The best time of year at one of the best places on Earth? It has to be the Pembrokeshire coast in early summer, when nature flings aside its inhibitions and erupts in a dazzling display of colour, sights and sounds.
For eight weeks around May, the Pembrokeshire coast is an extraordinary place to be. It’s noisy, frenetic and – there’s no polite way to say this – absolutely sex-mad. This is the breeding season, when the natural world throws aside all pretence of modesty and… well, goes at it like the clappers. The woods are filled with birdsong, wild flowers and butterfly clouds burst from the clifftops, and islands transform into screaming sea-bird cities. The annual lovefest happens along the whole 186-mile county coastline, but here are five hotspots to witness the Pembrokeshire coast’s flora and fauna in the mood for luuuurve.
The naturalist Iolo Williams calls Skomer ‘the jewel in the crown of Welsh wildlife’, which sounds spot-on. There’s a crazy abundance of wildlife from April to August, including 21,000 puffins, 23,000 guillemots and 7,000 razorbills. From late April the island is covered in bluebells, which yield to swathes of pink campion in summer. The puffins are remarkably unbothered by day-trippers (watch where you step), but you’ll need to stay overnight to see the world’s largest population of Manx Shearwaters. As a bonus, on the boat trip over you’re likely to see dolphins, porpoises and seals.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
It takes around 12 days to walk the whole 186-mile length of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Early summer is arguably the prettiest time to tackle Britain’s favourite coastal path, when the orchids, thrift and vetch (to name a just few species) are at their best. Our top tip is to catch one of the regular Pembrokeshire coastal buses for a few miles along the coast, and then walk the clifftops back to your starting point. Smart people (like us) choose somewhere with a pub or café as our destination.
Stackpole and Bosherston
The circular Stackpole and Bosherston six-mile walk manages to squeeze in everything that’s best about Pembrokeshire wildlife in early summer. It’s got cliffs, dunes, two of our prettiest beaches (Barafundle and Broadhaven South), wildflower meadows, woodlands and freshwater lakes. The Bosherston Lily Ponds are in full flower in June and July, although the resident 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.
If you’ll permit us to state the obvious, the best way to experience marine life is to get in (or on) the sea. There are plenty of boat operators who offer the full gamut of experiences, from high-speed rib rides to more gentle explorations of the coves and cliffs. Some trips go far out in search of whales; other land on islands for RSPB-guided tours. You can also hire canoes and kayaks (or bring your own) all along the coast; many operators do guided wildlife tours.
Welsh Wildlife Centre
A Visit Wales Gold Award winner, the Welsh Wildlife Centre near Cardigan is a fantastic place to see all sorts of creatures. The herd of water buffalo aren’t a native species, admittedly, but they do a great job of keeping the Teifi Marshes in a condition that encourages the insects and amphibians which, in turn, attract a rich variety of birds and beasts. Some of the nature trails are suitable for cycling, or you can hire canoes for a trip up the Teifi Gorge where you should see kingfishers and otters. The site welcomes well behaved dogs, and many of the trails are suitable for wheelchair users and buggies. They also offer cycle hire.