“I know it’s out of fashion and a trifle uncool
But I can’t help it, I’m a romantic fool”
OK, so may be I’m not an office clerk, but life can get boring so whenever I get the chance I will go down to the coast, I love the beach, not to lie and soak up the sun, I don’t need hot, sun drenched beaches, rather windswept, maybe rain swept beaches where you can be alone with the elements.
I found my ideal house once, a converted chapel perched high up on a cliff overlooking the sea in north Wales, somewhere close to Caer Arianrhod. I’m sure it was there, although when I’ve tried to find it again I don’t seem to be able to. It’s still there in my dreams and one day I’ll find it again. I imagine myself sitting by large church windows gazing out onto grey stormy seas, I don’t believe would never be able to leave that view.
My favourite beach is Newborough on Anglesey. I love the approach, driving through a pine forest, I love the walk along to Llanddwyn Island, less than two miles I think, but however crowded the beach may get, the island is relatively deserted. It isn’t really an island, except at high tide, but it is a tall green rocky oasis standing high at the end of the sand. The island was home to St Dwynwen and is now home to the ruined church built in her honour, to a few old empty fishermen’s cottages and thousands of sea birds.
Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making her the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine. Her feast day is 25 January. Dwynwen lived during the 5th century AD and was one of 24 daughters of St. Brychan, a Welsh prince of Brycheiniog (Brecon). She fell in love with a young man named Maelon, but rejected his advances. This, depending on which story you read, was either because she wished to remain chaste and become a nun or because her father wished her to marry another. She prayed to be released from the unhappy love and dreamed that she was given a potion to do this. However, the potion turned Maelon to ice. She then prayed that she be granted three wishes: 1) that Maelon be revived, 2) that all true lovers find happiness, and 3) that she should never again wish to be married. She then retreated to the solitude of Llanddwyn Island to follow the life of a hermit.
She became known as the patron saint of lovers and pilgrimages were made to her holy well on the island. It was said that the faithfulness of a lover could be divined through the movements of some eels that lived in the well. This was done by the woman first scattering breadcrumbs on the surface, then laying her handkerchief on the surface. If the eel disturbed it then her lover would be faithful.
Visitors would leave offerings at her shrine, and so popular was this place of pilgrimage that it became the richest in the area during Tudor times. This funded a substantial chapel that was built in the 16th century on the site of Dwynwen’s original chapel.
The last time I visited was last spring. I arrived very early, about 6;30 just after sun rise. It was a perfect day for once; I was totally alone on the vast beach as the sun rose, although as I walked along the rocks around the island, I could watch people holidaying on little yachts and boats, cooking breakfast, the smells and sounds drifting across to the island. Sitting on the end of the island, watching the first signs of life appear on the beach was an experience I wished could have lasted for ever. This must have been why Dwynwen chose to live here, and I could have done so too. Eventually peace was shattered as the first families walk along the island path and I drove back to Bangor for breakfast as real life took over Newborough beach again.