• Summer Kiernan

Wild Wales


Wales is Britain’s best-kept secret, with dramatic coastlines and amazing underwater scenery - it is perfect for ocean enthusiasts craving adventure, and lucky for us ‘Brits’ it’s not far from home.


With numerous dark sky reserves and national parks, the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia being the most famous, there are plenty of adventures to be had above the water too!


Wales is best seen via a road trip, but for those with more time and stamina, Wales is the only country in the world to have a waymarked hiking path that spans its entire coastline. It would take an experienced hiker ~ 6 weeks to walk, but for those who want to take their time, the average is 2-3 months.


I was lucky enough to live in Wales during 2020, and experience some of its most wondrous parts while being part of a natural history documentary film crew. In my next few posts, I will show you some of my favourite places to go above and below the water.



I’ll start with the most famous county: Pembrokeshire!



Pembrokeshire is famous for its wildlife and beautiful landscapes - especially the islands: Skomer, Skokholm, and Ramsey, but during the pandemic, these islands were closed to all, except the wardens.


At first, I was gutted, I had dreamed of visiting those islands for so long. Ramsey has one of the largest colonies of grey seals in the UK, and I was desperate to see the puffins of Skomer & Skokholm, but the pandemic meant that I was able to visit Pembrokeshire’s less famous wildlife and adventure spots.



Tenby



Current home to a WALRUS, Tenby’s beautiful golden sand beaches and colourful coastal houses have long drawn a crowd, but at the moment it’s even more special as it’s hosting Wally the Walrus. A young juvenile male who is happily dining on Wales’s famous razor clams and relaxing on the coastguard’s slipway.



Manorbier



Perfect quiet beach with a scenic castle in the back, good for relaxing in the golden sand and to go rock pooling.



Stackpole Quay


Image from @the.morris.pod


Not much to look at when the tide is out, but Stackpole is famous for diving and is home to a nice little tearoom too!



Bosherston Lily Ponds



I visited in the spring, so wasn’t lucky enough to see the lilies in bloom, but the walk around the lakes were amazing - with two narrow walkways going directly over the ponds, you feel a bit like Jesus walking on water! At the furthest point from the car park, the walk opens up from woodland into the dunes with a beautiful sand beach, another quiet place to relax and soak up some vitamin D!


This site is also famous for its otters, which live in the ponds but are known to famously visit the beach for a quick snack of seafood!



Milford Haven



If you’re looking for a big safari boat trip, you’re likely to visit Milford Haven or Dale. Boats leave from either harbour for shark trips to the Celtic Deep, Grassholm to see the gannets, the Smalls for some of the best UK diving, and many other destinations! It’s one of the biggest commercial ports in Wales, so you’re sure to see some gorgeous fishing vessels too.



Grassholm



An island off the coast of Pembrokeshire which hosts 10% of the world’s population of Northern gannets! A must-see for bird enthusiasts, as it’s truly a spectacle, but also very enjoyable.

Look out for diving gannets as it’s honestly incredible to watch them hit the water at 60mph to hunt for fish! While passing en-route to another destination we saw a fin whale here and minke whales have also been known to pass by.



Smalls



As a site of historical importance and of tragedy, the Smalls lighthouse incident was the basis for the psychological thriller - The Lighthouse (2016).


But for us wildlife and ocean nerds, it’s a beautiful site for amazing diving, with kelp, wrecks, and rocky coral reefs. Its also home to a seal colony, which are particularly friendly and playful with humans. Basking sharks, whales, tuna, and sunfish can also be spotted if you are lucky! Dolphins (common & bottlenose) are nearly always seen when travelling on a boat to or from this site.



Dale



Not one of the most visually stunning beaches, but excellent for rock pooling! I joined in on a Porcupine Marine Natural History Society field day here and we found a nudibranch, feather star and even a conger eel!



Martin’s Haven



If you’re keen on puffins, guillemots, or any other seabirds, you’ll likely pass through Martins’ Haven, as this is where the ferry leaves to go to Skomer or Skokholm islands. But make sure you’re not in a rush as this little beach and its surroundings are famous for diving, snorkelling, and seal spotting.


It’s also a milky-way rated stargazing spot, with night-time views that are just phenomenal.



St Brides Bay



A gorgeous little corner of the world. St Brides has it all: sandy beach, pebble beach, and rock pools galore. It is also a popular diving & snorkelling site, famous for sand eels, spider crabs, and, if you have a keen eye, bobtail squids!



Whitesands Bay



Check the forecast before you go, as Whitesands Bay is famous for surfing! It’s a popular tourist site too, but if you get there early or out of season, you’ll have a large portion of sand beach and beautiful blue water all to yourself!



Abereiddy Blue Lagoon



An old slate quarry now filled with turquoise seawater for thrill-seekers. It hosted the 2012, 2013, & 2016 Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, but even members of the public can share in the thrill by cliff jumping from three permanent jump sites on the rocky cliff edges, with the highest one being ~10m!



Strumble Head



This is THE spot for seeing porpoises and dolphins in Pembrokeshire. It’s a beautiful scenic lighthouse surrounded by strong currents, which brings nutrient-rich water and food up for the large marine mammals to gorge on. Ask Sea Trust in Goodwick about their porpoise identification programme if you want to get to know the local marine mammals on a first-name basis!



Goodwick



Home of the aforementioned Sea Trust, a conservation charity organisation all about monitoring the local wildlife and educating the public. They have a small aquarium that showcases the marine creatures you can find around the Welsh coast.


Their fishy residents are only kept for short-stays and are returned to the sea. Sea Trust staff are great for local knowledge of the best places to go in Wales to see wildlife and what marine marvels have been spotted recently. There is a large beach in front of the Sea Trust premises, which has two ancient Viking fish traps which are fantastic for rock pooling at low tide.



Fishguard



At super low tide you can walk from Goodwick around the headland to Fishguard, a beautiful little fishing town. If you walk across the bridge in Fishguard you can oftentimes see some welsh dippers, dipping in the river.

It is important to note that there are many activities and places I have yet to see in Pembrokeshire! I’d like to surf at Freshwater West & Newgale since they are legendary for surfing and I’m booked in to go on a trip to see the sharks of the Celtic Deep this summer. When I do, I’ll be sure to post about it, but if you get there before me I’d love to see your pictures and hear about it!


TO BE CONTINUED…



Written by Summer Kiernan



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