The finest of small islands with the wildlife to match
THE LARGEST ISLAND off the coast of Wales? What about Anglesey some say, but this is reached by both road and rail bridges; with no excitement of a boat ride, so to my mind this rules out island status. Skomer some two miles from east to west and almost one and half miles from north to south is largely a plateau of about two hundred feet intersected by two shallow valleys with small ponds and the North and South Streams. Although your visit will undoubtedly be to enjoy the seabird colonies, it is worth remembering that the island has an extraordinary human history. Flint flakes suggest inhabitants reached the island on foot when sea-levels were much lower, while during your visit you will continually pass ancient field boundaries and other features, an extensive prehistoric landscape from 2,000 years or more ago. Rabbits were first recorded as being caught on Skomer in 1324, a rich source of revenue for the islanders of the time. Fast-forward to the early part of the 19th Century when the extensive range of buildings was built and farming reached its peak. Now part ruinous, part restored for accommodation, the island is a National Nature Reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. Seabirds will dominate your visit, Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins nest within a few feet of where you land, and can be seen elsewhere, especially on the southern cliffs and slopes. Fulmars, Kittiwakes and the large gulls also but there is one other, though alas not to be seen by day visitors – the Manx Shearwater. There are some 316,000 pairs of this extraordinary burrow nesting seabird on Skomer, the largest colony in the world. So maybe arrange an overnight stay.