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History of the Llŷn Peninsula

Clawdds and small fields leading up to Mynydd Rhiw on the Llyn Peninsula, Gwynedd, Wales
Mynydd Rhiw on the Llŷn Peninsula | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Take a journey into the past and find out more about some of the people and places that have shaped the Llŷn peninsula. Discover what buildings to visit and learn about this distinctive landscape.

Aberdaron Church

Follow a path through time and discover the last stopping point for pilgrims before crossing to Bardsey Island. Follow in their footsteps and visit one of the most beautiful places in Wales. Known as the 'Cathedral of Llŷn', the church of St Hywyn is in a striking location at the edge of the beach and well worth a visit.


Discover one of the richest areas of archaeological remains on Llŷn. The Tan y Muriau burial chamber and the ‘double ringwork’ hilltop enclosures provide a glimpse into how people lived on the peninsula thousands of years ago.

Axe factory

The axe factory at Mynydd Rhiw was discovered in the 1950s during gorse burning. It is reasonable to assume that the site dates to between the 5th and 3rd millennium BC (the Neolithic period).

It consists of several round hollows where rocks were excavated and flaked to produce various tools, such as axes and scrapers. These were traded widely over a very long period during the Neolithic and early Bronze ages.

This helps to reveal a picture of life on the flanks of Mynydd Rhiw at the end of the Stone Age. The remains show how Neolithic people strived to quarry a type of rock especially suitable for the manufacture of stone axes, and other tools of great importance to their way of life.

The Meillionydd project

Excavations near Rhiw led to the discovery of a circular ‘double ringwork’ enclosure at Meillionydd. This is a type of hilltop enclosure that is found mostly on the Llŷn peninsula. It consists of two circular banks of earth and stone with a handful of internal roundhouses. The enclosures are likely to have been the permanent homes of several family groups. They would have also been a site for larger communal gatherings

The double ringwork enclosures offer a unique and as yet largely untapped resource for studying the origins of settlement in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (c. 1000–600BC).

Excavations carried out by the Bangor University project team demonstrated that Meillionydd was occupied for a relatively long period of time. The practice of occupying this monumental enclosure over a long period and the rebuilding of roundhouses on the same spot implies a desire to maintain an ongoing link with the past – creating a special sense of place and history on the site.

A view of the beach and the coastal hamlet of Porthdinllaen, Gwynedd, North Wales
The coastal hamlet of Porthdinllaen | © National Trust Images/James Dobson


This quaint church nestled in a small valley was founded in the sixth century, originally being a place of respite and solitude for Beuno, a tireless missionary. It was later a hospice for pilgrims travelling to Bardsey. Artefacts include a 12th-century font and the remains of a medieval wall painting.


For centuries, this small village has been an important link between the people of Llŷn and the sea. Famous for its herring fishing, this place connected the peninsula with the rest of the world through its imports and exports.

From the Iron Age fort on the headland, to the grand idea of turning the harbour into the main port en route from London to Dublin at the turn of the 18th century, to the prolific shipbuilding and fishing industries which flourished during the 19th century, many signs of the area’s interesting past can still be seen today.

View of field boundaries on the slopes of Braich-y-Pwll from Mynydd Anelog on the Llŷn Peninsula, North Wales
Traditional field boundaries on the Llŷn Peninsula | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Ancient field patterns in Llŷn

Much of the landscape at the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula was under arable cultivation during the Middle Ages, and some patterns remain visible today at Mynydd Gwyddal and Pistyll.

The traditional field boundaries - stone walls and cloddiau (earth banks) are a prominent feature and date back several centuries. They are an important habitat for wildlife.

Most traditional boundaries continue to serve the purpose for which they were originally intended – to identify divisions between properties and to protect crops and animals. See if you can spot the narrow strips of fields that feature wider corners at one end where the plough would have turned around.

The boundaries also serve as important wildlife corridors, offering shelter and protection for species unable to survive in open ground. Often, boundaries will carry both historic and wildlife interest, a testament to constructions that may have been in existence for centuries. Today, we carefully manage the cloddiau to preserve this traditional characteristic.

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A Celtic land with an industrial past steeped in myth, legend, poetry and song. Croeso i Gymru.

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