Walk: Skomer, Pembrokeshire
On an island that hums with wildlife, the star of the show is a plucky little seabird with plenty of colour and character
A protected National Nature Reserve since 1959, Skomer Island is one of the most important wildlife sites in Europe. In one day you can see puffins, grey seals, rare wild flowers, stunning views and much more.
It’s a birdwatchers paradise, but if you’re still getting to grips with your guillemots and gannets, then there’s no better place to learn.
5.7km/3.5 miles | 1.5 hours | easy/moderate
1. Ferry across
Catch the 15-minute ferry from Martin’s Haven to North Haven. You may already be able to spot puffins on the cliffs as the boat approaches. Volunteers working on the island will greet you ashore, followed by a short briefing from the resident warden.
Follow the coastal footpath, lined with the red campion and bracken, towards The Wick passing Captain Kites, a breeding site for grey seals. Sadly you may see corpses of manx shearwaters along the path, as these ground nesting birds are predated heavily by the great black-backed gulls.
2. Nesting grounds
The Wick is a dramatic cliff face layered with thousands of nesting seabirds. Razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmars build their nests here on the smallest of ledges, then spend their time defending their eggs from predatory gulls. Lining the footpath on the opposite slopes is a vast colony of puffins, active here from May to August, after which they head out at sea and won’t return to their burrows until the following March. You may be lucky enough to see one return with a bill-full of shiny sandeels and catch their comedy landing technique.
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Dusk is a special time to see the puffin colony when fishing duties are over – but you’ll have to stay overnight at the newly converted eco-accommodation to witness this.
3. Skomer Head
The coast path continues from The Wick along to Skomer Head, an exposed headland covered with pink thrift, which is particularly beautiful in spring. It’s a well managed path but can be rocky in parts. Look for the tiny island of Grassholm, 7 miles away, home to the second largest gannet colony in the north Atlantic.
4. Seal spotting
Heading north from Skomer Head take the opportunity to spot seals as you follow the path through a rabbit enclosure and past a rocky outcrop called Pigstone Bay. Along the cliffs look out for the hardy sea campion, which grows well due to its excellent root system.
After walking up a shallow slope you’ll reach Garland Stone, the best place on the island to see grey seals as they haul themselves onto the low rocks to bask in the sun – if you want to see pups visit during autumn.
5. Back to the mainland
Head inland through the north valley towards the farm buildings, and to the only toilets on the island. Along the way you’ll see yellow iris and, if you're fortunate, a few short-eared owls, which hunt up and down the valley in daylight. It’s the highest point on the island and offers superb panoramic views.
To end your walk, follow the path to North Haven to catch the boat back to the mainland.
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