Ynys Llanddwyn and Newborough Forest

Through Newborough Forest to Ynys Llanddwyn and the long, sandy beaches of Llanddwyn and Penrhos

NEAREST LOCATION

Ynys Llanddwyn

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

9.25 miles (15kms)

ASCENT
140ft (40m)
TIME
3hrs 30min
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Medium
STARTING POINT
SH426647

About the walk

Ynys Llanddwyn or Llanddwyn Island is often described as the most romantic place in Wales. It is certainly a magical spot, offering visiting couples spectacular views and miles of secluded sandy beach along which to stroll. From the tip of the island (which remains attached to Anglesey’s mainland at all but the highest of tides), the wide sweep of Caernarfon Bay leads the eye towards the jagged outlines of Snowdonia’s highest peaks and along the Llŷn Peninsula, where a ridge of silhouetted hills forms an impressive backdrop to the bay. The real reason for Ynys Llanddwyn’s romantic reputation, however, is the island’s close association with St Dwynwen, patron saint of Welsh lovers.

Love and heartbreak

Dwynwen was the most beautiful daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog. Although already betrothed, she fell in love with a prince called Maelon Dafodrill. Angry that she was to be married to another, Maelon assaulted and raped Dwynwen, but was turned into a block of ice for his sin.

Heartbroken, Dwynwen fled to the forest, where an angel granted her three wishes. Firstly, that Maelon would be unfrozen; second, that she should be allowed to help those unhappy in love; and finally, that she should never again wish to be married. Dwynwen then retreated to the solitude of Ynys Llanddwyn, where she spent the rest of her life living as a hermit. The church she founded attracted huge numbers of pilgrims in the years that followed, making it one of the wealthiest in Anglesey. Lovesick pilgrims would visit a holy well on the island and use the movements of eels living in the well to divine whether a lover would remain faithful or not. Dydd Santes Dwynwen (‘St Dwynwen’s Day’) is still celebrated in Wales on 25 January each year.

Sands of time

In the Middle Ages, the area now covered by Newborough Forest was rich and intensively farmed agricultural land. After overgrazing damaged the thin soil cover, windblown sand quickly spread across the area, threatening nearby villages. To stabilise the dunes, villagers planted marram grass, giving rise to a thriving cottage industry that lasted for centuries. Ropes, baskets, mats, lobster pots and netting were all made from the grass, which was a prized commodity in Elizabethan times. The sand dunes continued to shift, however, and in 1947 work began to create a large conifer plantation to prevent further erosion. The trees planted were mainly Corsican pine, which thrives in sandy soil and is resistant to damage by the salt spray thrown up during winter storms. The forest created provides an important refuge for the red squirrel, whose numbers may be as low as 500 in Wales.

Walk directions

From the car park, follow a flat, sandy path towards Newborough Forest (‘Wales Coast Path’). At a junction, keep ahead on to a track. Where this enters the property of Gallt-y-Rhedyn, keep left along a sandy path marked ‘To The Beach’.

Follow a clear path along the edge of Newborough Forest, eventually reaching a junction where the Wales Coast Path is signed in both directions. Take the left-hand path, curving right to pass through dunes and emerge on Llanddwyn Beach.

Turn right and follow the beach in the direction of Ynys Llanddwyn (there are toilets along a sandy path on the right). As you approach the island, bear left across the sands towards a prominent information board. Take the path bearing left and follow the island’s east coast to the lighthouse at the far end.

Follow the west side of the island back to the mainland and turn left across the sands of Malltraeth Bay. Curve right into a wide inlet, then leave the beach along a sandy path through dunes. (The path is not easy to spot: use a farm on the opposite shore as a guide.)

Once clear of the beach, the path is obvious. As you approach Newborough Forest, look out for a sign on the right warning of ground-nesting birds. Turn right and follow a path to a track junction at a corner of the forest. Bear slightly left to join the higher, grassy track along the edge of the trees.

At a T-junction with a gravel track, turn right (‘Anglesey Coastal Path’). Follow the track into the forest to reach a T-junction with a wider gravel track. Turn right, then fork immediately left, climbing gently to reach a crossroads of tracks. Turn left. After a sharp left-hand bend, take the next gravel track on the right.

At the forest edge, stay with the track as it curves to the right (green ‘Corsica’ waymark). The track emerges from the trees again by a house and traffic barrier. Follow a tarmac road to the right for a few paces, then turn left through a kissing gate into a field.

Cross the field, keeping the woods to your right. After a second kissing gate, briefly re-enter the forest, then keep ahead towards a stile and gate. Continue along a gravel track, shortly rejoining your outward route from the Llyn Rhos-ddu car park. Keep ahead at a left-hand bend to return to your starting point.

Additional information

Sandy paths, forest tracks and beach

Dunes, conifers, salt marsh and beach

Between May and September, no dogs are allowed on the beach between the main forest car park in Newborough and Ynys Llanddwyn

OS Explorer 263 Anglesey East

Free car park just off the A4080 at Llyn Rhos-ddu

In the main forest car park behind Llanddwyn Bay

The causeway to Ynys Llanddwyn may be briefly covered at high tide

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About the area

Discover Isle of Anglesey

Some of the oldest rocks in Britain form the 125-mile coastline of the 85 square mile Anglesey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which includes Holy Island with its busy port of Holyhead, the terminus for the Dublin ferry. The terrain inland is mainly a fertile plateau worn flat by the action of the sea, with low ridges and shallow valleys, while the sheer limestone cliffs of the east coast and on the north coast at Holyhead Mountain represent some of the most spectacular sea cliffs in Britain. 

On the steep northern and eastern cliffs, guillemots, choughs, cormorants and razorbills nest, while on the huge precipice of Gogarth Bay on lighthouse-topped South Stack (Ynys Lawd) on Holyhead Mountain, expert rock climbers now find their sport where local people formerly harvested gulls’ eggs from the vertiginous ledges.

Anglesey has a wealth of prehistoric remains. On the slopes of Holyhead Mountain, a collection of over 50 hut circles and rectangular enclosures, known as Cytiau’r Gwyddelod (Irishmen’s Huts), are thought to date from the Bronze Age and were still in use in Romano-British times, and many finds indicate the wealth of Iron Age culture on the island.