Spring and summer in the wild west of Wales 

Skomer Island is the most important of dozens of nature reserves in West Wales. Seabirds and seals are just part of a rich ecosystem, where otters chase eels through lily ponds, bats flit through bluebell woods and wildflowers bloom in meadows and on mountains.

  • Puffin with sand eels in beak
    A puffin on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

    Hailed at the jewel in the Welsh wildlife crown, the islands off Pembrokeshire are bird breeding sites of international importance, and the largest, Skomer, is an unforgettable day-trip. Late spring and early summer are the best times to go for the wild flowers, 6,000 pairs of puffins and countless other seabirds, but you’ll need to stay overnight to glimpse the 120,000 pairs of manx shearwaters. 

  • An otter swimming across a river in Pembrokeshire
    An otter in Pembrokeshire by Martin Pulling

    The Stackpole Estate’s riches include arguably Pembrokeshire’s prettiest beach, Barafundle and Bosherton's lovely lakes. They were created 200 years ago to provide a backdrop to a now-vanished mansion, and have become famous for their water lilies. The otters are more interested in the eels, pike, perch, roach and tench that live beneath the waters, while over 20 species of dragonfly and damselfly flit above.

  • A pied flycatcher perched on a tree at RSPB Gwenffrwd Dinas
    A pied flycatcher at RSPB Gwenffrwd Dinas nature reserve, Mid Wales by Roger Hewitt

    Legendary bandit Twm Siôn Cati supposedly hid in a cave at Gwenffrwd-Dinas, a magical wooded hill overlooking the tumbling river. Or perhaps he just liked watching red kites, pied flycatchers, redstarts, common sandpipers, dippers and grey wagtails. By the way, there’s a point along this walk, where the rivers Towy and Doethie meet, that’s so stunningly beautiful that we forget to look at the birds. 

  • A fulmar and chick perched on the cliffs of Ramsey Island
    A fulmar chick on Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire by Paul Cooper

    Spring and early/mid-summer are the best (and noisiest) times to visit Ramsey, which is a fabulous mêlée of guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars, peregrines, buzzards, ravens, choughs and wheatears. Daily boat trips land here, so you can explore clifftops that are ablaze with flowers, and there are also rib rides around the island. Either way, you’ll always see grey seals bobbing along.

    Find sightseeing tours in Pembrokeshire

  • Strumble Head and lighthouse in Pembrokeshire
    Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire

    The lookout point on this rocky headland was used to spot enemy submarines, but now it’s the favourite haunt of birdwatchers (regulars even have a special name: ‘Strumblers’). It’s quite simply a brilliant vantage point for watching coastal birds and beasts of all persuasions. If it flies or swims, it’ll swing by here. 

  • Forest floor filled with Bluebells
    Bluebells

    The ancient woodland of Castle Woods supports a breath-taking array of natural loveliness - the bluebells, of course, but also the rich bird life (we even saw a goshawk on our last visit). The nearby man-made attractions are pretty as a picture too; a 12th century castle and 17th century mansion, all set in the gorgeous Towy Valley, and all within walking distance of boutique-chic Llandeilo. 

  • A large amount of Gannets on the cliff side of Grassholm island in Pembrokeshire
    Gannets on Grassholm, Pembrokeshire by Ade Owens

    From a distance, Grassholm gleams like a white jewel… it’s actually thousands of tons of gannet droppings. Ten per cent of the entire world’s gannets breed here - 39,000 pairs, who turn the island into a squawking metropolis from spring to autumn. There are daily boat trips round the island, but landing is strictly forbidden (but then, would you really want to, with all that poo?). 

  • Fern raft spider on the edge of a canal in West Wales
    Fen raft spider, Swansea by trsitanba

    Fancy meeting Britain’s largest spider? Thought so. The fen raft spider, which can be 70mm across, is only found in two other places in the UK. They mainly eat aquatic bugs, but can tackle prey as big as sticklebacks. In the skies above Pant y Sais fen you’ll find other alpha predators like hen harriers, hobbies and occasional marsh harriers. 

  • A kittiwake on Mumbles Pier, Swansea
    Kittiwake on Mumbles Pier, Swansea by Mike Marsh

    When Mumbles Pier began a £12.5m renovation to rebuild the Victorian structure, adding a new RNLI boathouse and leisure attractions, one of the biggest considerations was the resident kittiwake colony. The gulls were provided with new ledges on which to nest, and hundreds of new chicks were successfully raised on them. We love the name ‘kittiwake’, by the way – so apt for such a pretty gull.

  • A sleeping greater horseshoe bat
    Greater horseshoe bat by helen_ba

    It’s the sheer range of habitats in this huge site - woodland, grassland, heath, bog and Britain’s only seasonal lake (turlough) that makes Carmel special. Centuries ago it was quarried for limestone (the bats appreciate the old caverns) but now it’s surrendered entirely to nature, managed carefully for the benefit of its birds, bats and many native plants and animals.

Find out more about wildlife in Wales