'It is caullid Llaneinis, by cause the chirch is set betwixt the ryvers of Cluid and Cluedog as in an isle. These ii. stremes ren ther withyn a quarter of a mile togither.'
John Leland 'Itinerary in Wales' 1536-39
There can be little doubt that Llanynys’ history is an ancient one. The evidence of land use in the area would suggest it was worked during Roman times, and there are signs of Bronze Age occupation in the lumps and bumps surrounding the little settlement. The late Professor Glanville Jones took a keen interest in this land use around Llanynys, and what it meant, and focused on the quillets, or small strips or plots of land that it some cases are still visible in the right light, and were still being worked into the 1960s and 70s. He saw a connection between these quillets and the monastic heritage of the village.
And it is the monastic heritage of the village which remains the most striking today. As a Christian community, it is thought Llanynys can trace its past to the foundation of a monastic site in the 6th century. As to why a ‘claswyr’ or ‘clas’ was sited in this remote spot, amongst several potential answers lay in the name of the village. Llanynys translates as, ‘church on an island’. The village sits on an area of well drained, sandy loam soil slightly raised above the valley floor and would, at times of heavy weather and flooding, have existed as an island, an ‘ynys’ apart. In this, it would not be unlike Glastonbury (or Ynys Witrin, according to William of Malmesbury) in Somerset, for which the flooding of the Levels aided the creation of a myriad of myth and legend, and which suggests the power of such sites on the minds of the people. At the end of the 17th century Edward Lhuyd still describes Llanynys as an island during heavy rains.
It is Lhuyd that also tells us of the importance of Llanynys as a mother church. Its reach spread for many miles, certainly as far as Cyffylliog and possibly much further. The famous Ffynnon Sara at Derwen was dedicated to the early British Saint Saeran who, it is believed is buried in the churchyard. This would suggest an importance belied by its current size and a history that hints at much to be discovered. Certainly, Llanynys is mentioned in the 9th century, ‘Hen Llywarch Canu’ as, ‘Llanfawr beyond Bannawg where the Clwyd joins the Clywedog’ and clearly this would mean much to the audience of such verse.
Llanynys lies between Ruthin to the south east and Denbigh to the north west, a minor road serving the village off the A525, amongst a landscape of interest, of myth, legend and oddity.