Stepping onto Skomer Island was like stepping into another world. It’s hard to believe that it’s only 15 minutes from the mainland. In May, the island is overtaken by puffins and bluebells, it’s a nature-lovers dream. Located off the coast in Pembrokeshire, Wales, Skomer Island was the highlight of my trip to South Wales and it’s now my favourite place in the UK. Due to the environmental importance of the island and its inhabitants it is designated as a National Marine Nature Reserve and visits are carefully controlled with only 250 people allowed on the island each day.
How to get to Skomer Island
Step 1: Drive to Martin’s Haven
Step 2: Pay for the car park. I’m a National Trust member so parking was free for me but it’s usually £5.
Step 3: Queue and buy your landing fee (£10 for adults) from Lockley Lodge on a first come, first served basis. There are only 250-300 people allowed at a time on the island so it’s worth getting there early. Usually three boats run a day starting at 10am but when we visited they put on an earlier one at 9:30 as it was so busy. We arrived at the lodge at 7am and joined a short queue for an hour to buy our tickets. I’ve read that people arriving at 9am ended up missing out on tickets for the day altogether.
Step 4: Wait by the jetty, board the boat and buy boat tickets on the boat (£11 for adults).
Arriving at Skomer Island
As soon as we approached Skomer Island by boat, hundreds of birds were soaring above our heads from guillemots to crows and gulls. Not only was there a wealth of wildlife, but the scenery felt like another world- Welcome to Jurassic Park.
As soon as we stepped off the boat someone spotted a seal beneath us. Already Skomer Island felt like paradise. Before exploring the island, the assistant warden gave us a short introduction to the island, telling us about the possible routes and safety information. It’s important to always stick to the footpath and to watch out for burrows along the way too. As the assistant warden was talking, a puffin landed on the ground above her and did its business on top of her, this gave us all a good giggle!
As much as I enjoyed hearing what she had to say about the island, I was keen to get exploring as we only had a limited time. There is a set boat which you are allocated to take back and this gave us 5 hours on the island.
The Walk around Skomer Island
There were a number of route options to take including shorter and longer trails. We decided to walk around the WHOLE island as we wanted to see as much as possible. I’m glad we did because the scenery was breath-taking the whole way. We started by walking to the north of the island where we spotted Garland Stone. This would be easy to miss if we didn’t walk near the edge so it’s always worth looking to see if anything’s there.
The whole island was covered in a glorious carpet of bluebells. I missed seeing any bluebells blooming in England this year so I was incredibly happy to spot them in Wales, and the most I’d ever seen too. There were also many red campions beginning to flower which gave the island another colourful layer.
The next notable point of the walk was the Bull Hole where there was an impressive view of the coastal rocks AND we saw another seal down below us. Thank you for the other couple we met on the way who told us it was there.
The whole walk around the edge of the island consisted of endless coastal views which appeared even more beautiful with the colourful flowers.
The guide book suggested that the walk around the island would take 3 hours, however we did it in much less despite stopping for photos and to appreciate the views. I guess part of us knew we had a limited time there and we wanted to spend the most of it watching wildlife at the Wick.
It was worth walking the whole island as each part had different attractions. For the first half of the walk the coastal views and rock formations were the stars of the show but later on there was a gorgeous trail through flowers which is hard to beat too.
Just before the whole circuit finished there was another fabulous view out to sea. I really don’t think I’ve been anywhere in the UK so beautiful.
I’d researched that late May was the perfect time to see puffins but wildlife is so unpredictable that I didn’t get my hopes up. You can probably imagine my surprise when there were hundreds of puffins surrounding us as soon as we stepped off the boat. Some were flying above our heads and many were arriving at their burrows around us. A good place to spot the puffins was the landing place of the boats but the best place to view them was The Wick.
At the Wick, there were puffins everywhere I looked; it was incredible. Nothing could prepare me for the number we’d see and also the beautiful backdrop behind them. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, it was simply paradise.
Puffins landed around us every second so we were constantly turning around to spot them. At one point, we noticed that one kept looking at us and realised that we were in its way of flying. We moved along the footpath and just as we’d guessed, it ran across and took off into the air. At Skomer Island, puffins have the right of way.
We walked further along to what turned out to be my favourite point. I would have been impressed with just the view but the birds flying all around made it unforgettable.
There was a volunteer with a telescope at The Wick to offer any help and answer any questions. Puffins lay their nests through mid-April and early May and then feed their chicks through late May, June and July. They then leave in July and August to spend the rest of the year at sea.
There’s more to Skomer Island than just puffins though. It supports the largest breeding population of Manx Shearwaters in the world- over 30,000 pairs nest in the burrows of the island. It’s unlikely that one will be ever spotted during the day though as they are likely to be hidden underground. Other wildlife on the island included owls, peregrine falcons and many rabbits.
What to Bring to Skomer Island
Bring all the food and drink you need as there is nothing to buy there apart from bottled water.
Be sure to take cash. There is a card machine to purchase tickets with but I was told that it’s very unreliable as it’s in the middle of nowhere. The card machine was actually working whilst we were there but I wouldn’t want to risk not being able to buy a ticket for the day.
Take a good camera. Although I did manage to get some nice photos on my phone, the DSLR camera ones were far superior.
Even when it’s forecast to be very sunny, the whole island is very windy so make sure you bring some extra layers.
There is no shade on the island so it’s worth taking sun cream, a hat and sunglasses.
The island is usually only open to visitors every day apart from Monday but it was open on the Whitsun Bank Holiday Monday which is when we visited.
In the event of bad weather, the boat does not always run so it’s worth keeping an eye on this Twitter feed.
There are no bins on the island so keep your rubbish with you.
If you don’t think a day is enough to explore (I certainly would have liked more time) there is an option to stay on the island overnight.
If you love spotting wildlife you may be interested in more of my wildlife posts here: