Who was St Dwynwen?
St Dwynwen (Santes Dwynwen) was a fourth century Welsh princess who lived in what is now the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. Dwynwen was rather unlucky in love, so she became a nun. She prayed for true lovers to have better luck than she did.
How did St Dwynwen 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, which happened to turn him into a block of ice.
God then granted Dwynwen three wishes. Her first wish was that Maelon be thawed; her second wish was for God to help all true lovers; her third wish was that she would never marry. In gratitude, Dwynwen became a nun and set 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 is unwell, you could try praying to St Dwynwen before calling the vet (we aren't making any promises, though).
When is St Dwynwen's Day?
We celebrate St Dwynwen’s Day (or Dydd Santes Dwynwen in Welsh) on 25 January every year.
What happens on St Dwynwen's Day?
It’s just like Valentine's Day, so it is positioned as the most romantic day of the year in Wales. We exchange cards and gifts, take time out, have special meals with our loved ones... some may go as far as to take long walks on deserted beaches, carve lovespoons, cwtsh (cuddle) up in front of a roaring log fire and all that romantic fuzziness.
Does everyone celebrate St Dwynwen's Day in Wales?
No, but it's becoming increasingly popular, especially among Welsh speakers. 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. For the ultimate amatory adventure, make a pilgrimage to St Dwynwen's Church at Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey.
Visiting Llanddwyn Island
One of the most beautiful and romantic spots in Wales, it's worth visiting Llanddwyn at any time of year, not just on 25 January. You'll find it on the southwest corner of Anglesey, just beyond the village of Newborough. Here are three good reasons to visit:
- It's very pretty. Llanddwyn beach is backed by dunes and a forest that's home to red squirrels and a huge roost of ravens (which mate for life, appropriately). Newborough Nature Reserve has stunning views across the Menai Strait to the mountains of Eryri (Snowdonia).
- 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 holidays) 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.
- 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'.
Give a St Dwynwen's Day card
To help celebrate St Dwynwen's Day, we've got a beautifully illustrated card you can send to your sweetheart. The card is designed by illustrator Jonathan Edwards (Instagram page).
There's one version that can be printed (just print it out in colour on A4 paper – fold, then fold again) and an image that can be embedded into emails (for those of you that like electronic love letters).