Say ‘I do’ on St Dwynwen’s Day
Oh, baby, it’s cold outside! The landscapes of North Wales are glittering in their icy finery right now and we’re in the depths of winter but on the 25th of January, the air in Wales sparkles with romance too. This date marks the celebration of Dydd Santes Dwynwen, a day dedicated to St Dwynwen, the cherished patron saint of lovers in Wales. As a harbinger of love and good luck, this day parallels Valentine’s Day celebrated on the 14th of February. What sets it apart, however, is its exclusive Welsh charm and a more personal, less commercialised vibe.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of popping the question or just fancy treating your better half to a romantic weekend away, North Wales is a great choice for a staycation any time of the year. In this blog, you’ll learn the tragic yet endearing tale of Dwynwen, plus we’ll share some of our favourite spots around North Wales to cosy up with the one you love.
Don’t forget, when planning your romantic getaway, we recommend you check with Traveline Cymru for the most up-to-date public transport and travel information before you go.
The tragic tale of Dwynwen
Fifth century Wales was a jigsaw of tiny kingdoms and principalities, ruled by the iron-will of a few noble families. Dwynwen belonged to one such family. She was a princess, the daughter of Brychan, king of Brycheiniog (what is now Brecon, mid-Wales). Dwynwen was famed as a young woman of outstanding beauty and piety, traits highly desired by prospective suitors at the time, and she was courted by ambitious kings and princes from all across Wales. But Dwynwen was a romantic at heart; she had no dearer wish than to marry for love. Such a sentiment was unheard of in a time when noble marriages were made for political advancement and riches.
Vying princes and kings aside, there was, of course, already an object of Dwynwen’s affections. His name was Maelon Daffodrill and he too was a prince, of the roguish and charismatic variety. Together, it seems they would have made an iconic red carpet couple, however it was not to be. Accounts here differ: some claim King Brychan had promised Dwynwen to another suitor; others that Dwynwen’s affections were not returned by Maelon; and yet other sources claim that Maelon tried to force himself on Dwynwen, shattering her romantic view of him.
Whatever the truth, unwilling to be forced into a loveless marriage, Dwynwen fled her home and sought sanctuary in the deep forest. Here the heartbroken princess prayed to God for guidance and in response He sent an angel to her aid. Unfortunately, Dwywen’s request for divine intervention may have been slightly miscalculated. She begged the Lord to help her forget Maelon and for him to be punished so the angel gave her a potion to heal her broken heart then froze Maelon (who had perhaps seen the error of his ways and pursued Dwynwen into the forest) in a block of ice!
Horrified by the angel’s drastic punishment of Maelon, Dwynwen negotiated with God to reverse the enchantment. In return, she vowed to remain celibate and dedicate her life to divine service as a nun. A bargain was struck, and Maelon was restored to his original state. Were they ever in love? Were they still in love? We will never really know but it would have been the simplest thing in the world for the star-crossed couple to head for the hills and live out the rest of their days away from kings and kingdoms. However, the pious Dwynwen was true to her word and kept her promise to God. She established a church on a tiny, windswept island off the Anglesey coast called Llanddwyn and dedicated herself to a life of spirituality and service.
Dwynwen’s church became a site of pilgrimage even during her lifetime. Lovers from all over Wales visited to receive blessings for a joyous life together, a tradition which continues to this day – a testament to Dwynwen’s eternal influence. Even those unlucky or tortured in love could find solace here. It is said that a fortune-telling fish that lived in a well at the church could predict your romantic future or unmask an unfaithful lover!
Today, the island is visited by thousands of people every year. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful places on the North Wales coast with a very special atmosphere. Explore the island and visit the ruins of Dwynwen’s church, gaze at the craggy outline of Eryri (Snowdonia) across the Menai Strait, or watch the sunset from the highest point on the island, Dwynwen’s Cross.
Romantic Proposal Spots along the North Wales Coast Line & Conwy Valley Line
Llanddwyn Island – station stop Bodorgan
Where better to start than with Llanddwyn Island itself? This dreamy location is alive with history and Celtic romance, it’s a beautiful place to pledge your love and is our top proposal spot in North Wales.
Swallow Falls – station stop Betws-y-Coed
Just outside Betws-y-Coed in the heart of the mysterious Gwydir Forest, Swallow Falls is the highest continuous waterfall in Wales. Choose your viewpoint and make your proposal, with a natural backdrop as dramatic as this your love will be hard-pressed to decline!
Penrhyn Castle – station stop Bangor
This 19th-century mock-Norman castle on the Menai Strait, surrounded by lush gardens and parkland, has a fairytale allure that promises a proposal straight from the storybooks. Find a secluded spot with a stunning view of coastline or castle to pop the all-important question.
The Great Orme – station stop Llandudno
This magnificent limestone promontory in Llandudno is a haven for flora and fauna and offers some truly unique places to pop the question. From the historic copper mines to the heady heights of the cable car, or from Happy Valley to the Summit Complex, a proposal here guarantees a show-stopping romantic memory.
Conwy Quay – station stop Conwy
This picturesque harbour nestles in the shadow of the mighty Conwy Castle, forming part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With quaint little harbourside cottages and working boats, we think it’s an idyllic setting for a proposal.