Saint Dwynwen's Day
Love is in the air on Llanddwyn Island at the southern tip of Anglesey, a much bigger island just off the north-west coast of Wales. Each year on January 25, Cupid aims his arrow toward the people of Wales who celebrate St. Dwynwen's Day–the Welsh version of St. Valentine's Day. St. Dwynwen is Wales' patron saint of lovers, although she was rather unlucky in that department after falling head over heels for a man she wasn't allowed to marry. The 5th-century princess' heartache led her to dedicate her life to God and pray for true lovers to have better fortune than her own. In return, Dwynwen became a nun and set up a convent here on Llanddwyn.
Despite its name, Llanddwyn Island is cut off from Anglesey's mainland only during very high tides. Since the 19th century, it has been home to Tŵr Mawr lighthouse (meaning 'great tower' in Welsh). The design of the lighthouse, seen in our photo today, is inspired by the area's many windmills. Just out of frame, you will find the remains of the church Dwynwen founded, along with a well named after her. It became a place of pilgrimage following her death. Legend has it that the well is home to sacred fish that can predict whether couples' relationships will succeed.
A Welsh wonder turns 70
Here on the west coast of Great Britain, we're enjoying views of the windswept uplands and jagged peaks that surround the small village of Capel Curig in the heart of Snowdonia National Park. Renowned for its rugged and mountainous landscape, Snowdonia is the largest national park in Wales and home to over 26,000 people—and even more sheep—the wooly farm animals outnumber people three to one in Wales. About 60% of the park's population speak Welsh, one of Europe's oldest languages, and today they will be wishing this spectacular setting a 'pen-blwydd hapus' (happy birthday) as Snowdonia celebrates its 70th anniversary.
Established on October 18, 1951 as the first national park in Wales, Snowdonia boasts nine mountain ranges that cover just over half the park's 823 square miles. Its most popular peak is Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in the local Welsh tongue), the tallest mountain in Wales and England, which you can see in the background of our photo. At 3,560 feet, Snowdon is one of 15 mountains within the park that top 3,000 feet, and they're clustered close enough together to make it possible to reach all 15 summits within 24 hours, a challenge known as the Welsh 3000s.
A bridge too Fawr
How much quaintness can be crammed into one picture? We're pushing the limits with this verdant summer scene in North Wales, looking across the Conwy River from its east bank in the town of Llanrwst. Past the Pont Fawr (Big Bridge) in the foreground, the shrubbery-shrouded cottage dubbed Tu Hwnt I'r Bont (Beyond the Bridge) seems to sprout straight from the grass. Built in the 15th century as a farmhouse, it's now a traditional Welsh tearoom serving up scones to locals as well as visitors bound for nearby Snowdonia National Park.
The Pont Fawr is itself the stuff of history: Built in the 1630s, it's often called the 'Inigo Jones bridge' after the pioneering early modern architect who, legend has it, designed the triple-arch span that today carries motor traffic. A one-way bottleneck along an otherwise two-way main road, the bridge's humped shape tends to obscure oncoming cars, earning it yet another local nickname: Pont y Rhegi (Bridge of Swearing).