The ‘utterly magical’ spot at the tip of Wales which has a rock that looks like an elephant

There’s a tiny seaside spot on the tip of Anglesey that is remote, quiet, beautiful and like something from a fairytale. Not many people go to Ynys y Fydlyn, given its extremely remote location. There’s a beach, of sorts, sandwiched between the sea and a large lagoon that disappears into a secluded valley.

But there’s much more besides: a tidal island split in two by a dramatic chasm; several caves ripe for family exploration; and a Iron Age refuge with its own water store built in the least likely place imaginable. And then there’s the ‘Elephant’, the name of the rock that juts out to form a sea arch. The moniker is colloquial but, viewed from the right angle, entirely understandable.

Traeth Ynys Y Fydlyn is also the birthplace of Anglesey’s ‘Bonesetters’, the founding fathers of modern orthopaedics. It seems a fitting legacy for a tempestuous stretch of coast that’s been a graveyard for so many sailors and livestock. It’s accessible only on foot (or boat) but visitors rarely regret the walk needed to reach the beach – especially at this time of year when the valley’s hillsides are swathed in purple and yellow. You can get the latest WalesOnline newsletters e-mailed to you directly for free by signing up here.

“We were there a couple of weeks ago,” said a recent visitor. “Stunning and untouched scenery.” Another said: “Beautiful place, very calm and tranquil.” One group braved the water for a dip. “We swam with seals here,” they said. “No one else around. It was utterly magical.”

Behind the beach is a freshwater lagoon that’s a magnet for birds before it dries up in summer. It’s bordered by a majestic dry stone wall that mysteriously vanishes into the lake when it’s full. Perched above is a derelict concrete WW11 observation post. The west-facing islet of Ynys Y Fydlyn is a photographer’s favourite, with jagged outcrops, strange formations and a smattering of coloured rocks. For the casual visitor, capturing a selfie with the Elephant behind is almost obligatory.

The 'Elephant' rock

The ‘Elephant’ rock© Graham Humphreys

To explore the island itself, you’ll need to be mindful of the tide times, as reaching it is only possible at low tide. From the beach you can climb to the top as far as a deep, “unjumpable” chasm long carved out by the sea. Or you can explore its rock pools and caves. These are proper caves, some covered with centuries of bat droppings. At low tide, both parts of Ynys y Fydlyn are approachable at the bottom.

At the foot of the inner island lies a man-made bank now cut through by the Anglesey Coastal Path. The Iron Age structure was once described as “rather pointless” but does give a clue to what happened here in the distant past. High up on the outer island, or stack, is what was once thought to be a hut circle. But, as the rocky outline lacks an entrance, it is now believed to be a freshwater reservoir. It suggests Ynys Y Fydlyn was a refuge for use by local people in times of attack. There’s a similar water store on the Dinas promontory fort near Porth Dafarch, Trearddur.

The site offers wonderful views

The site offers wonderful views© Graham Humphreys

If this is the case, it’s likely that, at the time, Ynys Y Fydlyn was a single island, and that the chasm between the stacks was bridged by a natural arch. When the arch collapsed, the “pointless” wall may have been built to defend the island’s flank. In the cove itself, the surrounding cliffs give shelter from prevailing winds. It provides a chance to stop and wonder at the area’s natural beauty. “I highly recommend this location,” said one visitor. “But be prepared to spend a whole day there!”

Ynys Y Fydlyn itself can be reached from Church Bay along the Anglesey Coastal Path. This stretch of coastal path is off-limits from September 14 to February 1, with an in-land diversion. For good reason too: the path follows sheer cliffs and, in winter, gusts can blow you straight over the edge. Even in summer, walking some sections is not for the faint-hearted. A much easier route is from a small, nondescript car park with room for about eight cars. From here, it’s a straight, 30-minute walk along a trail path. To find the unmarked Mynachdy car park, about half-a-mile north of Pengraig campsite, you can use this Google pin.

The ‘utterly magical’ spot at the tip of Wales which has a rock that looks like an elephant (