Tiny islands are great for escaping from all the dross of daily life. There’s never much to do on them so relaxing is almost compulsory. If you fancy endless picnics on a little scrap of flowery wilderness surrounded by the bluest sea, Skomer Island is your place.
I find islands and archipelagos fascinating: wild and romantic, but always with an intriguing hint of darkness and hardship in their histories. I tend to end up on islands for my holidays: there might be a metaphor in it somewhere, but it’s mostly for the sunsets, the bobbing boats and the peace.
Skomer, just off the coast of Pembrokeshire, brings to mind Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter: it’s covered in rabbits, breeding rampantly after being shipped there in less friendly times for their skins. And from spring to mid-summer the island is colonised by thousands of the most winsome little puffins you’ll ever see, flapping around your feet with their beaks full of fish:
You pile on the boat to Skomer with the other overnight guests, and the kitchens and bathrooms are communal, but as the website says:
‘….if you do not wish to socialise you will have the whole island to yourself to enjoy one of the spectacular sunsets before the thousands of Manx Shearwaters fly back in and fill the night sky with their calls.’
Yes, I’m anti-social and proud: when can you fit me in?
A Skomer rabbit
Puffins: ludicrously cute
Getting to Skomer is moderately simple, but you do need to reserve a room very early (months in advance) to get your preferred dates. It’s entirely self-catering, with huge allocated fridges; this for us meant a rucksack full of crusty bread, Tesco Finest cheeses, chocolate and wine.
The most magical part of the day is when the day-trippers leave: the island is suddenly deserted, and the sky turns pink and purple.
Just meandering around the edge of the island, following the flower-strewn paths and watching the rabbits, puffins and pheasants potter about, was like nothing I have ever experienced. Almost total peace, if you can switch your inner monologue off. We barely passed any of the other overnight guests.
On the second night I woke up at 3am to the eeriest clatter of ‘caw-caw, caw-caw, caw-caw!’ filling the air, a noise I couldn’t pinpoint to any earthly creature that I knew of. I stepped outside into the true blackness of the island night and it was deafening, all around me: a surreal, alien experience.
It was the Manx Shearwaters coming home to their burrows. I’m not a mad nature enthusiast, but it was such a spectral, other-worldly encounter that I couldn’t get the sound out of my head for weeks.
Puffins on The Wick, Skomer
It really is that cliché: a photographer’s paradise. It’s also a chance to sit on a rock and drink Prosecco on your own little island (yeah, that was me), watching the changing colours of the evening sun as it sinks into the sea.
That is if it’s not raining – this is Wales, folks: we were very lucky and copped a heatwave.
Skomer Island at dusk
The Garland Stone, off Skomer
Walking the island
Birdlife gets up close and personal
Puffins really do arrange themselves like this on Skomer!
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