Portmeirion is a small village in North Wales on the…
Twur Mawr lighthouse (meaning Great Tower in Welsh) is an iconic landmark on the West coast of Anglesey in Wales. This rather small lighthouse on Llanddwynn Isalnd was built in 1845 in the distinctive style of Anglesey windmills. According to some suggestions the tower might have been a windmill originally, however Twr Mawr marks the West entrance of the Menai Strait.
This charming lighthouse is one of the most photographable spot for landscape photographers and it can’t be missed from the portfolio. Those who travel to Anglesey are most likely to take a picture of it and include it to their gallery.
When is it best to photograph Twr Mawr?
Like with almost everything in landscape photography it’s best to photograph Twr Mawr at sunrise. The soft lights catching the sides of the tower and the tranquility of the location make sunrise photos beautiful. Of course a sunset photo would work as well, however in this case the tower would be in shades. Try to avoid shooting in harsh sunlight as the phot would be very contrasty and it wouldn’t look aesthetically pleasing.
Another thing to consider if you’d like to photograph Twr Mawr is the tide. The Lladdwynn Island can only be accessed during low tide, so please always check tidal times before your visit to avoid disappointment and trouble.
I must admit I wasn’t sure whether I could do a sunrise shot and get up at 4am as I have always struggled with early mornings. But I was determined and wanted to put to effort into it so I pushed myself.
We left after work on a Thursday and travelled 5 hours to our base in North Wales and got into bed around midnight.
Looking at the weather forecast and the tidal times, the only chance for a sunrise photo was the following morning. So I had to put up with 4 hours sleep only.
No idea if I managed to sleep at all or if I only dozed from excitement, but managed to get up at 4am without a problem. I packed my gear the night before so got ready in half an hour.
How to get to Twr Mawr?
First you have to get to Anglesey over the Menai Bridge and then head to the Newborough Forest Nature Reserve. The post code for the car park is LL61 6SG (Maes Parcio Ynys Llanddwynn). It was exciting leaving in dark and I must admit I didn’t notice at all crossing the Menai Strait.
You enter the nature reserve by the barrier where your registration number is read. You have to pay for the parking by the barrier when you leave. The first two hours cost £2 and a full day fee is £7.
There are several car parks in the nature reserve but the closest one to Twr Mawr is the one by the beach. There are public toilets, so it’s worth using them before leaving for Twr Mwr as there are no loos on the Llanddwynn Island.
It was still dark when we arrived and many pairs of eyes were looking at us in the car park. They were rabbits, so please drive and park carefully.
From the car park you have to head to the beach which is sign posted. From there you can already see the lighthouse. I really enjoyed the 30 minutes walk on the beach as it was only us on the beach. It’s important to wear proper footwear as the beach is a mixture of sand and pebbles and can be difficult to walk on at times.
As an iconic landmark Twr Mawr had been photographed many times and in different compositions. In spite of that it’s worth including this charming and eye-catching lighthouse to your portfolio.
What you always have to consider though:
- The island is rocky and you can easily fall over whilst looking for the best composition, so please be careful.
- In strong wind the tripod may fall over, so use a sturdy one or don’t risk it if the weather conditions are not good.
Photographing Twr Mawr
It was so liberating photographing on the island. I felt free, it was just us, the nature, the sea and the lighthouse. And I did what I enjoy doing: taking pictures.
We deliberately arrived before sunrise to the lighthouse so that I could set up properly. All I had to do was to wait for the sun to rise. But it didn’t… I was disappointed but at least I had dramatic skies over the lighthouse, so that’s something. Of course, I could have created a gorgeous sunrise and beautiful hues in post production but I prefer showing reality. Even if it means that my photo won’t have that glorious pink morning sky…
Although the pink sea thrift was gone, there was still some daisies going on which I was pleased about. They just lifted the dramatic skies and gave more interest.
Once I finished shooting the tower we walked around the island to explore the few things that are there.
In the small bay there’s an unlit 5m high tower which was built at the beginning of the 1800s. The tower was supposed to help the pilgrims to cross the sea, but allegedly it was too small and wasn’t visible, which is why Twr Mawr was built later.
Captains (pilots) who helped ships to navigate between Caernarfon and Anglesey lived in the white cottages. There’s an exhibition about local wildlife in one of the cottages.
St Dwynwen Church
The name of the island Llanddwyn means “The church of St. Dwynwen”. Dwynwen is a saint who lived in the 5th century AD and was one of the 24 daughters of St. Brychan, a Welsh prince. She became the Welsh patron saint of lovers – the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine. Her feast day is 25th January.
According to the legend she fell in love with a young man called Maelon, but rejected his advances. She prayed to be released from the unhappy love and was hoping to get a potion to do this. However, the potion turned Maelon to ice. She desired three wishes and prayed for them : 1) Maelon be revived, 2) all true lovers find happiness, and 3) she should never again wish to be married. She then settled and retired on Llanddwyn Island and lived like a hermit.
Pilgrims visited the island and the holy well. Allegedly, the faithfulness of a lover could be foretold through the movements of some eels that lived in the well. The woman first had to scatter breadcrumbs on the surface of the well, then laying her handkerchief on the surface. If the eel disturbed it then her lover would be faithful.
The church was so popular that it became the richest in the area. But when the Anglican church was established and financial support was withdrawn, the church fell into despair.
St Dwynwen Cross
St Dwynwen Cross was erected by the former owner of Llanddwynn Island, F. G. Wynn in 1897.
Once we walked around the island, we sat on the bench by the cross and had breakfast: chocolate croissants and orange juice. I will never forget this beautiful morning and experience. The wind was blowing, seagulls were screeching and it was us, the Irish Sea and Twr Mawr.
I was even looking at the paths which were covered with broken shells. I had no idea how they could collect that much shells and cover these paths. So that’s why the paths on the island are white.
When we left, I noticed a fellow photographer. He was the only person we met that morning between 7 and 8. However, I’m sure the island gets more visitors during the day (at low tide).
As we literally left the island the sun came out and threw gorgeous soft light on the side of the tower. I was upset and wanted to go back, but as I made up my mind the sun was gone.
I remembered what my landscape photographer mentor taught me: just wait for the right moment. But I was wondering how long should I have possibly waited in the chilly wind with no sun in sight…?
Anyway, lesson learnt.
I’m happy with the result even if my dream shot would be a gorgeous sunrise shot with soft sunlight. But you can’t always have it all, can you?
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