A walk from Newborough Forest
A stunning coastline.
I’m sure you’ve probably heard of Llanddwyn Island, or if not, certainly seen photos of it. It’s one of the most breathtaking places you’ll ever see! With miles of golden sandy beaches on both sides and enchanting pines of Newborough forest in the backdrop, it’s no wonder why it’s the most photographed spot in Wales. Plus, you can enjoy the mesmerizing mountains of Snowdonia and Llŷn Peninsula while you’re there.
Llanddwyn Island is a popular tourist destination, and for good reason. There’s so much to see and do, from taking in the beautiful scenery to exploring the fascinating history of the area. It’s the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, offering peace and tranquility for all visitors.
And let’s not forget about the island’s mysterious history, which only adds to its allure. But whether you’re interested in history or not, Llanddwyn Island is a stunning spot to visit any time of year. You can go for a leisurely afternoon of exploring, have a picnic during the Summer, or take a crisp Winter stroll like I did with my son, Louis, and our two dogs. It was an amazing experience that blew away all the cobwebs!
Where is Llanddwyn Island?
Situated on the south west of Anglesey, Llanddwyn Island (Ynys Llanddwyn) is a tiny rocky headland protruding out into the sea. It’s only technically an island at high tide, when it gets cut off from the mainland for a couple of hours.
It takes around 35-40 mins by car from Gwendon.
Although Anglesey has the #42 bus service running from Bangor to Newborough, you will have to cycle or walk the last 2-3 miles to the beach, which is quite a stretch, especially if you have all your gear and family in tow.
Travelling in your own vehicle is by far the easiest way. But get there early, especially on weekends and holidays. The car park is Newborough Beach Car Park. It houses around 350 spaces but fills up quickly and once full most people are there for the day. There’s often long queues from Newborough village in peak times.
The forest road runs for 2-3 miles before arriving at the car park, where an ANPR camera reads your registration number on entry. You then pay at the exit barrier. At the time of writing, it’s £2 for the first 2 hours, 40p for every additional 20 minutes and £7 maximum charge per day. You can pay by cash or card.
Parking overnight is strictly prohibited and they’re very firm about it. In fact, between 5:00pm and 9:00am, a height barrier is in place to prevent vehicles over 2m high from entering the car park.
There are public toilets which are well maintained. There’s a cafe, plenty of picnic tables and barbecue areas. It’s worth noting that the cafe wasn’t open when we visited, so it’s likely to be seasonal.
History of Llandwyn Island
Llanddwyn Island has a long and interesting history. It’s said to be the birthplace of St Dwynwen, the patron saint of love and lovers, and the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine (celebrated on January 25th). Legend has it that St Dwynwen fell in love with a young man named Maelon, but her father wished her to marry somebody else.
St Dwynwen dreamed of a potion to release her of this unhappy love affair. However, the potion turned Maelon into ice. St Dwynwen went on to make three wishes: 1) for Maelon to be revived, 2) for all true lovers to find happiness and 3) that she would never again wish to marry.
St Dwynwen then retreated to the Llanddwyn Island, where she lived the rest of her life in solitude. It’s home to the ruins of a 15th-century church dedicated to her, where she’s said to be buried.
Tŵr Mawr Lighthouse
The island is also home to two lighthouses, built in the 19th century to guide ships around the treacherous coast.
Llanddwyn Lighthouse, also known as Tŵr Mawr Lighthouse (big tower), is located at the far end of this tranquil island, marking the Western approach to the Menai Strait. A grade 2 listed building standing nearly 11m tall, it was constructed in 1845 and its style was thought to be inspired by the design of Anglesey’s windmills.
Tŵr Bach Lighthouse
Tŵr Bach (little tower) is the smaller of the two lighthouses. It seems Twr Bach was originally built as a landmark and day beacon (an unlit lighthouse). However, it was built in the wrong place as it couldn’t easily be seen by ships approaching from the west. Hence, Tŵr Mawr was built to replace it in a more visible spot.
For nearly 130 years, Tŵr Mawr continued as a lighthouse, while Tŵr Bach lay dormant. Tŵr Mawr ceased operation in 1975 and Tŵr Bach a modern navigation beacon installed. So now, Tŵr Bach is the working tower, while Tŵr Mawr is dormant, but a striking and iconic landmark, nonetheless.
As you head to the lighthouses, you’ll see a row of four small two-roomed single-storey cottages, built before 1830. They were home to lighthouse keepers & pilots. They guided commercial ships to navigate to the ports along the Menai Strait. This narrow channel dividing Anglesey from the mainland posed a threat of grounding on sand banks for vessels calling at the ports of Caernarfon, Y Felinheli and Bangor to collect the fine roofing slate produced in the hills of North Wales. As well as guiding commercial shipping, the pilots crewed the Llanddwyn lifeboat until its wathdrawal from service in 1903.
Two of the four cottages have been restored. One of the cottages where the pilots used to live is now a small museum showing how it would have looked when the pilots were still in residence. The cottage museum is open most days during the school summer holidays (late July – August).
The cannon near Tŵr Bach was used to summon the lifeboat crews when required. A far cry from today’s technology, for sure. I imagine the sound from the cannon was pretty loud! The pilot station was closed in 1943.
Traeth Llanddwyn / Newborough Beach
Llanddwyn (or Newborough) beach has golden sands that stretch for miles along the coastline, making it the perfect summer destination. The beach makes up part of the Newborough Warren Nature Reserve, including one of the largest and finest dune systems in the UK and wonderful pine forests, which are owned by the Forestry Commission. The forests and surrounding areas have miles of walking trails and paths to explore.
The first beach that you’ll come to when you exit the main car park, over the dunes, is Llanddwyn beach. To the left, you get stunning view of the mountains of EySnowdonia and the Llŷn Peninsula, but also to the right you get the stunning Llanddwyn island.
The second beach, which is know locally as Traeth Pen Rhos (Pen Rhos beach) is the one on the Malltraeth side of Llanddwyn island. At the far end of this beach you have the Malltraeth estuary which can be seen from the Malltraeth Cob. The estuary is very popular with wading birds.
This side is more remote, and there’s something quite spiritual and magical about this beach in winter when the waves are crashing onto the shore and the wind is howling.
Newborough Forest Walks
Newborough forest was planted over an 18 year period between 1947 and 1965. The idea was to protect the village of Newborough from the shifting sand dunes as well as create an extra cost effective supply of wood during the ‘war years’.
It’s the largest area of forestry on Anglesey and is 2,000 acres (8 km²) in size and most of it has been declared a National Nature Reserve.
The forest has various mapped out trails allowing you to choose from either easy, medium or long and are colour coded to make it as easy as possible to stay on the appropriate paths. Lots of fun trails for the family – try the Animal Puzzle Trail or cycle trail.
At various stages along the paths are really useful information signs, giving you facts on wildlife and nature, so a fabulous and educational trip, as well as a lot of fun.
Dog restrictions on the beaches
There are dog restrictions in place from 1st May to 30th September each year on certain parts of the main beach. A map showing the designated dog area is here.
Dogs need to be on leads on the footpaths to Llanddwyn Island due to the protection of the wildlife.
If there’s one place to have on your Anglesey must places to visit, it’s Llanddwyn Island, beach and Newborough Forest. It’s simply stunning, yet simplistically unspoilt, with golden sands and a beautiful dramatic backdrop of the pines. As you approach the beach through the dunes, you could be mistaken for being somewhere exotic!
Given the history, there’s something very magical and mystical about the area that you really shouldn’t miss if you want to see some of the most beautiful unspoilt coastline of North Wales. It’s a photographic paradise.
For watersports lovers, it’s becoming increasingly popular for kite surfers. There were plenty of surfers out when we were there, even in January. The winds are quite prevalent, especially during winter months, so be mindful of this and ensure you wrap up warm!
The car park has good facilities and areas for BBQs/picnics, so especially in warmer months, pack your cool box, picnic food, bikes, kids and dogs and have an ideal fantastic fun day out for all the family! Just get there early!