Dawn trip to Ynys Llanddwyn

Ynys Llanddwyn, Newborough Forest / Warren and Nature Reserve – our Anglesey destination early on a fine February morning. Ynys Llanddwyn is a tidal island that is home to many tales including:

  • St Dwynwen and her church
  • The birth place of RSPB Cymru in 1911
  • Tŵr Mawr – the main lighthouse, built in the mid 1800’s (pictured above)
  • Tŵr Bach – a smaller & older warning tower by the old lifeboat station
  • Fascinating geology with both pillow lava & red jasper outcroppings

See a gothic view (monochrome infrared) of Tŵr Mawr on my Natures Universe site.

It’s a couple of hours drive north for us, so an early start was necessary. We top up on petrol & breakfast supplies in Bangor supermarket before driving the last stint over on Anglesey. Take the turn in the middle of Newborough village to reach the lovely forest / beach-side parking. At the time of writing, I believe parking fees are £5 for the day – unless you arrive really early (when the barriers may be open).

We parked up and quickly made our way through the dunes and on to the beach at 6 something or other am, where we were greeted by this beautiful view of a deep red pre-dawn sky over Snowdonia.

Maybe the shepard's warning but as a photographer ..
Maybe the shepard’s warning but as a photographer ..

I’d already expected to have to move around promptly to achieve the different shots I was looking for but the westerly jog up the beach with getting on for 50lbs of photography backpack certainly woke my leg muscles up! But oh was it worth it 🙂

The ponies that graze Ynys Llanddwyn start the day next to St Dwynwen's church ruins.
The ponies that graze Ynys Llanddwyn start the day next to St Dwynwen’s church ruins.
The 1903 Celtic Cross on Ynys Llanddwyn

St Dwynwen

Wales’ patron saint of lovers. There appear to be various versions of Dwynwen’s story. She was said to be the fairest of the many daughters of King Brychan Brycheiniog. She fell in love with a young man called Maelon, who reciprocated, but unfortunately her father had plans for her to marry another.

When she is forced to spurn Maelon, some say she runs away, prays to fall out of love or that she is raped by Maelon in his frustration. Either way, Maelon ends up frozen in a block of ice and an angel grants Dwynwen three wishes:

  • that Maelon be released
  • that God should, through her experience, care for the wellbeing of lovers
  • and that she, Dwynwen, should never become married

After this Dwynwen founds a convent on Ynys Llanddwyn, where she lives out the rest of her life. Her church became a place of holy pilgimage during the middle ages and the ruins can still be visited today.

The views from Ynys Llanddwyn are spectacular. With both Snowdonia & Llyn Peninsula as backdrops, whilst having various points of foreground interest too. It is no wonder that various feature film scenes have been set here.

Beautiful softlight and so many choices of subject.
Beautiful softlight and so many choices of subject.

Having photographed Tŵr Mawr at dawn we watched as the seabirds started their day with gulls calling overhead and a pair of Oystercatchers who stood together on a tide sprayed rock observing the coming of sunrise.

And what a sunrise it was. With renewed tangerine orange in the sky, the sun burst forth above central Snowdonia; whilst (from our shared rocky viewpoint) Tŵr Bach stood almost silhouetted to one side.

The sun gradually rises into a tangerine sky above the mountains of Snowdonia. In the forground stands the beacon tower (Tŵr Bach) of Ynys Llanddwyn.
The sun gradually rises into a tangerine sky above the mountains of Snowdonia. In the forground stands the beacon tower (Tŵr Bach) of Ynys Llanddwyn.

Having enjoyed spectacular dawn & sunrise, we sat and enjoyed our breakfast snacks before moving on to explore more of this beautiful & spiritual island. I always like achieving some pleasing shots early on a trip, the rest of the day becomes more relaxed and everything seems like a bonus. On Llanddwyn the surroundings almost beg you to sit back and enter a contemplative mood – what a source for inspiration.

Mountain, sea, sunshine and peace - where better for an artist's inspiration.
Mountain, sea, sunshine and peace – where better for an artist’s inspiration.

As we continued to explore and then walk back to Llanddwyn Bay, we enjoyed not only the views but also the geology, the information signs, the ponies (again), the expanse of empty beach and then found a swing on the forest edge. Have a look at the gallery below for some extra pictures.

Finally we left around mid morning, time to move on and recce some other local spots for another day’s ‘golden hour’.

There’s a map beneath the gallery if you’d like to consult it. The only 2 bits of extra advice I would give is to be careful about the tides (it is a tidal island) and to respect all restrictions posted, particularly in seabird breeding season.

Gallery (click on picture to enlarge / bring up more details) :

Map (as a guide only) :


An enjoyable scenic route over Arenig Fawr

The Arenigs are a less walked group of Snowdonian peaks, yet Arenig Fawr with its central positioning, enjoys huge panoramic views across most of Snowdonia. Here’s a circular route that we walked early on a very frosty January morning. The GPS track reported 7.25 miles of distance with about 2000 ft of climb. Allow 4 hours or so – more in adverse conditions. The ascent follows paths that are generally obvious whilst the descent & return crosses un-pathed grassy slopes before following tracks & lanes back to the start.

Morning path to Llyn Arenig Fawr
Morning path to Llyn Arenig Fawr

We start at a small lay-by on the minor road south of Llyn Celyn (if no parking is available here, then park at the old quarry just west of Arenig village). Cross the lane and follow the track uphill away from the road in an initially south-westerly direction. This path twists and turns over the moorland of Moel y Garth with beautiful views down on your left towards Bala and Llyn Tegid.

Golden light pours into the valley and begins to lift the sleepy mists of night.
Golden light pours into the valley and begins to lift the sleepy mists of night.

The track gives access to the small dam of Llyn Arenig Fawr and we shall soon find ourselves descending slightly to this beautiful lakeside. Here you will find a small walker’s bothy that could provide some useful shelter on a less pleasant day. Cross the ladder style next to the bothy and head across just below the dam.

Arenig Bothy a useful place to know of.
Arenig Bothy a useful place to know of.

If your are lucky enough to have great weather (as we did) the morning reflections in Llyn Arenig Fawr are glorious and it is well worth while pausing to soak up some of the tranquillity.

Llyn Arenig Fawr in the winter golden hour. Reflections and warm glow on a frosty morning.
Llyn Arenig Fawr in the winter golden hour. Reflections and warm glow on a frosty morning.

Now we must climb up the hillside to the south of the lake, via Carreg Lefain and on to the point known as Y Castell. The climb is steeper here and follows a smaller path but the way is clear and there are no significant obstacles.

The pull up to Y Castell
The pull up to Y Castell

Having crossed an old dilapidated fence-line near Y Castell, we continue ahead, slightly less steeply for the moment. Shortly we will find ourselves walking parallel to another fence-line and with great views of Arenig Fawr ahead. Whilst there are various options here, we chose to cross the fence-line to our right and head uphill on to the shoulder of Arenig Fawr.

Arenig Summit in view
Arenig Summit in view

Now progress consistently uphill south westerly towards the summit. There’s a little patch of scree and boulders but the path makes for easy crossing along its upper edge. Eventually you will notice the summit trig point ahead of you.

Trig point on the summit of Arenig Fawr
Trig point on the summit of Arenig Fawr

The views from the summit are spectacular, though you will need a clear day to appreciate it at its best. Rhobell Fawr & Cadair Idris to the south (see header feature photo), Snowdon a little over 17 miles to the north plus Rhinogs, coastline and more to the west. As so often, there was a little haze on our morning but still very enjoyable views.

From the summit of Arenig Fawr: Moelwyn, Cnicht, Nantle Ridge.
From the summit of Arenig Fawr: Moelwyn, Cnicht, Nantle Ridge.

There are lots of possibilities for the descent from here, we chose to partially retrace our steps for a few metres to the NE. A westerly facing gully will be noticed just beneath you (headed by an old post when we were up there). Drop down through this gully and then bear to your right (NE again) to carefully descend on to the rough grassy western slope of Arenig Fawr.

Descending to the track by Amnodd-wen
Descending to the track by Amnodd-wen

From here we are crossing pathless open access land to descend towards the old abandoned farmhouse of Amnodd-wen. As you get lower down the slope, head for the gateway through the stone wall and then down onto the track just south of Amnodd-wen, turning right (northerly) when you reach it. It’s worth pausing at Amnodd-wen to look back at the mountain you’ve just crossed, as well as to perhaps consider what life was like living here in years gone by.

Looking back from Amnodd-wen
Looking back from Amnodd-wen

Now follow this track to the north. When you meet the old railway line do not stray on to it, just continue to follow the track back to the local lane. When you reach the lane, turn right on to it and follow it back through Arenig village to where you parked. A beautiful walk which you may well have all to yourself.

The lane back to the start of the walk.
The lane back to the start of the walk.

Maps & more photos below.

Altitude:

AreningFawr-altitudeprofile
AreningFawr-altitudeprofile

Route Map:

Gallery: