St Dwynwen's Day

Is that love in the air? If you’re in Wales on 25 January, it most certainly is. This is St Dwynwen’s Day, when we honour our Welsh patron saint of lovers. It’s our very own version of St Valentine’s Day - although we celebrate that, too. We’re just a nation of passionate romantics. So here’s all you need to know about St Dwynwen, and how you can get a piece of the amorous action.

Who was St Dwynwen?

A 4th-century Welsh princess who lived in what is now the Brecon Beacons National Park. Dwynwen was unlucky in love, so she became a nun and prayed that true lovers have better luck than she did. We celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day – 25 January – in much the same way as people mark St Valentine’s Day on 14 February.

Ynys Llanddwyn Island photo by Dylan Arnallt from Share Wales Flickr group http://www.flickr.com/photos/dylanarnallt/8497929669/

Ynys Llanddwyn Island, off Anglesey by Dylan Arnallt

How did she become the Welsh patron saint of lovers?

Dwynwen was the prettiest of King Brychan Brycheiniog’s 24 daughters. She fell in love with a local lad called Maelon Dafodrill, but King Brychan had already arranged for her to marry another prince. Maelon took the news badly, so the distraught Dwynwen fled to the woods to weep, and begged God to help her. She was visited by an angel who gave her a sweet potion to help her forget Maelon, and turned him into a block of ice.

God then granted Dwynwen three wishes. Her first wish was that Maelon be thawed; second, that God help all true lovers; and third, that she should never marry. In gratitude, Dwynwen became a nun, setting up a convent on Llanddwyn Island, a beautiful little spot on Anglesey. Her name means, ‘she who leads a blessed life’.

Incidentally, as well as being the Welsh patron saint of lovers, she’s also the patron saint of sick animals. So if your budgie’s unwell, try praying to St Dwynwen before calling the vet.

What happens on St Dwynwen’s Day?

Quite simply, it’s the most romantic day of the year in Wales. We exchange cards and gifts, gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes over candlelit dinners, take long walks on deserted beaches, run through meadows in slow-motion while holding hands, carve lovespoons, cwtch up in front of roaring log fires, and put on our smartest underwear. Just in case.

Does everyone celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day in Wales?

Not everyone, but it’s becoming increasingly popular, especially among Welsh speakers. But you don’t have to be Welsh-speaking (or even Welsh) to join in the love-fest. You have our total blessing to surprise your loved one with a special St Dwynwen’s Day treat – like a weekend of Welsh passion at one of these wildly romantic hotels, or a lovesome twosome at one of these amorous hot-spots.  Or for the ultimate amatory adventure, make a pilgrimage to St Dwynwen’s Church at Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey.

Ancient Church & Celtic cross, Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey

Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey by Ian

A visit to Llanddwyn Island

It’s worth visiting Llanddwyn at any time of year, and not just on 25 January. It’s one of the most beautiful, and certainly the most romantic, spots in Wales. You’ll find it on the southwest corner of Anglesey, just beyond the village of Newborough.  Here are three good reasons to visit:

  1. It’s very pretty. Llanddwyn’s Blue Flag beach is backed by dunes and a forest that’s home to red squirrels, and also a huge roost of ravens (which mate for life, appropriately).  The whole area is a nature reserve, with stunning views across the Menai Strait to the mountains of Snowdonia.
  2. Llanddwyn Island is actually a peninsula that’s only very rarely cut off by the highest tides. Walk out onto the headland and you’ll find two lighthouses, a couple of pilot’s cottages (which become a visitor centre in the summer hols), and the picturesque ruins of St Dwynwen’s Church. This is built on the site of the nunnery she founded in the 5th century, and she’s said to be buried here.
  3. There are several wells and springs on the island, including Merddyn Cil (Merlin’s Well) and Ffynnon Dafaden (whose waters are said to cure warts – which isn’t very romantic, admittedly). Most importantly for lovers, there’s Dwynwen’s Well, which is said to be home to eels who can predict whether your relationship is going to be a success.

And if a beautiful island with magical eels isn’t already the ideal recipe for romance, then remember St Dwynwen’s most famous saying: ‘Nothing wins hearts like cheerfulness.’