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Ynys Enlli - Bardsey Island


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Enlli - The Isle of Avalon

Bardsey Island/Ynys Enlli is referred to as the Isle of Avalon, and Llŷn is closely associated with King Arthur and the soldiers (knights) of the Round Table.

The patron saint of Aberdaron Church is Hywyn, or Henwyn. Cadfan (the first abbot of Enlli) in the C6 led a number of pilgrims from Brittany through Tywyn, Meirionnydd and to Llŷn. Amongst them was Maelrhys, who established a church at Llanfaelrhys, Lleuddad who was the next abbot of Enlli after Cadfan, and Hywyn who came to Aberdaron.

Hywyn’s mother was Gwenonwy, a sister of King Arthur.

In the bay, between Trwyn y Penrhyn (SH188252) and Trwyn Talfarach (SH215257) there is a small island very close to the shore. This is Maen Gwenonwy (SH201259); the name links it very closely with the early centuries – the Arthurian Age.

Near Maen Gwenonwy is Porth Cadlan (SH201262) and this name reminds us of the Battle of Camlan, King Arthur’s final battle.

That is why this final romantic chapter in King Arthur’s history is located in the land at the end of the Llŷn peninsula. The Battle of Camlan is said to have happened in either 537 or 542 A.D. and that is the exact time when Cadfan was in Enlli, and Gwenonwy and Hywyn nearby.

It’s quite likely therefore the Battle of Camlan was fought in the land at the end of Llŷn and that Gwenonwy, King Arthur’s sister, saw it all.

King Arthur’s opponent at the Battle of Camlan was Medrwad, and in his army were his father Cawrdaf and his brother Cadfarch. They had once been soldiers of the Round Table but had turned away from Arthur. Cawrdaf is prominent in the early history of Christianity in Llŷn, as the patron saint of Abererch church (SH397366). In that parish there are the well, Ffynnon Cawrdaf (SH392357), and Cadair Cawrdaf or Cawrdaf’s seat, not far from Ffynnon Cadfarch (SH342337), near the site of Llangedwydd chapel.

Another of the soldiers of the Round Table was Cynfil (Cynwil) the patron saint of Penrhos church – again in Llŷn.

Research work by Chris Barber and David Pykitt (‘Journey to Avalon’) explains that documents describe the Isle of Avalon as being between Borth, Ceredigion and Arklow, Ireland. The only island of any size in that area is Enlli.

It’s therefore easy to imagine seeing a ship with three princesses on board crossing the Swnt sound from Enlli and landing in Porth Cadlan, lifting Arthur on board and taking him ‘to recover in Avalon’.

Waiting for him on Enlli was Morgan, the queen – and there has been considerable speculation for a long time about her relationship with Arthur. Serving with her were nine maidens, living in a glass palace.

Geoffrey of Monmouth says that Myrddin and Taliesin took Arthur after he was injured, to Insula pomorum que Fortunata – the Island of Apples, the fruitful isle.

Following this further, it is said that apples were grown in the glass palace, and a relationship is seen between the Isle of Avalon and Ynys Afallen. And what was discovered on Enlli a few years ago was a completely unique apple tree, Afal Enlli – The Bardsey Apple. According to tradition, Myrddin the wizard retired to Enlli with the thirteen treasures of the Island of Britain.

The old name on the Swnt sound was Caswennan, and out to sea to the west-south-west of Enlli the water is shallow and Gorffrydiau Caswennan exist there. According to tradition, that was where King Arthur’s favourite ship, Gwennan was sunk. This was described in Lewis Morris' chart (1800)

The land at the far end of Llŷn seems to have more Arthurian connections than any other area and with all the traditions and manuscripts to support it, there is no doubt that Enlli is the Isle of Avalon.

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