Visiting Skomer Island
The beautiful island of Skomer is famous for its colourful puffins, vibrant wildlife and is a brilliant family day out. It’s about a mile off the south west coast of Pembrokeshire and just 23 miles from Bluestone.
The island's worth a visit during your stay for the spectacular views and rugged island walks. Keep an eye out for Manx Shearwaters, Guillemots, Razorbills, Great Cormorants and Black-legged Kittiwakes, as well as the unique puffins.
The island is also home to Short-eared Owls and Peregrine Falcons as well as Grey Seals, and Harbour Porpoises. It also has a very special resident, the unique Skomer Vole, of which numbers can reach up to 20,000 during the summer months.
Planning your Skomer trip
The trips are organised by Pembrokeshire Islands Boat Trips who have been operating boat trips for over 40 years. The boats operate out of Martin’s Haven which is also where you need to go to buy your tickets.
Due to the island being a national nature reserve they are restricted to the amount of visitors that can land on the island every day, so it is first come first served until all the places are filled.
The ticket office opens at 8am and there is a car park in Martin’s Haven which is operated by the National Trust, free if you have a National Trust Membership.
On the water
The first boat is usually scheduled to leave at 10am, but it’s best to get there early and beat the queue. There is some fantastic scenery to take in if you have to wait for a while.
The booking office has souvenirs, drinks, and some snacks; this will be your last chance to buy any bits and pieces during your trip as there isn’t a shop or cafe on the island itself.
It’s only a 15-minute journey by boat on the Dale Princess to Skomer and there are some great photo opportunities as the island comes in to sight.
Between mid-April and July the island is home to the Atlantic Puffin, and you’ll see them flying around overhead and bobbing around on the sea.
Numbers are above 20,000 for plus 300,000 Manx Shearwaters - which make up half of the world’s entire population!
After you dock you are free to explore as long as you stick to the designated pathways. In five hours you can walk around the majority of it.
On your average walk you can expect to see puffins, Manx Shearwaters, gannets, peregrine falcons, Atlantic grey seals, kittiwakes, choughs and a pod of porpoises!
Top tips for a day out on Skomer
• There isn’t a cafe on Skomer so you have to bring a picnic but that is part of the fun!
• Get to the ticket office at Martin’s Haven in plenty of time, we recommend being there for when they open at 8am.
• Bring your camera as there are lots of amazing things to take photos of
• Pack a waterproof coat even if the weather is fine as it can get quite windy on the island.
• Use Bluestone National Park Resort as your exploring base as it’s nice and central
Puffins on Skomer
Each year Puffins arrive to make Skomer and Skokholm Islands their homes for spring and summer. These beautiful birds with brightly coloured bills make up part of the largest colony of puffins in Southern Britain.
Puffins can generally be seen on Skomer from April until August. With the best time to see them between mid-June and mid-July, when the chicks have hatched as the parents are busy providing food.
They arrive in Pembrokeshire in late March and meet in groups called ‘rafts’ at sea. Before long they start to make their way onto the cliff tops where they compete for underground burrowing space with Manx Shearwaters. Puffins prefer the burrows closest to the top of the cliff since the parent birds can make swifter exits and avoid predatory gulls.
Puffins line these burrows with dead grass, Sea Campion and Bluebells and in the early part of May the female will lay her single egg here. The parents then take it in turns to incubate the egg for about 6 weeks.
Puffins are small birds, measuring around 30cm from beak to tail. When the chick hatches, they weigh about 40 grams and are covered in dark grey fluffy feathers. The little chick spends its first 6 weeks in the burrow where it is fed a diet of Sandeels by its parents. They are fed five to eight times a day and this is enough food for them to put on around 250 grams in weight.
By July the chicks are ready to leave the island, thanks to the food provided by their parents, despite not being fully grown. They can fly surprisingly well now but they are very vulnerable to attacks. They work their way down the cliff and take off under the cover of darkness and are out of the sight of land by the time the sunrises. After this they are on their own in the world!
They will then spend the next two years at sea before they start to spend more times at the colonies in the summer. Most won’t start breeding until they are five but they will be looking for a suitable mate and burrow from their first summer in the colony. When they do start breeding there is a low success rate. On average each pair rears a chick every two years, but less than one in five of these chicks survives to reach breeding age.
It’s not all bad news though; the ones that do make it to breeding age are expected to live long lives. These birds are expected to live for around 25 years, sometimes even longer! The current Skomer Island record is held at over 38 years old.