How to Visit the Puffins on Skomer Island

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I finally managed to tick off the top spot on my Welsh Bucket List over the weekend and went to visit the Puffins on Skomer Island.  I hadn’t exactly been putting it off, but I’d always kind of set it aside as a tricky one to do given the fact that Skomer Island is way out west and the Puffins are only actually on the island from late April to early August.  But then last weekend, Sunny and I decided to go on a little a Pembrokeshire road trip and since we were going to be in that neck of the woods then we decided that we’d be idiots not to try and take the boat to Skomer too.  It was a really early start and involved a lot of driving back and forth between the hotel and the dock along narrow country lanes just to get a ticket – but it was SO WORTH IT.  Seeing the Puffins (which my Dad calls Welsh Parrots) for the first time was pretty magical – they’re such adorable little birds – and watching them flutter back forth from the sea to their burrows with fish for their Pufflings was such an amazing thing to see – and catch on camera!  I came back with over a thousand snaps on the camera SD card and plans to do the trip all over again (and again) – so get ready for Puffins-a-plenty! 😉

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About Skomer Island

Cut off from Pembrokeshire by the choppy waters of Jack Sound, Skomer Island (Ynys Skomer) is home to the largest Puffin colony in Southern Britain, the preferred nesting spot for half the world’s population of Manx Shearwaters and home to lots of other seabirds and wildlife – including grey seals, dolphins, glow worms and toads.  The whole island is protected – as well as the waters around it – and the only way to visit is by taking the fifteen minute boat ride from Martin’s Haven between April (when the wildflowers start to bloom and the puffins return) and October (when the grey seals have their pups).

Obviously the main reason I wanted to go was to see the puffins (and honestly, I could have watched them all day!), but there was so much more to see.  The coastal path over the cliffs around the island – full of bluebells and sea thrift – was beautiful, but we spotted seals chilling out on the rocks when we docked up and even saw rabbits and owls in the middle of the island.  It’s such a beautiful place 🙂

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About the Puffins

Atlantic Puffins arrive on Skomer towards the end of April each year to breed in the burrows on the cliff edges around the island (most of them dug by the rabbits!).  They spend their days fluttering back and forth between the island and the sea bringing sand eels to their Pufflings, who leave the burrow and fledge towards the end of July.  No one really knows what the puffins do the rest of the year when they’re out at sea; they tend to fly alone and are kind of difficult to pin down.  Puffins mate for life, but more out of ease than anything else!  They’re creatures of habit who like the familiar after all those months at sea; they like to return to the same island, the same cliff face and even the same burrow – so taking up with the same mate just makes things easier!  Once the Puffins find their mate, they spend a little time sorting out their burrow and billing (rubbing their beaks together – a Puffin snog), before the female lays one egg – which takes about 40 days to hatch.

Once a Puffling comes along the parents divide their time between fishing for food, protecting the burrow (the great black-backed gull is their biggest predator on Skomer), chatting with passing Puffins and making sure they look their best!  Puffins are apparently a bit vain – they spend hours spreading oil and making sure that not a single feather is out of place!

There are over 10,000 breeding pairs of Puffin on Skomer Island (I feel like one of the wardens said that there were 30,000 this year, but I might be wrong – their numbers are certainly increasing on Skomer since they seem to love it there so much!) and most of them can be found on the grassy cliff tops between South Haven and The Wick.  It’s not hard to find them; they’re constantly criss-crossing the footpaths to get to their burrows. 🙂

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Tips for Visiting Skomer

If you fancy seeing the puffins for yourself (or the grey seal pups in October) then do it!  It’s such an amazing day, and definitely worthy of its top spot on my Welsh Bucket List.  If you do plan on making the trip, do your research first (as there’s a little more to it than just turning up) and check out my top tips below…

1. Be prepared to get up early to get your ticket!

If you go on trip finder then you’re sure to find hundreds of reviewers complaining about the backward ticketing system and the fact that they made the long trip to Martin’s Haven only to miss getting a ticket.  Here’s the thing; Skomer is protected – for good reason – and only 250 people are allowed on the island on one day to keep it that way.  Three boats head over every day at 10am, 11am and 12pm from Tuesday to Sunday from April to October, and when the Puffins are nesting, getting a place on one of those boats is practically a sport.  You can’t book a ticket online, you have to wing it, turn up on the day and buy one from The Lodge in Martin’s Haven when it opens at 8.30am.  Because of this, some people start queuing from 5am(?!) to make sure they get one!  We’d read up ahead of heading down there ourselves and joined the queue at 6.45am (the queue was already long enough to fill the first boat and half of the next!).  The ticket office opened up at 8am (which sometimes happens if there’s enough of a queue) and we managed to get a ticket on the 12pm boat – and the last ticket went to a lady from Swansea who told us she turned up to queue at 8am.  Sure, it’s a pain queuing outside at the crack of dawn – but worth it to get on that boat.

Make sure you come with change – the way it works is that you buy your landing ticket in The Lodge for £11 (£5 for kids), and then pay for your passage by boat to Skomer on the dock in cash for £11 (£7 for kids).  If you’re driving, then you’ll also need to pay £6 to use the all day car park (once you’ve got your ticket, you can come and go).

2. Keep an eye on the weather

Unfortunately, you can turn up at 4am and queue for four hours only to be told by staff at 8am that the boats aren’t running!  There’s only one place to dock up on Skomer, and due to the treacherous waters around Jack Sound, if the wind is moving from the north then the boats can’t dock.  Plan ahead!  Keep an eye on the weather forecast and the Skomer Island Boat Information Twitter Feed to see if the boats are running.

3. Be prepared to wait!

Say you’ve queued up and have managed to get a ticket for the 10am boat – you’ve still got at least an hour and a half to wait until you actually get on that boat.  And that waiting time just goes up depending on which boat you’ve booked onto.  We bought our tickets at about 8.30am for the 12pm boat – so we had hours to wait before we needed to be down by the dock.  Luckily, we’d factored that waiting time in and drove back to the hotel for breakfast! 🙂

4. Bring a packed lunch

There’s nowhere to buy food or drink (only bottled water) on Skomer Island – so make sure you bring a packed lunch along with you.  You’ll be on the island for approximately five hours – so make sure you’ve got enough food and drink to keep you going!

5. Bring waterproof layers and sun cream

As I said, you’ll be on the island for around five hours and there’s almost no shelter or shade – so if it’s hot then you’re going to burn, and if it’s raining then you’re going to get very wet!

6. Dogs aren’t allowed!

Dogs aren’t exactly a sea bird’s best friend, so unfortunately they’re not allowed on the island.  However, you can do a boat trip around the island (a good option if you don’t manage to get a ticket!) and apparently you can take dogs on that.

7. Be prepared to climb

There are 87 steep steps up from the dock on Skomer, and a lot of the paths around the island are narrow and rocky.  Also, be prepared to be on your feet for most of the five hours that you’re on the island; there are delicate burrows everywhere and so – quite rightly – visitors are asked to stick to the paths and not to sit – just in case they plonk down on top of a burrow.  It’d be heartbreaking to crush a poor Puffling – so keep your butt off the ground until you reach The Old Farm, where there’s a lawn, toilets and places to picnic.

8. If you want to see the Puffins, turn left

I’ve heard that some guides tell you to head right towards the farm once you’re off the dock, but if you want to see those Puffins take the left path towards South Haven and then on to The Wick – that way, you’ll see them first and then have lots of time to see the rest of the island and then come back later if you like!

9. Puffin Crossing!

Kind of goes without saying, but be respectful towards the Puffins – it is their island after all.  As one of the guides told us when we arrived on the island, Puffins don’t pose – if you see one hovering around with fish in their beak then you’re probably blocking their path to their burrow and their hungry Puffling!  Step aside and let them pass before they get mugged by those thug seagulls you see hovering around.

10. Take Binoculars

Not vital, obviously – the Puffins are easy to spot, even if you’re short sighted – but if you want to get a good look at the other wildlife on the island then it’s worth packing a pair of binoculars.  The Manx Shearwaters all nest on the cliff face, so they’re hard to spot with the naked eye, and if you head to one of the hides in the middle of the island then you might spot owls hunting for voles.

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You can find more information about visiting Skomer Island on The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales website.  I’ve also popped up a little video of my trip Way Out West over on Instagram.  Have a lovely week!

Cardiff Christmas Shopping Guide 2018

Happy Monday!  It’s that time of year again!  The tree went up over the weekend, I’m on first name terms with the Amazon delivery guy and I’ve even got my first Christmas party later on this week.  It feels like Christmas is going to pounce on us any second now, which means the annual “What the hecky-peck am I going to get my Mother-in-law!?” freak-out has officially begun.  But – have no fear – if you’re Cardiff-bound on your hunt for the perfect Christmas present this year then I’ve got you covered with my 2018 Christmas Shopping Guide, full of the best stops (and pit-stops 😉) to get you all sorted for the big day.

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Homeware & Gifts

☆ Flying Tiger (St Davids Centre)

Perfect for: Quirky homeware, stationary and stocking fillers.  Tiger is one of my favourite places to hit if I’m having people over because they’ve always got the best (and cheapest!) party supplies and decs.  When it comes to banners, cake decorations, candles, napkins and nick-nacks, Tiger is the place to go.

☆ Illustrate (Morgan Arcade and the Christmas Market)

Perfect for: Unique graphic prints, t-shirts and accessories.  Sunny and I absolutely love Illustrate’s geometric animal prints – we’ve got a whole gallery of them!  Definitely worth checking out.

☆ Scribbler (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Quirky cards and stocking fillers!  They’ve currently got a 3 for 2 offer on packs of Christmas Cards ;-).

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☆ The Joke Shop (Duke Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Fancy Dress Costumes and practical jokes.  My brother and I used to love hitting up the joke shop when we were kids – it’s perfect if you’re planning a fancy dress night out at Christmas, or you’ve got pranks planned around the Christmas dinner table, or for fun stocking fillers.

☆ Cardiff Outdoor Christmas Market (The Hayes)

Perfect for: You can’t miss the Christmas Market! Running from the 15th of November to the 23rd of December, it’s the best place to find unique handmade gifts, artwork and food.  If there’s someone on your gift list that’s impossible to buy for and you’re tearing your hair out over them then a stroll around the stalls should do the trick.  You can find a directory of all this year’s stalls here.

☆ Cardiff Indoor (Central) Market (St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Cardiff’s indoor market is over a hundred years old and still going strong.  It’s a great place to hit up if you need home hardware, specialist foodie gifts, pet supplies, sewing and crafty gifts and vinyl records.  It’s absolutely criminal to come away without buying a bag of ten Welsh Cakes from Bakestones. 😉

☆ Forbidden Planet (Duke Street)

Perfect for: Comic books, cult action figures and collectibles.  If you’ve got a Sheldon Cooper to buy for then you’ll already know about Forbidden Planet and are probably a frequent visitor. 🙂

☆ Oliver Bonas (St David’s 2 – The Hayes)

Perfect for: I recently told my mother that I would happily live in an Oliver Bonas store.  Bright and colourful shop offering quirky homeware, books and gifts – also fashion and accessories.  I wrote a whole post about the shop here.

☆ The Pen & Paper (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Pens and Paper!  The best place to go for ink, card, pens, notebooks, art supplies and diaries.

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Kitchens Cookshop (High Street – castle end of St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Everything kitchen, cooking and baking related.  Guaranteed if I get a strange utensil or quirky cooking-related item from my Mum at Christmas time (and I always do!) then this is the shop it’s most likely come from.

☆ Rules of Play (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: If your annual Cards Against Humanity Marathon is starting to lose its novelty (we played for hours last year) and you’re on the hunt for a new board game or card game to play once Christmas dinner’s digested, then Rules of Play has got you covered.

☆ Castle Emporium (Womanby Street)

Perfect for: Market full of independent retailers selling clothing, jewellery, second hand books, artwork and skateboarding equipment.  On Saturday the 1st of December they’ve got a pop up Christmas Market from 12-5pm.

Outside the City Centre…

☆ Nest (Heol-y-Deri, Rhiwbina)

Perfect for: Not in the city centre, but definitely worth popping in if you’ve got a car.  Beautiful cosy homeware and gifts. 🙂

☆ Home byKirsty (Glenroy St, Roath)

Perfect for: Scandi-style homeware and stationary.  Awarded best new business in the 2015 Cardiff Life Awards, Home byKirsty showcases statement pieces like lights, cushions, mugs and other accessories for the home.  Definitely worth a look if you’re looking to buy a present for someone who’s just moved house!

☆ Beti Biggs (Albany Road, Roath)

Perfect for: “Vintage furniture, unusual gifts and homewares from around the world.”

*If Online Shopping’s your gig, check out these fab Welsh Makers and Brands with online stores.

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*Boots can be found in St David’s Centre, while most major brands can be tracked down in Debenhams and John Lewis (St David’s).

☆ Miss Patisserie (7, High Street Arcade) Available Online (and in most Boots stores)

Perfect for: Handmade Cosmetics, Bath Bombs, Candles. Tucked away in one of the Victorian Arcades (just off St John Street) Miss Patisserie is my go-to if I’ve got a pamper session planned – their bath balls are the bomb-diggity (much slower to fizzle out than, y’know, that *other* highstreet handmade cosmetics brand, and they create beautiful tie-dye swirls in the tub).  All their products are handmade, vegan and cruelty free and downright gorgeous.

☆ Neal’s Yard Remedies (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Natural Remedies; I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Mama who isn’t a big fan of their soothing hand lotions.

☆ Jo Malone (St David’s 2 – Hayes side)

Perfect for: Personalised high-end perfume and beauty.

☆ L’Occitane (St David’s 2)

Perfect for: Provencial Beauty products and gift sets.

☆ Kiehl’s (St David’s 2)

Perfect for: Cult skincare products for men and women (I can’t rave more about their Midnight Recovery Oil).

Fashion & Jewellery

*Most of the big stores can be found dotted between Queen Street and The Hayes, with the majority of big names in St David’s 2.  For independents, check The Arcades.

☆ Hobos (High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Hobos has been around since I was a kid!  One of the best spots in Cardiff for vintage and secondhand fashion and accessories.

☆ Two Seasons (Queens Arcade)

Perfect for: Ski, skate and surf shop selling main brands of clothing and equipment for adults and kids.

☆ Urban Outfitters (The Hayes)

Perfect for: Quirky fashion with a vintage feel, but their homeware and gift section is where you want to be this time of year… 😉

☆ Blue Banana (Queen Street)

Perfect for: Alternative fashion and jewellery (my one stop shop circa 2004 when I had pink hair…).

Outside the City Centre…

☆ Kiti Cymru (Pontcanna Mews, King’s Road)

Perfect for: Fashion boutique in Pontcanna with carefully curated fashion from brands such as Lily & Lionel, Tatty Devine and Traffic People.

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Food & Drink

☆ Wally’s Delicatessen (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Foodie gift central.  Wally’s has its own unique aroma, you’ll smell the spices and cured meat long before you step inside.  It’s definitely the place to go if you’re looking for things to go into a Christmas hamper, as well as hot sauces, biscuits, chocolates, cheeses, pannettone and Christmas pudding.  They’ve also got a coffee shop on the second floor.

☆ Wally’s Drinks (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Wines, drinks and spirits.  Perfect if you’re looking to gift some quirky drinks or liquors – including Welsh-brewed products – or stock up for New Year’s Eve!

☆ Vom Fass (High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Specialist Oils and Spirits.

☆ Bean Freaks (St Mary’s Street)

Perfect for: Natural foods, remedies and beauty products.

☆ Simply V (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Vegan groceries, toiletries and clothing.

☆ Madame Fromage (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Cheesy gifts, literally!  Specialty cheeses and hampers.  They also offer Cheese and Wine Tasting evenings from £25 a head which my Dad would be all over. 🙂

Outside the City Centre…

☆ Pontcanna Market (King’s Road Yard, Pontcanna)

Perfect for: Worth venturing out of the city centre for their Saturday Farmer’s Market (9.30am – 2pm), and on the first three Sundays in December they’re hosting a Christmas Craft Fair (9am – 3pm).

Books & Music

☆ Spillers (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: LEGENDARY.  CDs and Vinyl.  The world’s oldest record shop and a Cardiff institution.  ‘Nuff said.

☆ Cranes (High Street – castle end of St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Gifts for musicians.  Cranes is the Mecca for Cardiff Musicians and the place to go to buy instruments and accessories.

☆ Troutmark Books (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Lovely secondhand book store tucked away in Castle Arcade.

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Welsh-themed Gifts

☆ Bodlon (Yr Hen Lyfrgell, The Hayes – and also 12 Park Road, Whitchurch)

Perfect for: Welsh-themed gifts.  Beautiful homeware, welsh language books, prints and stationary by welsh artists, toys and locally produced chocolates and alcohol.

☆ Castle Welsh Crafts (Castle Street – opposite Cardiff Castle)

Perfect for: Welsh themed gifts, love spoons, slate and souvenirs.  Castle Crafts has been around for donkey’s years and it’s no wonder because it’s the best place to go for all things Wales – especially love spoons.

☆ Shop Rugby (Duke Street)

Perfect for: Rugby Shirts and Kit as well as a few Welsh themed gifts.

Pitstops

Because all that Christmas Shopping is nackering!  It’s nice to have somewhere to go for coffee and a snack!  Here are some of my faves.

Barker Tea House (High Street Arcade)

Nata & Co (Castle Arcade)

Gin & Juice (Castle Arcade) – for something stronger… 😉

Crumb’s (Morgan Arcade)

Nine Yards (Duke Street Arcade)

The Plan (Morgan Arcade)

Hard Lines (Cardiff Indoor Market and Castle Emporium)

Llaeth a Siwgr (Yr Hen Llyfrgell)

Uncommon Ground (Morgan Arcade)

Big Moose Coffee (Frederick Street) tucked away between Boots and Primark and worth dropping in on to check out their Brownie of the Week 😉

The New York Deli (High Street Arcade)

The Grazing Shed Burgers (Morgan Quarter)

If you’ve got any Cardiff Christmas Shopping suggestions then I’d love to hear them – I’m always discovering new favourites! 🙂

When the Beast from the East met the Dragon from the West

The last time Cardiff saw real snow was five years ago – and I missed it! I’d just moved down to London.  We hardly ever see snow here in South Wales  – which is weird because we’re known for our year round drizzle!  But the simple fact of the matter is, it never gets cold enough!  There has to be some kind of unseasonable weather fluke before we see any of the white stuff.

Cue, the Beast from the East!  On Thursday morning – St David’s Day – our trademark Welsh drizzle turned into blizzle and it didn’t stop coming down until Saturday afternoon.  Sunny was in London and almost got stranded when Paddington Station shut down before noon because of a slippery platform (*eyeroll*).  Like I said, we see snow so rarely that all it takes is a few flakes for the whole country to throw up its hands and shout “Nope!”  I mean sure, we had to survive on soup and freezer food for a couple of days, but it was totally worth it to see Bungle playing around in the snow for the first time and trying to race every sledge down the hill.  🙂 Plus, it almost felt like we made up for those five years of no snow.  In some places the drifts were thigh-deep; we couldn’t open our back door and no one went down our road that first snow-day.




Some serious Snowball-Fight Ammo…






Did you see any snow over the weekend?  It’s all pretty much melted here now – and I’ve gotta say, I’m not sorry!  Now I’ve had my fill of Winter, I’m ready and raring for Spring to come. How ’bout you? 🙂

What I Did: Hotel Indigo Launch Party

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Last night I was invited along to the launch party (as well as a little snoop around the rooms) of Hotel Indigo; a brand new boutique hotel that’s opened up right in the heart of city centre, just off Queen Street.  Not only was it fab night with live music and fancy grub (courtesy of the rooftop Marco Pierre White Steakhouse), but the hotel itself is stunning (it’s a blogger’s dream!), with little nods to Welsh culture, language and history are dotted throughout the reception area and the rooms.  Such a cool place to stay if you’re up for a weekend away in the Welsh Capital! 🙂

“The minute you walked in the joint… ba-damp!”

If you’re on Queen Street, it’s definitely worth taking a turn down old Dominions Arcade to see the new murals and pop into the cosy reception area of Hotel Indigo for a cup of coffee.  The walls are covered with Welsh iconography; from framed pictures of corgis, poetry by Dylan Thomas, daffodils, sheep… you name it, it’s up there (…except for a Love Spoon!  Get on that pronto tonto, Hotel Indigo! 😉 ).  There’s also a few hints at Wales’ past, with the caged canary and lit mining helmets behind the front desk a little tribute to King Coal.






I absolutely loved these quirky plates with Max Ernst-esque engravings and old Welsh sayings.  My Welsh is a little rusty guys, but I think this one means, “Every bird loves the sound of its own voice.”






The launch party moved up into Marco Pierre White’s Rooftop Bar and Steak Restaurant – including a terrace with views right across the city. 🙂


Couldn’t resist jumping into the photo booth with some fellow Welsh Bloggers: Leanne (The Globetrotter GP), Laura (Side Street Style), and Kacie (The Rare Welsh Bit). 🙂

Such a great night!  If you ever fancy coming to Cardiff for the weekend, then definitely check out Hotel Indigo for a taster session in Welsh Culture 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone! x

Cardiff Winter Wonderland 2017

It feels like Christmas officially barged its way in this week whether you wanted it to or not!  It’s something that seems to divide opinions; when we saw our first Christmas advert whilst scoffing breakfast on Monday morning, Sunny rolled his eyes over his toast and complained that it was waaaaaaay too early, meanwhile I was grinning and updating my Christmas Spotify playlist pronto tonto!  So you can imagine how excited I was when I got invited along for a sneak peek of Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland for 2017. So I invited along my the biggest Christmas Cynic I know – Sunny – in the hope that I’d have him singing Christmas songs all the way home in the car.  🙂

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All the usual attractions are back from the funfair to the alpine village, along with the Admiral Ice Rink, which is absolutely massive this year and, more to the point, it’s completely enclosed, which means the pesky Welsh Weather has no chance of drizzling on the Christmas Spirit!


We made a beeline for the hot dogs though, which I could smell cooking as soon as I got out of the car.  It’s like a superpower, what can I say?



Sunny somehow convinced me to go up the massive ferris wheel.  It’s not that I’m scared of heights exactly, it’s more that I’m scared of being trapped up somewhere high!  If you caught my Instagram Stories you’ll have seen my shaking hand and pleas to Sunny not to spin the cage – but the views of City Hall all lit up, the funfair (waaaaay down) below us and the Millenium (sorry!) Principality Stadium all lit up were worth the fifteen minutes of terror. 🙂




It was freezing up there, so we popped into the Bierkeller to warm up with a couple of hot chocolates, then spent the rest of the night dueling on the dodgems – which is when Sunny finally got into the Christmas spirit.  Sadly I couldn’t convince him on the festive sing-along on the way home in the car, but hey, there’s still six weeks to go until Christmas.  I’ll get him! 😉


Cardiff Winter Wonderland is open from now until the 7th of January.  🙂  Now then, tell me the truth, is it too soon for me to put my tree up?