Skomer Island, June 2016

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Last summer, we stayed in north Pembrokeshire near Fishguard, a beautiful area and we quite fell in love with it. The hills, grass pastures, the Preseli Mountains and beautiful coast walks on the Pembrokeshire Coast overlooking the blue/green sea.  You stand a good chance of seeing porpoises, seals and dolphins while walking on the coast paths.  We discovered last year that the best time to visit Skomer is in June and July when the puffins are breeding. So we put it in our diaries to visit during a gap in the GCSE exams this summer.

We drove over to beautiful Pembrokeshire to Foxdale campsite in Marloes, west of Haverfordwest. It’s an area we’ve been through on holiday 20+ years ago. This time we stayed in a pre-errected Bell Tent supplied with all that we needed.


After a long journey of 7 hrs (Friday traffic) we fell into ready made beds in a heated tent (oh yes, it even comes with 2 oil filled radiators and electric lights too ☺)

The Dawn Chorus struck around 3.30am with blackbirds, great tits, sparrows and of course seagulls which weirdly sounded like police sirens!!

We had been warned it would be an early start as the boat trip is extremely popular and with only 300 people allowed on the island a day and no reserve booking, its essential to get there early to queue as by 9am all the landing tickets are sold out. We joined the back of the queue at 7.45am and only just made the last boat trip at 12 noon.  I felt for the people behind us as their only option was a trip around the island from the sea or to try again tomorrow.


After a 15 minute boat ride on the Dale Princess, we landed on Skomer.  87 steps up we were met by the warden for a brief introduction. After that we were on our own, free to wander at will, but only on the designated foot paths. No deviation is allowed – after all you don’t want to squash a puffin burrow do you?

The footpaths are clearly marked, and most people take the same route.  There are great views across St Brides Bay over to St Davids peninsula and Ramsey Island.


There are plenty of things to see: the views, wild birds and the flora and fauna and the chance to spot seals or dolphins too.


In the centre of the isle is the visitor centre and accommodation block, here you find the ecological and slightly whiffy compost loos.  Total distance to walk around the island is about 4 miles and we had 5½ hours landing time which was ample to eat our picnic lunch, wander slowly around and take many many photos or bird or sea watch.  There are also routes available to walk just part of the island too.

Red campion, wood sage, thrift, heather, bracken, sea campion, creeping (purple) thistle, sea campion and bracken are all over the island and the odd spear thistle if you look carefully.


There are 10,000 puffins, 4000-5000 razorbills, 20,000 guillemots on Skomer. Plus all the others too.


Add in 500,000 Manx shearwater who only fly at night, 13,000 seagulls (4 different breeds) most are lesser black backed gulls.  The overall noise from all the birds is a shrill, rasping cacophony of noise, add in the smell of the guano and you know you are in a bird world! The noise from the puffin birds wings is a bit like a drum roll as they beat their stumpy wings 400 times a minute.  Their call is a rasping brrr a bit like a faint strimmer.


Skomer is one of the most important bird habitats in the UK and for the Manx Shearwater, it’s the most important in the world!

Soon it was time to leave and sail back the 2 miles back to land.

Skomer is administered by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. You pay a landing fee to them which books your boat pass, and you pay your boat fare once on the boat, to Dale Sailing.
Car parking at Martins Haven and is administered by The National Trust. (Fee payable for all day parking.)

Old Harry Rocks and Ballard Down

photogrid_1460727397180.jpgApril 2016

We are beginning to explore this area now the better weather has arrived.   We drop off one of our sons at a local university and duty done we drive over to Studland via the wonderful Chain Ferry.

On the drive down from the Midlands, we noticed that the further south we drove, the more yellow gorse we saw.  It always brings back memories of childhood holidays by the sea.  Once off the ferry, the gorse was abundantly yellow everywhere.image

We drove over to Studland village and parked in the National Trust car park next to The Bankes Arms.  To save on money, we took a packed lunch with us, knowing we would be eating out later as my birthday treat.  Having eaten in the car, we donned our walking boots, hats, gloves and waterproofs. Despite the sunshine, it was rather chilly and I was glad I was wearing it all!


We walked off down the hill, past the public toilets and took the track off to the left towards Old Harry Rocks.  If you are there in spring time, look carefully for wild primroses in the verge. Once we were up on the open flat, there was a field of curious bullocks all wanting their photos taken. photogrid_1460720711181.jpg

We carried on up the headland with reasonable views over Poole harbour and Bournemouth to the cliff stacks that form Old Harry’s Rocks and further out to the Isle of Wight.  I adore being in this environment, soft grass under my feet, sheep, hill, and sea.  It makes my heart sing.photogrid_1460721067365.jpg

From here we followed the coast up the hill till we came to the middle of the flank of Ballard Down.

We turned away from the coast and walked inland, passing one of the lowest trig points I have seen.wp-1461334064940.jpg
It’s a long and pleasant walk on the top to the end of Ballard Down with great views in places and plenty to discover along the way: The Stone Seat (which is inscribed with “D.J. 1852”) several sign posts marking other footpaths and the Obelisk.wp-1461334817350.jpg

The Swanage Water Act Obelisk is fairly hidden from afar. Partly because it is not very big, and partly because it is tucked below the summit of Ballard Down, in front of a large round barrow.  The Obelisk was placed here to Commemorate the introduction of pure water from the chalk formation into Swanage

The Down ends quite sharply which views over towards the next hill.  We  had a sharp decent along a track at down the side to the road.  Crossing the road, we walked to the left for a 100 yrds or so and over a style took a track up the field and into a narrow wood.  Still climbing we came out on the golf course with a nicely positioned bench for a quick breather and a peek at the map and we were ready to go again. Across the links and over the next road back onto National Trust heath land called Agglestone Rocks with gorse, bracken and ponies.  photogrid_1464725913969.jpgWe made our way back towards the village, and the outcrop of rock passing wild ponies amongst the gorse.  Coming off the heathland, past a row of 1920/30’s houses, we found masses of wild primroses everywhere.photogrid_1460732754020.jpgWe continued past the fields, lost out bearings and went a little too far west, through a wood back on to a lane which lead to the main road.  From here we turned right and towards Studland village.   We took a path down to our left into a little wooded chine with a small stream and the most wonderful smell of wild garlic.photogrid_1460732823027.jpg The path came out at a cross roads, we walked straight on, past the Pig Restaurant and back to the NT car park next to the Bankes Arms.

We had a lovely meal in the Bankes Arms with a great pint of draught cask ale.  It’s not often you see a pub with this many hand pumps.  They also have several real ciders straight from the box too.  You can see them in between the first 2 hand pumps.


Places nearby

Shell Beach, Knoll and Middle Beach

From bucket and spade fun to watersports, beach games and blow-away-the-cobwebs walks, Studland today is a place for all seasons.

The beaches of the Studland peninsula stretch from the boundary of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site at Old Harry Rocks north to Shell Bay, where a chain ferry provides a link to Poole and Bournemouth.

Chain Ferry   The ‘Bramble Bush Bay’ chain ferry that crosses the entrance to Poole Harbour between Sandbanks and Shell Bay.  This is the shortest route connecting Bournemouth and Poole with Swanage.

Bankes Arms   This award winning Inn is a lovely old Purbeck Stone building with beautiful views of the sea and Isle of Wight.  Reputedly dating back to 1549, it is situated in the heart of Purbeck and overlooks Studland, the Beach and the start of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

Pig On the Beach Restaurant A 23 bedroom mellow country house perfectly situated along Studland Bay. This is a real get-away location, truly rural, with uninterrupted views of the long stretches of sandy coastline.

Purbeck Way  The Purbeck Way is a spectacular walk within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

South West Coast Path  Whether you’re looking for an afternoon stroll to take you to a beautiful view, or for a challenge like no other in hiking the entire South West Coast Path National Trail of 630 miles from Somerset’s Minehead around to the shores of Poole Harbour in Dorset, you’ve come to the right place to…

Castle Bolton and Aysgarth Falls

Loving Yorkshire and having had a rocky and emotional 4 months with my Father-in-Laws declining heath and passing away, hubby and me decided on a day out to recharge our batteries in our favourite area on Good Friday.  We dragged along our Teenage Student too for the fresh air, because really he likes the area as much as we do.

As often happens in our home, we left late and although ‘Ethel’ our trusty Google phone satnav said that our chosen route was clear and we had an easy 3 hour drive, arriving at lunchtime in the pretty village of Carperby, it wasn’t to be.  Scuppered by the M1/A1 delays, we changed plans and arrived at Castle Bolton in Wensleydale at 2.30pm.

We planned a 6 mile walk, taking in Bolton Castle, its pretty little dales village and the stunning waterfalls at Aysgarth and back via Carperby, walking back to the castle across Bolton Moor.wp-1463689776521.jpg

Castle Bolton stands on the North side of Wensleydale with a great view over the valley, catching the sun all day long.  20160325_143453[1]

Since we were last there, they have introduced some ‘beasties’ up by the the car park: 10-12 Wild Boar with gorgeous long brown coats snuffling in the mud who came to say hello. 20160325_144225[1]

We left the car park  and castle behind and walked off down the hill, passing a fallen tree trunk on the left, which has been skillfully carved into a dragon.SAM_0008Shortly after, we left the road to walk across the fields to Aysgarth Falls.  We passed over the now defunct railway line, several fields and across to another farm, which had a pleasant track, down to the Freeholders Woods.

There were lots of catkins about and we had a scramble down to the bank though a very narrow gap in the rocks.  This rock was a perfect handhold on the way down and has been worn smooth and black by centuries of human use.SAM_0058

When the river is low the limestone plates makes for a great place for a picnic.SAM_0034We spent a while here taking lots and lots of photographs, experimenting with shutter speeds, ISO and aperture settings until we got really cold and made a move, after all, we were not quite halfway through our walk.SAM_0046

We turned away from the river and the thundering Lower Falls to walk through wood, up the road and under the old railway, taking a route back across and slightly climbing the valley across to the village of Carperby.  While walking through the wood my hubby caught sight of these tiny wild primroses.SAM_0072

I saw my first lambs of the year too. SAM_0080

From Carperby, we found the footpath that led up onto Bolton Moor, where it was almost a straight line’s walk across the pastures, up the valley side and back to Bolton Castle. By now, the light was fading, we crossed several little streams like this one burbling away – how I love that sound!  20160325_183143[1]

We got to a stile and took some selfie photos which were too blurred to use here, turned around and discovered we had a ‘Welcoming Committee’ who were rather inquisitive.

We made it back to the car park in the last few minutes of dusk and the Wild Boar, on hearing us set up a creepy and eerie grunting and roaring sound, quite enough in the dark to give you the heebejeebies.


(All photographs are (c) to Sally-Jane and may not be used in any way without prior permission.)

More information about places to stay, eat and local attractions.   Bar, Food, Accommodation

The Wheatsheaf is a fine country inn situated in the attractive village of Carperby. In 1941 James Herriot took his honeymoon here The accommodation is well presented and there is a friendly bar and restaurant with a good choice of local beer and food. Bar, Food, Accommodation This 17th Century Coaching Inn is perfectly located in the heart of the stunning Yorkshire Dales National Park, on the edge of a pretty village, near the spectacular Aysgarth falls. Visitor attraction, Castle, Falconry, Wild Boar.

Bolton Castle is one of the country’s best preserved medieval castles; originally built as one of the finest and most luxurious homes in the land, the castle bears the scars of over 600 years of fascinating history. The castle is still in the private ownership of Lord Bolton, the direct descendant of the castle’s original owner Sir Richard le Scrope. Near the village of Aysgarth the River Ure tumbles over a series of broad limestone steps which are known as Aysgarth Falls. Although not particularly high the waterfalls are one of Wensleydale‘s most famous beauty spots with a pleasant riverside walk linking the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls.  A charming 18th century holiday cottage in the conservation village of Castle Bolton, ‘Lawson’s Studio’ has a picturesque view of Wensleydale. Nestled alongside the village green and facing South, this quirky former artist’s studio enjoys stunning panoramas. The spectacular medieval fortress of Bolton Castle is only 200 yards along the lane and viewable from the lounge.