Skomer Island is the largest of the chain of offshore Volcanic Islands at the foot of St Brides Bay and is the second most popular option for an island visit whilst on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
A high cliff lined Nature Reserve, Skomer is around 700 acres in size, managed and protected by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. This is ‘Puffin Island,’ with around 6000 breeding pairs living here and this is probably the best place in the UK to watch these fascinating birds at close quarters. Population wise they are dwarfed however by the Manx Shearwater that live their strange existence nesting in burrows on the island -this is the largest colony in the world of this bird with over 100,000.
You can see them at first hand on the island, as well as ‘live’ underground via cameras in the burrows on the mainland at St Martins. There are over 30 other species of birds to encounter on a visit here including rare Choughs, Guillemots and Razorbills as well as the chance to spot Grey Seals on the rocks and coves below the cliffs.
You will also find rabbits galore as the island was used as a breeding warren by the Norman Invaders who were fond of eating them in the 13th century. Today the descendants roam free from the cooking pot, in huge numbers.
The island has a four mile walking trail taking you through its wildlife, archaeological sites, hidden coves and wild headlands. The solitary ruined farmhouses, Neolithic hut circles and Bronze Age standing stones are reminders that over the centuries some have braved a harsh existence here. Visit in late spring and you will find it in a glorious technicolour of Bluebells, Pink Campion and Sea Thrift.
How to Visit Skomer - Day Trips - There are daily departures in season from St Martins Bay close to the overnight stop of Marloes on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path (West). Evening Cruises to see the swarms of Manx Shearwater take a route around both Skomer and Skokholm in high season.
Overnight Stays on Skomer - If you have the time, these are magical experiences in one of the most isolated spots in Wales and you will witness the mass return of the Manx Shearwaters at dusk to find their burrows - one of the world’s most astounding daily migrations.
Visitor numbers overnight are strictly limited, and facilities are fairly basic but there is a hostel that can sleep up to 16 people in 5 rooms. It’s pretty much self-catering, but for the adventurous it’s a unique and totally remote experience – book early to get in. Visit the 'Skomer Overnight' section on the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales for details.
Skokholm (also Stokholm) Island, is protected by impressive red sandstone cliffs and is a smaller sister to Skomer at around 240 acres and just under one mile in length. It was here that the first British Bird Observatory was established from abandoned buildings in 1933 by Ronald Lockley, and the island holds an equally impressive array of birdlife to that on Skomer. Skokholm is included on many of the Skomer Cruises allowing the chance to view its wildlife from the ocean. Landing access is restricted to residential visitors and these tend to be strictly for the very keen birdwatchers as stays are for a minimum of 3 nights – contact the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales for options. If visiting Skomer as a day visitor however try and ensure your trip out there includes a chance to circle Skokholm Island on the way back.
For more information on trips to the islands of Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm see the Pembrokeshire Islands Boat Trip Website.