After a wonderful time in the North of Wales we decided to check out the South as well. We based ourselves in the small town of Fishguard as it was a convenient distance from Skomer Island. Fishguard is fine for an overnight stay but I wouldn’t recommend staying longer than that. For accommodation we stayed at the very reasonably priced Fishguard Bay Hotel and it was like going back in time. It is old-time elegant, moody and almost Rocky Horror Picture Show like. A weird description of a place I know.
Bright and early the next day we headed into Pembrokeshire National Park to try our luck at getting landing tickets out to Skomer Island. For a small fee you park in a paddock right near the Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre where you then line up for tickets. Due to the environmental protection laws in place on Skomer Island, they only allow 150 people onto the island per day. Hence the queue. I recommend getting there an hour early (maybe even earlier in peak season). We arrived at around 7.45am and managed to get onto the second boat out onto the island.
You may be thinking, why is it such a popular and coveted place to visit? Well, one word – Puffins. Thousands and thousands of Puffins. It truly is a spectacular place to visit and see these birds nesting in the wild. You get to spend 5 hours out there and you need to bring all food and drink you will need for the day. Skomer Island has very strict rules on where you can and cannot walk due to the thousands of birds nesting in burrows on the island – so stick to the paths.
Seeing Puffins in their natural habitat and completely unafraid of humans was mind blowing. They would swoop down and trot over to their burrows, and if you were in the way they would simply hop over your toes. They are incredibly beautiful and hilarious to watch. One even popped out of his burrow to take a poop in his neighbour’s, then headed straight back into his burrow.
Interestingly, the island is full of rabbits which pose an environmentalist conundrum. On the one hand the rabbits helpfully provide burrows that many of the Puffins and Manx Shearwater use and they help to keep the vegetation low therefore promoting diversity. However, on the other hand they are an introduced species, being brought to the island 700 years ago by the Normans. You will see thousands of them all over the place and they live in perfect harmony with the birds on the island.
It’s not only puffins you wills see but many other species of birds come to nest on the island. Most notable including the Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill. There are also plenty of gull species and crows. Skomer Island is a very important breeding place for the Manx Shearwater, however, during the day you will only ever see their dead carcasses. This is because they are preyed upon by the Great Black-backed Gull and therefore stay on the water until nightfall.
Skomer Island is also home to thousands of Grey Seals which you can see bobbing in the sea searching for a delicious morsel. As a bonus we even got to see a Box Jellyfish near the jetty!
The general landscape of Skomer Island is incredibly beautiful, especially when we visited in the spring with the newly flowering blue bells dominating the views. The island is windswept, rolling and green and provides wonderful vistas everywhere you look.
Skomer Island is the absolute best place we visited in Wales and if you can make it to this remote part of Pembrokeshire National Park, then I highly recommend that you do it. Cost wise, it’s pretty cheap to get out there being only £11 for the return trip on the boat and another £11 for the landing fee.
Here is a breakdown of our costs for 2 people over 1 night/1 day:
Accommodation – £50 (NZ$97.50)
Food/Drink – £56.50 (NZ$110)
Petrol – £11.50 (NZ$22.50)
Activities – £44 (NZ$86)
Misc. (e.g. Parking) – £4.50 (NZ$8.50)
Total spent – £166.50 (NZ$324.50)