Walking in the hills above Harlech one day we stopped to look down on the Dwyryd Estuary and pick out the ice-cream colours of Portmerion in the distance. It wasn’t until then that we really noticed it – a small island lying between Portmerion and the marshland on the Harlech side.
Checking the map we located Ynys Gifftan and a footpath leading arrow straight across the estuary to it accompanied by warnings of dangerous tides…
Having done a bit of research, consulted tide times, and packed wellies and spare socks, we chose a gorgeous January day for our adventure to Ynys Gifftan.
An island of mystery
The island was gifted by Queen Anne to Lord Harlech in the eighteenth century – hence the name – “Anne’s Gift Island”. It’s not clear what Lord Harlech had done to deserve this, but Anne’s condition was that the island could never be sold. From Talsarnau railway station it’s about a half hour walk to the point where you can cross over to the island at low tide – do double check your timings as it’s only accessible for up to three hours either side of low tide. Tide timetables are available online at https://www.tidetimes.org.uk
We were prepared to get our feet wet as some of the channels never drain completely. Crossing the deep creeks of the salt marsh before you reach the sands was tricky in places but the island beckoned ahead of us, an intriguing overgrown outcrop in the vast sands.
An island of history
The island is big enough to spend an hour or two exploring and is perfect for a picnic. We sat amongst the yellow gorse and gazed down the Dwyryd Estuary to the receding waters of the sea and across to the towers of Portmerion. We scrambled through dense undergrowth to find the deserted house but in summertime it would be easy to get lost in the head high bracken.
Uninhabitated since the 1960s,Ynys Gifftan was home to the Roberts family during the early 20th century. You can read a lovely description of family life on the island here.
Continuing your walk (or paddle…)
Retreat straight back the way you came or, if time and tide are with you – but you are definitely prepared to roll up your trousers – continue as we did across the sands to the salty hamlet of Ynys and back along the Wales Coastal Path to Talsarnau. There’s a good directions and descriptions of the wildlife habitats here.
Back at Talsarnau The Ship Aground pub serves up food, drinks and a warm welcome. Check for opening times here.