A guide to Pembrokeshire's islands
Published: Tuesday 25th Feb 2014
Written by: Anita Lee
Pembrokeshire’s coast has been a popular destination amongst families and staycation-ers in Britain for many years but it also holds another distinct allure - its many beautiful and fascinating islands. These coastal features have been a prominent aspect of the Welsh coastline and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for centuries and some of them are even renowned nature reserves, serving as a great place to spot Welsh wildlife.
With plenty of activities and sights to enjoy on Pembrokeshire’s islands off the coast of popular cities such as St Davids, there is no excuse to just stay on the mainland during your next Pembrokeshire holiday cottage break.
Skomer Island and Skokholm Island
At the other end of St Brides Bay from St Davids lie the two west Wales islands of Skomer and Skokholm. Skomer Island is famed for its great diversity of wildlife, with the BBC’s Springwatch even coming to the island to film the famed Skomer puffins during their nesting period between May and July.
Boat trips are available to the islands to gain a closer look, with Dale Sea Safari offering some great value boat experiences to suit the whole family. Those on board will get the chance to see a range of local birds including puffins, gannets and razorbills as well as seals, dolphins, porpoises and even whales on occasion.
There are also numerous boat companies that offer trips to Ramsey Island from St Davids. As an RSPB reserve, the island is home to some of the country’s most spectacular bird cliffs, which are easy to observe from the water. Ramsey Island offers some great sea kayaking opportunities, as it is only one kilometre off of the mainland and the coast of St Davids.
In addition to its great supply of bird habitats, the island is also regarded as the most important grey seal breeding colony in southern Britain, seeing around 400 seal pups born every autumn. This makes the island and St Davids a very popular destination at this time of year, as visitors will be able to see an abundance of seals, with both young pups testing their sea legs and their mothers on the hunt for food.
Caldey Island is an immensely popular destination with those staying in self-catering cottages in Saundersfoot as it has a long-established history and religious roots; and, with some boat trips readily available just around the corner, it also makes for a great day out during the holidays.
Caldey Island’s religious presence dates back thousands of years, with the Cistercian monks of Caldey calling it home since the 6th century. The monks have remained on Caldey Island ever since and, despite having experienced a dip in their numbers during the early eighties, have since grown again in number and can be seen deep in prayer in Caldey Abbey. At only 1.5 miles long and one mile wide, the island is not large but is still home to some great sights, including the 1828 Caldey Lighthouse and Caldey Abbey, monastery and priory.
St Catherine’s Island
Perhaps one of the lesser-known of Pembrokeshire’s islands, St Catherine’s Island is nonetheless worthy of a visit. On the cusp of Tenby, the island is so close that a bridge was once even proposed to be built between the two; this is because, when the tide comes in, the beach walkway to the base island is submerged.
The island was once open to the public when it was home to a zoo before being closed in the 1970s. Since this time, however, it has continued to provide an iconic view from Tenby.