"A journey through Lleyn"


Ieuan Lleyn

~~~~ 1799 ~~~~

Dearest Friend,

                   In order to fulfil your wishes I took many journeys through Lleyn. The first thing I have to lay before you is the strand in the sea to the west of Bardsey, the one that Lewis Morys mentions in the book ‘Plans of harbours in St George’s Channel; where he talks about having heard about it in a ‘cywydd’ ( ode). The strand can be seen on ebbs during big neap tides on Bardsey:- This island is two miles around and has twelve to fifteen houses and sixty or more inhabitants, it is said to belong to the county of Pembroke.

There are many remains of the saints there. Part of the old bell tower of the church can be seen from Maen Melyn Lleyn, this bell tower shows that there must have been a more substantial building there once. There was also an old chapel in recent times. Human bones are found all over the island, especially towards the mountain, and according to some they can be of exceptional stature.

But we leave all this behind and I beg your leave to depart from Bardsey, the strength of the torrent between me and Aberdaron makes it difficult to sail. It is three miles long and upwards of sixty fathoms at its deepest. When I come to land at Aberdaron near to Maen Melyn Lleyn, I find myself close to St Mary’s Cave, in which is a well dedicated to Mary, and many other Papal relics, such the hooves of Mary’s horse and the likes. As the place was steep and scary I tried to come up to Maen Melyn as fast as my hands and feet, nay even my teeth would take me!

Then I took the journey homewards, but we hadn’t gone far before we came to a low plain with land belonging to every nobleman connected with Lleyn, at its centre the ruins of a church known as St Mary’s. It’s structure much akin to others, it is twelve yards long by five yards wide, the walls in places are three foot high. There is no way to see these walls other than to go close to them or either to see Maen Melyn but from the sea.

St Mary’s church and Maen Melyn are between the mountain known as Uwch-Mynydd and Mynydd Gwyddel and it could be that it is Mochystum. There is a hill here known as Mynydd Mochystum so one can assume that Mochystum is what is meant. Below here is a rock known as ‘Pared Gallt Uffern’ (The wall of the hills of hell) where foxes are as numerous as rabbits on Pwllheli dunes.

Between Uwch y Mynydd and Aberdaron, stands Cwrt where the Rev G Jones, the present incumbent of Aberdaron and Llanfaelrhys lives. The next place I saw was Porth Neudy or Porth Meudwy, which is close to Cwrt. The land between Porth Meudwy and the furthest tip of Lleyn, known as Pen y Cil and Langanum Point by mariners, and it is from this word that the word Lleyn is derived. From Porth Meudwy I come upon a place called Poth Samddai, the stream that runs through it is known as ‘Afon Saint’ (River of Saints). My journey then took me along the river past a place called Bodermud and up until I came to Anelog, that is Awelog meaning a place maintained only by the good will of the worshipers. It is obvious by the stones and the lettering on them:- NERECVIS – PRS- HIC – JACIT – which means Nercius Presbyer was a Catholic Priest and that this was a Catholic chapel. Close to the old chapel is a place known as Dynfre (Dyndref or Tyn Dref). Between Anelog and Carreg Plas there’s a well known as Ffynnon Saint (Holy Well) where the afore mentioned river finds its source.

I then came to a Palace, Methlam, the Dwelling of Henry Maurice one of the dissenting ministers in the reign of Charles II, below here is Porth Orion. Journeying along the coast I came to Porth Iago and onwards to Porth Feryn, not far from where are the ruins of and old church and graveyard that belonged to the parish of Bodferyn. There’s a house called Hendrefor and near by a place called Trefgraig Plas, once an edifice of great dignity, close to where is Ffynnon Bibau and yet another river begins its journey to the sea at Aberdaron here. I followed the river and came to a ford called Rhyd Lios.

Moments after I passed the ford I was Bugelys (Bugail Lys – shepherds home) and up on to a hill known as Mynydd Moelfre or Mynydd Ystum. On the slopes of the hill were the remains of an old church or chapel. Further up the hill human remains were recently found and on the top of the hill there are the ruins of a circular hillfort 50 yards in diameter with 15 yards between it and the outer dyke which is very deep. There are many walls within it similar to the ‘Cytiau Gwyddelod’ found all over Rhos Hirwaun, right in the centre is a wall measuring exactly 14 yards known as Odo’s grave. Odo was a giant of a man, a king and a very intelligent person, so it has been said. They also say that a huge battle was fought here and the human remains are those of the warriors slain at the time.

From there my journey took me along the river Daron to the large church that is dedicated to Hywyn son of Gwyndaf its foundations are upon the sands. Close to Aberdaron is the Cave of Lleuddad, Porth Cadfan and Porth Llywenan and the Isles of Gwylan (Gwilym). In the same vicinity Blawty and Llanfaelrhys can be seen. On barren land known as Pen y Caerau there’s a house called Castell (Castle) and some say there used to be a township here at one time. But to return to my journey, I went up the river Daron that flows through the valley of Bodwrdda (Bodwrda – good man’s house), perhaps it should be Bodurdan as the well of Durdan isn’t far. I travelled ahead leaving Hirwaun and Plas Newydd on the right and Bodwyddog and Meillionydd on the left until at last I reached the source of the river at Cwm Dylif, on Meillionydd land. The river flows from an underground stream over a trough that looks man made, although it is natural. Above on the hillside were the shattered ruins of an old church or chapel known as Capel Cwm Dylif, verging on the walls of the old chapel are the remains of two or three houses. Up the mountain to Rhiw and we come across an old ruin Castell y Caerau (Castle of the Forts), it is oblong in shape and 100 yards long by 40 yards wide each side, and part of it is 60 yards long and 18 yards wide. Below the mountain to the north is a place called Tir Dref, here are many ruins that are known as Cwmwd (Commote) Tin Dywydd, that are situated on land belonging to Coch Moel. It was said that the town was burnt down because the towns folk refused shelter to a wandering minstrel, and so he cursed the place. Not far from here is Maerdref and an area known as Hen Fonwent (old graveyard) where burial urns with their remains intact were found. This land all belonged to Ty Engion, near here can be found the remains of an old altar ‘Cerrig Sienco’.

I make my way home past Bodgaua to the Church at Bryncroes, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in Catholic times, close to the church are Ffynnon Fair (Mary’s well) Ty Fair (Mary’s house) Cae Fair ( Mary’s field). In Monachdy there used to be an old Welsh Altar, the stone of which can be seen now at Ty Fair. Recently in a place called Cae Newydd on Ty Mawr’s land a burial urn was found between four stones resembling a chest, in it were bones similar to those found at Cefn Gwyn and also at a place called Caerau in Rhoshirwaun.

                                                                       Yours Most Sincerely,

                                                                                         Ieuan Lleyn.


A letter written by Ieuan Lleyn to his friend Dafydd Ddu Eryri in 1799.

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