Sacred Places of Wales

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The Island of Anglesey

The isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon: Uniss Mone) is a veritable treasure-trove of sacred sites that include many early Middle Stone Age remains. About one and a half miles from the village of Llanfair PG (Thlan vire PG) stands the stately mansion known as Plas Newydd (Plars Neweethe), former seat of the Marquesses of Anglesey, but now in the care of the National Trust. Opposite the stables is the burial chamber consisting of an 11-ft by 9-ft capstone and a small ante-chamber.

Bryn Cell Ddu Two miles north from Llanfair PG, at the hamlet of Cefn Bach (Kev'n Bach) and unique in all of Britain, is the well-preserved passage grave of Bryn Cell Ddu (Brinne Kethley Thee: the hill of the black cells). Modern restoration only partially protects the area of the prehistoric mound 160-ft in diameter, which probably covered a henge type monument.

An outer 6-ft long passage and a 20-ft long inner passage lead to a polygonal chamber roofed by two huge stones. The chamber was surrounded by four concentric stone circles, three inside the cairn itself and the fourth marking the base. Inside the chamber is a replica of an incised monolith now in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. The curious stone, with its wavy lines and spirals was found above a pit containing burnt bones. The site may have been a place of worship as well as a burial ground.

Barclodiad y Gawres (Barklod ee-ad Uh Gow ress) shares the distinction of Bryn Celli Ddu as having mural artwork. Translated as "the apron of the giantess," it is located on the western side of the Island of Anglesey on the road (A4080) between Aberffraw (Aber Frow) and the village of Llanfaelog (Thlan Vye-log). This is a cruciform passage grave, painstakingly excavated and restored: its five carved stones are among the finest of their kind ever found in Britain with their lozenges, chevrons, spirals and zig zag patterns. The art style is similar to that found in the area of Boyne, Ireland. A 20-ft long passage leads to the central chamber, which is accompanied by side chambers. Only a part of the original 90-ft diameter mound remains.

For many Welsh people, a most sacred place is the ruined 16th century church found on the southwest tip of the island, across from the little town of Newborough. Here, on a little promontory jutting out from a vast expanse of sands and forest that makes up a nature reserve called Ynys Llanddwyn (Uniss Thlan thooin) is the spot where Dwynwen, patron saint of Welsh lovers, chose to make her retreat.

St. Dynwen's Day is celebrated on January 25th. For the Welsh-speaking, it replaces St. Valentine's Day, as the day to send flowers and greetings to loved ones (a point not unnoticed by today's publishers of Welsh greeting cards). A lovely legend is the story of Dwynwen's rejection of the sexual advances of her swain Maelon.

Though in love with Maelon (My Lon), Dwynwen's wish to remain chaste led her to dream that God offered her a sweet drink that would turn her suitor to ice and free her from her bonds to him. She was then granted three wishes. The first wish was to revive Maelon; second, to become the patron saint of lovers and third, never to marry. What happened to the poor love-struck Maelon we will never know, but a miraculous spring, Ffynnon Dwynwen, appeared at the spot where Dwynwen had her dream. In the spring, located in what is now a very difficult to locate spot on the muddy, tidal beach, fish are said to reveal the fate of the love sick.

On the northwest side of Anglesey, on the rocky summit of Holyhead Mountain, the ancient 17-acre hill fort of Caer y Twr (Kire Uh Toor), uses the precipices as its defenses. These are reinforced where necessary by massive dry-stone walls reaching from crag to crag on the north and east, and in some places still reaching a height of 10 feet.

Below the fort is a group of about 20 enclosed huts dating from the third to the fourth centuries named Ty Mawr (Tee Mour). Some of these still contain hearths and shelves or slabs marking the position of beds. From debris found there, one of them seems to have been occupied by a copper worker. The site is reached on a minor road B4545 that circles Holy Island, on the northwest tip of Anglesey, near the port of Holyhead.

Lligwy (Thlig wee) is an impressive Neolithic burial chamber found on the eastern side of the island near the road from Menai Bridge to Amlwch (Amlook) and then to Moelfre (Moyle Vray) on a side road. Lligwy's huge capstone, one of the largest in Britain, weighs about 25 tons and is supported by low uprights placed above a rock-hewn pit, making the greater part of the chamber below ground.

A large number of human remains were found at the site, as well as at the Iron Age village of Din Llugwy (Deen Thligwee) a short distance away on the other side of the main road. The village was probably built during the closing years of the Roman Occupation; it consists of circular and rectangular stone buildings inside a defensive wall.

It is now time to retrace your journey back to the mainland and to the city of Bangor.

Next Stop: Bangor
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