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  • Carolyn at Top of the Woods

The Wild Charm of Pembrokeshire Islands: Island-hopping staycation in West Wales

The rugged coast of Pembrokeshire in West Wales is dotted with captivating islands ready to welcome nature lovers and leave a lasting impression. These islands offer a blend of unspoiled beauty, rich wildlife encounters, and a chance to experience a self-contained escape.  


Top of the Woods Eco luxury Glamping Campsite in Pembrokeshire Wales UK Sustainable Staycations a seal spotted off Ramsey Island.
Seal-spotting at Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire

Skomer Island is perhaps the most renowned of all the Pembrokeshire Islands as an Atlantic Puffin breeding ground, but there are many more islands to explore.


With Top of the Woods, our glamping and camping site, as a base for your island adventures, read our guide to find out more about the Pembrokeshire islands - Caldey, Ramsey, Skokholm, Grassholm, Thorne, St Margarets, and Bishops and Clerks Island. 


Get ready to meet puffins, seals, monks making perfume, and more…


Pembrokeshire Islands Boat Trips - Caldey Island


Things to do on a day trip to Caldey Island


Experience the monastery

Caldey Island has a distinctive atmosphere due to its resident community of Cistercian monks and it has been a place of religious significance since the days of Celtic Christianity.


Top of the Woods Eco luxury Glamping Campsite in Pembrokeshire Wales UK Sustainable Dog Staycations Caldey Island.

Why not attend a service at the Abbey Church to admire the architecture and peaceful ambience, or wander through the video exhibition to learn about monastic life? Then visit the original Priory with an ancient inscribed stone in the churchyard. 


Take a gift home for loved ones at the monastery shop (look out for the delicious perfumes and chocolate made by the monks).


Wildlife watching on Caldey Island

Keep an eye out for nesting seabirds like oystercatchers and cormorants, as well as playful Atlantic grey seals basking on the rocks.


  • Caldey attracts a variety of seabirds, including oystercatchers, gulls, and cormorants. During spring and summer, listen for the cheerful songs of skylarks, meadow pipits, and other resident birds.

  • Caldey boasts some beautiful wildflowers. In spring, you might spot bluebells and orchids, while summer brings vibrant displays of gorse and heather along the coastal paths.


Go on a walk via the footpaths offering coastal views and access to sandy beaches perfect for swimming or relaxing. Find a peaceful spot to enjoy a picnic surrounded by Caldey's calming atmosphere and after lunch, hike to the lighthouse for breathtaking coastal views. You can also explore the remnants of the old village, adding a touch of laid-back island life to your visit.


How to get to Caldey, Pembrokeshire


Boat Trips from Tenby: 


Ferries to Caldey Island depart regularly from Tenby Harbour during the spring and summer. Check tide schedules and boat availability, as services can vary.

Practical Information:

  • Always be mindful that Caldey is home to a working monastery.

  • The island is closed to visitors during the winter months so plan your trip between Easter and October.

  • Follow the island's guidelines for visitors, available on the boat operators' websites.

Skokholm Island - bird-watching haven


Skokholm's natural charm lies in its windswept wildness, remoteness, and the ever-changing spectacle of birdlife. The island boasts a diverse collection of wildlife and is a bird-watching paradise with its huge numbers of migrating birds. 


Here are just a few of the remarkable birds you could spot:


Skokholm is home to one of the largest storm petrel colonies in southern Britain. These small, elusive seabirds breed in burrows and emerge at night, creating a fluttering spectacle.


Although Skomer is a puffin paradise, puffins still make a charming appearance on Skokholm, especially during the breeding season.


Top of the Woods Eco luxury Glamping Campsite in Pembrokeshire Wales UK Sustainable Staycations two puffins.


Guillemots, Razorbills, and other cliff dwellers: These seabirds add to the island's vibrancy, nesting along the rugged cliffs.


Migratory Birds: Skokholm's location makes it a magnet for migrating birds, such as warblers (Chiffchaffs, willow warblers, whitethroats and others), spotted and pied flycatchers, thrushes, Redstarts, Wheatears, and more!


Rare Moths: Interestingly, Skokholm provides a habitat for several nationally rare moth species, such as the Black-banded and Devonshire Wainscot.


How to visit Skokholm Island 

It's a protected nature reserve with limited access for conservation purposes so it's not possible to land on Skokholm Island for casual day trips. Overnight stays are primarily for birdwatchers and enthusiasts due to limited spaces.


All bookings must be made via the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. Find out more here.


Pembrokeshire Islands Boat Trips around Skokholm


Boat tours are one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Skokholm. Many operators offer boat trips that circle the island, providing fantastic views of its dramatic cliffs, abundant birdlife, and even seals basking on the rocks.


Here are some popular options:


  • Wildlife Watching Cruises: These tours are specifically designed to view the seabird colonies with close-up views of puffins, guillemots, razorbills, and maybe even Manx shearwaters returning to their burrows at dusk.

  • Island Circumnavigation Tours: These trips take you all the way around Skokholm Island, offering scenic views of the coastline and an understanding of the island's layout.

  • Combination Tours: Some operators offer tours that combine a trip around Skokholm with visits to other nearby islands like Skomer or Grassholm.


Ramsey Island: seal-spotting

Ramsey Island, the "Island of the Tides" due to its powerful currents, is famous for its Atlantic grey seal colony - one of the largest in the UK. Watch pups frolic on the beaches, and take in the rugged cliffs and dramatic coastal views. Playful seal pups are born in autumn, and you can witness their fluffy white forms dotting the beaches and bays.


Top of the Woods Eco luxury Glamping Campsite in Pembrokeshire Wales UK Sustainable Staycations A seal on Ramsey Island.


But that’s not all - 

  • Ramsey's cliffs are alive with guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars, and the acrobatic chough with its striking red bill. 

  • Peregrine falcons, the fastest creatures on earth, also find nesting sites here.

  • Common dolphins and harbour porpoises often play in Ramsey Sound, the waters separating the island from the mainland.

  • Ravens, Wheatears, & Meadow Pipits add to the island's diversity.

  • During summer, the carpets of purple heather and the pink splashes of thrift create a stunning display.


Top of the Woods Eco luxury Glamping Campsite in Pembrokeshire Wales UK Sustainable Staycations Ramsey Island.

How to Get to Ramsey Island:

Ramsey Island is owned and protected by the RSPB and the number of visitors allowed to land on the island daily is limited. 


Two options for boat trips to Ramsey 

The primary way to reach Ramsey is by guided boat trip from St Davids. There are two main ways to experience Ramsey:


Landing Trips:

  • Join a boat trip from St Davids that includes a few hours exploring ashore.

  • RSPB wardens will give you a welcome talk, highlighting the island's natural wonders.

  • Walk trails leading to key viewpoints for watching seals, seabird colonies, and the dramatic cliffs.


Round-the-Island Trips:

  • Embark on a boat tour that circles Ramsay, providing incredible views of the cliffs.

  • Spot nesting guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars, and the acrobatic red-billed choughs and see Atlantic grey seals hauled out on rocks and playing in the surrounding waters.


Tour Operators:

Important Notes:

  • Booking in advance is essential, especially in peak season (summer months).

  • Be prepared for variable weather and bring appropriate gear and waterproofs.

  • Respect the fragile ecosystem and wildlife – maintain a safe distance from animals and follow RSPB guidelines.


Grassholm Island - gannets galore

Eight miles off the coast lies Grassholm, home to one of the world's largest gannet colonies! Watching these magnificent seabirds is an awe-inspiring experience.


Approximately 39,000 pairs breed on this tiny, remote island. These magnificent seabirds, with their striking plumage, piercing blue eyes, and an impressive wingspan, dominate the landscape. Watching their aerial displays and busy nesting activities is a breathtaking experience.


Top of the Woods Eco luxury Glamping Campsite in Pembrokeshire Wales UK Sustainable Staycations a gannet against blue sky Grassholm Island.
Bird-watching on Grassholm Island - gannets galore!

As one of only 23 gannet colonies in the UK and Ireland, Grassholm is of both national and international importance. It is an outstanding seabird spectacle, unrivalled anywhere in Wales for this species.


While gannets are the stars, Grassholm also hosts smaller populations of guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes, and a few shags. They share the cliffs and ledges with the gannets, adding to the island's vibrant seabird community.


You may also spot Atlantic grey seals, playful dolphins, porpoises, and occasionally larger whales can be spotted.


How to visit Grassholm


Grassholm is a strictly protected RSPB Reserve. The best way to witness its wildlife spectacle is through organised boat trips.


Thorne Island: A Fortified Gem

Thorne is a small rocky island providing habitat for nesting seabirds and occasionally seals and situated just off the coast of Angle. It is dominated by its star-shaped Victorian fort, a Grade II listed building. Built in the 1850s as a coastal artillery fort to defend the Milford Haven Waterway against a potential French invasion.


Take a boat trip


You can't land on the island for casual visits. However, boat tours offer a great way to view Thorne Island's impressive fort from the water and learn about its history as you cruise around it. Keep an eye out for seals sometimes basking on the rocks and seabird colonies nesting around the island.


And yet more Pembrokeshire islands


St. Margaret's Island is a site of a medieval monastery, offering history and quiet beauty.

  • St. Margaret's holds the atmospheric remains of a medieval monastery. While not grand in scale, the historical significance and peaceful setting create a unique charm.

  • The island's limestone was heavily quarried in the past, with quarriers' houses still visible.

  • Though small, it's a haven for seabirds; guillemots, razorbills, and cormorants nest on its cliffs, along with various types of gulls. Look for the flashes of colour as puffins sometimes visit too.


The Bishops and Clerks is a group of rocky group of islets and haven for seabirds.

  • This cluster of rocky islets stands as a striking sentinel off the Pembrokeshire coast. Their rugged shape and exposed location make them a distinctive seascape feature.

  • 'Bishop' refers to the largest rock, while the smaller rocks are the 'Clerks.' These islets are crucial nesting sites for gannets, guillemots, razorbills, and other seabirds.

  • The best way to experience the Bishops and Clerks is by boat. Many trips to Skomer and Ramsey Island pass nearby, offering excellent viewing of the rocks and their boisterous bird colonies.


These islands highlight the variety of Pembrokeshire's coastal treasures and the vital role they play in the UK's marine ecosystems.

Embrace the Eco-Adventure

Here a few more tips to ensure you enjoy your stay:


  • Leave no trace: bring back all your litter and be mindful of your impact on delicate habitats.

  • Support local communities: Use eco-friendly tour operators and choose island-made products.

  • Travel with respect: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and minimize your footprint.

  • Book well in advance: Skomer trips are popular, especially during puffin season. Pre-booking with a licensed boat operator is essential.

  • Pack for the weather: Weather can change quickly. Dress in layers and bring a waterproof jacket.

  • Footwear: Wear sturdy walking shoes as the terrain can be uneven.

  • Food & Drink: Pack snacks and a water bottle. There are no refreshment spots on Skomer.

  • Leave No Trace: Respect the delicate island ecosystem by taking all your litter with you and staying on marked trails.


Pembrokeshire's islands are a true gem for those who love wild places. By exploring consciously and responsibly, we can all help preserve these natural sanctuaries for generations to come. 


We’re so lucky that all these island day trips and adventures can be part of your stay at Top of the Woods, eco-luxury glamping and camping site. So pack your binoculars, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready for an unforgettable eco-adventure!







 

Top of the Woods Provides the Best Eco Luxury Glamping & Camping Holidays in Pembrokeshire and Cardigan Bay in Wales, UK. Sustainable Staycations. Beaches. Nature. Woodlands. Dog Friendly.

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