If you have a bucket list, then staying on Skomer Island off the Pembrokeshire Coast for a couple of nights should be on it. If you don’t have a bucket list, you need to start one and put staying on Skomer at the top. You are assured of a never to-be-forgotten experience. The rare chance to spend nights on a deserted island in the company of 16 fellow guests, a handful of staff/volunteers and hundreds of thousands of birds.
Skomer Island – a truly magical place
Skomer Island is located just off the coast of Pembrokeshire and is one of Britain’s most important seabird colonies. A wildlife haven, National Nature Reserve, and the very definition of ‘off the beaten track’.
Nestled at the very heart of Skomer Island lies an old converted farm building. Those of you who have visited Skomer will be familiar with the courtyard – complete with large picnic benches, and a burrow-free expanse (perfect for games of frisbee!). However, few will have ventured inside the buildings that our staff, volunteers, researchers, and overnight guests call home.
Staying overnight on Skomer is a magical experience – certainly not one to miss out on. The hostel opens to guests from April until September.
August to September – Seal pup season
Throughout August, butterflies and bees flit amongst the bracken, providing vibrant flashes of colour wherever they wander. Along the coast, Atlantic grey seals can be seen hauled out at low tide, seemingly bathing themselves in the late summer sunshine. Several, you will notice, appear much rounder than those surrounding them… it won’t be long until these seals are accompanied by bright-white pups, who begin to appear on our beaches and coves from mid-August.
On the cliffs, fluff-ball fulmar chicks can be seen nestled along the ledges while their parents swirl and soar in the winds close by. You may well have keen enough eyes to spot slowworms and common lizards basking in the sun or darting among the vegetation and paths – who knows, you may even spot the elusive Skomer vole!
As we move to September, the mournful calls of seals echo around the cliffs during the day. The night, however, is very much owned by Skomer’s most numerous (and noisiest!) resident: the Manx shearwater. Manx shearwaters are present on Skomer from March until the end of October. This latter part of the year however (from late-August onwards), is arguably the most exciting time to see these night-time wanderers – in particular the fledglings. Adult Manx shearwaters raise a single chick, which spends much of its young life hidden underground, nestled in the safety of its burrow. As the chicks continue to grow, so too does their confidence. As they approach fledging, Manx shearwater chicks begin to emerge from their burrows at night, to practice flapping their large wings – building muscles that will be vital in carrying them all the way to the seas off South America! There is something very special about seeing a Manxie chick finally fledge, knowing full well that it will not touch ground again for at least 5 years, when it will hopefully return to Skomer to breed.
Throughout September, we also see (and hear!) huge flocks of ravens; as well as good numbers of migratory birds moving though, including wryneck, redstarts, and pied flycatchers.
This time of year is truly magical, and not something to miss out on.
April to June – peak season
No one day is the same over on Skomer, with the landscape shifting and changing throughout the visitor season. From mid-April, bluebells begin to flower, eventually covering much of the island in a carpet of blue and purple. While in the willow trees, and across the sky, migrant bird species drop in to the island on their way to their breeding grounds. Throughout the season, the haunting calls of our Manx shearwaters can be heard after nightfall (a definite perk of staying overnight on Skomer!). Returning home from the coast of Argentina in March, these burrow-nesting birds spend the spring and summer months on Skomer, before eventually heading south in October. With just under 350,000 pairs on Skomer, you’ll be able to hear these beauties from the comfort of your bed!
Atlantic puffins also call the burrows pitted around Skomer home. Present off the coast of Skomer from early-April, these seabirds eventually return to land from mid to late April. Laying their eggs in late-April to early-May, numbers on land can be expected to increase as the season progresses. Our puffins begin to head back to sea in late-July. Please note that numbers of puffins on Skomer vary in April and July.
These spring and early summer months are the most popular and early booking is vital. However in August and September it is often possible to book a stay with only a few weeks’ notice. Sometimes referred to as ‘the shoulder season’, this period is undoubtedly a favourite for many guests.
Staying at Skomer Island Hostel
The hostel sleeps a maximum of 16-overnight guests, spread over 5 private rooms. Although basic, the hostel has everything you will need for the duration of your stay, including:
- Kitchen – fully equipped with gas ovens, a large chest fridge, sinks, pots and pans, and crockery and cutlery.
- Bathrooms – there are two bathrooms in the Hostel, complete with shower, sink, and flushing toilet!
- Lounge / Dining Room – spacious and comfortable. Here you will find tables and chairs, sofas, and a log burner.
How to book
To book, or for more information, please call the Bookings Team on 01656 724100. Please note, the phone lines are only staffed between 10am – 4pm, Monday – Friday. Alternatively, please email: [email protected].
For more, please visit – https://www.welshwildlife.org/skomer-island-overnight-stays.