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With some of the most dramatic scenery in North Wales and containing important seabird colonies, this reserve is deservedly one of the most popular in Wales.
Situated on the west of Holy Island, the westernmost headland of Anglesey, the habitat of this reserve consists of the high cliffs of South Stack and the lower cliffs of Penrhyn Mawr to the south. The cliffs are extensively eroded and there are many caves, stacks and gullies.
Atop the cliffs is maritime heath with patches of scrub and in the north, the heather moorland on the slopes of Holyhead Mountain.
This headland can produce good seawatching with regular Northern Gannet and skuas, large numbers of auks and Manx Shearwater. Sooty Shearwater is regular in autumn but Cory's Shearwater and Macaronesian Shearwater have also been recorded. This is also one of the best sites in Wales for Sabine's Gull.
Birds you can see here include:
Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Northern Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, European Shag, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Eurasian Dotterel, Northern Lapwing, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone, Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine's Gull, Common Tern, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Little Owl, Short-eared Owl, Eurasian Skylark, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, European Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Fieldfare, Redwing, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Red-billed Chough, Eurasian Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Northern Raven, Common Starling, Chaffinch, Eurasian Linnet
The area is also important botanically with two major rarities, Spotted Rock-rose Tuberaria guttata, confined to a few sites in Wales and Ireland and a maritime variety of Field Fleawort Senecio integrifolius which occurs only here.
Other scarce species include Pale Heath Violet Viola lactea and Devil's Bit Scabious succisa pratensis. The clifftop and heath are a colourful sight in spring with the bright yellow of Western Gorse Ulex gallii, pink Thrift Armeria maritima and the purple of three species of heather which dominate the heathland.
Heath Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata is very common on the mountain.
Silver-studded Blue is one of the commonest butterflies here and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Gatekeeper and Grayling also occur.
History and Use
Areas of Interest
Access and Facilities
- Access is free, but donations are appreciated
- Reserve open all year
- Visitor Centre and tearooms ~ open 10 am to 5 pm daily (except Christmas Day)
- Information centre at Ellin's Tower, which has an observation tower overlooking the cliff colonies ~ open 10 am to 5 pm, April to September
- There is a car-park and 3 nature trails
- The reserve is signposted from the town of Holyhead and can be reached by two minor roads, one of which leads to South Stack via Penrhosfeilw.
Grid reference: SH211818
Tel: 01407 764973
Content and images originally posted by Steve and HelenB