are simply stunning.
Beautiful, beautiful geology.
That's probably enough of a tour, so have some photos of beautiful sea and bays...