An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

52.912352, -4.081522
Distance: 4.5 km
Difficulty: Easy
Method: Walking
Wow Factor: 10 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: Gwynedd, North Wales
  • Size: 7.3 hectares
  • Terrain: Saltmarsh, low-tide estuary sand
  • Access: Tidal sands
  • Height gain: 22 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer OL18
  • Starting point: Talsarnau station. Lat/Long 52.9047, -4.0677; GR SH 610 361
  • Accommodation/food:

    There is no accommodation on Ynys Giftan. Nearby try the four-star Hotel Portmeirion (doubles from £139 room-only, £139, £154 B&B, more in high season); or Edwardian Gwrach Ynys Country Guesthouse (doubles from £70 B&B); or back-of-the-beach camping (from £6 adult, £2 child). The Ship Aground in Talsarnau is friendly and serves food; more facilities in Penrhyndeudraeth 3km away.

  • Island Summary:

    This is our ultimate wild swim and also makes for a stunning walk. Ynys Giftan is a secluded island that sits at the head of the long Dwyryd estuary, one of the most unspoilt places in Cardigan Bay, Ynys Gifftan is surrounded by vast tidal sands, saltmarsh, and the mountains of Snowdonia. Its natural beauty is further enhanced by the ruined outline of Harlech Castle at the mouth of the estuary and the ornate spires and domes of Italianate Portmeirion just across the river.

  • Look out for:
    • Foraging for samphire in the saltmarsh
    • Panoramic views of the majestic mountains of Snowdonia
    • Heavenly picnic spots on the rocks
    • Secret swims in the deep, warm pools
  • Route description:

    The walk to Ynys Giftan starts from Talsarnau railway station on the mainland. Head north-west on the track, then follow the obvious derelict fence line into the salt marsh. Navigate around the larger water-filled channels on dry land – or jump in and squash through the gloopy mud of the channel bottoms.

    Cross the tidal sands to the rocks at the southern tip of the island. To walk around Ynys Giftan continue around the sands of the foreshore to the north tip of the island, then explore the ruins of the old farmhouse halfway down the east coast.

    Access two hours either side of high tide: check BBC tide tables for Criccieth.

    Full route details and more in “Islandeering: adventures around the edge of Britain’s hidden islands

  • Getting there:

    Getting to Ynys Giftan. Take the A496 from Harlech, turning L at Talsarnau’s pub, the Ship Aground, and follow signs to the rail station to park. Trains from Porthmadog and Harlech on the Cambrian Line. Follow the route description to get to the Ynys Giftan.

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