St. Justinian the hermit sought sanctuary on Ramsey Island in the 6th Century and, if it’s peaceful solitude you’re searching for, then this secluded outcrop is still the perfect place for a day’s retreat.
Ramsey lies just a mile from the St. David’s peninsula (in fact its Welsh name, Ynys Dewi, means ‘St. David’s Island’) and is one of the most spectacular of all the islands off the Pembrokeshire coast.
Ramsey is also a nature reserve – owned and managed by the RSPB – and a real haven for wildlife. The towering cliffs on the west side of the island are among the highest in Wales and a top spot for nesting seabirds. In June, breeding colonies are in full swing with razorbills, guillemots and gulls crowding the narrow, rocky ledges.
Other birds like peregrine falcons, ravens and choughs display their acrobatic aerial abilities on the cliff-top updraughts. Grey seals and harbour porpoises can be glimpsed in the bays below and, throughout the spring and summer, maritime plants and heather cover much of the island in a rich carpet of colour.
It’s only a short boat ride across Ramsey Sound to the island, where you will be welcomed by one of the two wardens (the only permanent residents on Ramsey). Despite being the fourth largest island in Wales, Ramsey is only 2½ miles (4km ) long by a mile (1.6km) wide, so you’ll have plenty of time to explore it thoroughly. A well-signed 3½ mile (5.6km) route (which can be walked as two shorter trails) makes an almost-complete circuit of the island.
Start at The Farmhouse in Aberfelin bay and walk north west.
Peak to peak
You will soon reach The Bungalow at the foot of Carn Ysgubor, one of the island’s twin peaks. From here, turn south and pass above the rubble of Trwyn Garlic, a west-facing beach.
The route takes in a second peak, Carn Llundain. The views from both summits are far-reaching: south to Ramsey’s better-known neighbour, Skomer; east to Pembrokeshire’s wide bays and beaches; and west across the Irish Sea to the outlying isles of The Bishops and The Clerks and, on a fine day, to Ireland itself.