South Stack is a small rocky island on the edge of Holy Island in Anglesey, Wales. Facing out into the Irish Sea, South Stack boasts steep cliffs and a rugged coastline that supports over 9,000 nesting seabirds including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, and kittiwakes. South Stack is home to a nature reserve, with hides looking out onto the cliffs to give you the best views of the seabirds flying back from hunting trips out at sea. South Stack lighthouse and the island’s brutal terrain provide the perfect backdrop for watching flocks of vocal seabirds scatter above the thrashing waves.
Coastal heathland and grasslands fringe the wild and windy clifftops where few trees dare to grow. Several footpaths extend through these areas, allowing for long coastal hikes and viewpoints to watch for seals and cetaceans which can occasionally be seen. The heaths and grasslands are also home to jackdaws, ravens, and one of the UK’s few remaining populations of red-billed choughs. You can see a short video of our trip here.
Average rating: 4.0 (very good)
Average cost: free!
Best time to visit: the best time to see nesting seabirds is March to July, choughs can be seen year-round.
How to get there: the nearest train station is Holyhead although there is no public transport to the reserve so a car or taxi (or a good hour’s walk) is needed to get there. There are several car parks along South Stack road although they can get busy.
Typical activities: bird watching, hiking
Number of reports: 2
Last update: 2021
Wildlife in South Stack
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
Puffin – 50% OF WildSide users (1/2) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Atlantic puffins can be seen in spring and early summer when they gather in breeding colonies around South Stack Island. They can be seen peering from rocky crags in the cliff faces where they make their nests, or bobbing up and down on the sea around the cliffs. As they are quite small, puffins are difficult to see from the tops of the cliffs. However, armed with a pair of binoculars, their brightly coloured beak can’t be missed if they’re present. There are fewer numbers of puffins than other seabirds so WildSide recommends visiting the reserve’s visitor centre to see where they have been recently spotted. There’s also a camera trained on the puffin nesting area during the spring and summer season which offers close-up views.
Chough – 100% OF Wildside users (2/2) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The red-billed chough is the rarest member of the crow family in the UK. South Stack – which is home to around 10 pairs of choughs – is one of the last places that supports a breeding population. They can be found year-round on the cliffs around the Reserve. They nest in nooks and cranny’s on the cliff face, inside small caves, and even on some of the taller buildings. On occasion, they form small flocks in winter when flying around the area. And they can often be seen flying acrobatically through the high winds which batter the cliffs. Ellins Tower is a great place to spot them from. As are the viewpoints along the trail leading to the lighthouse.
Guillemot – 50% OF Wildside users (1/2) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Much like puffins and razorbills, common guillemots nest on land during spring and early summer. At South Stack, they can be seen perched on the cliffs among the puffins and razorbills. During the nesting season, from March to late July, they can be seen in their hundreds. When we visited the cliffs and skies were full of guillemots jostling for space amongst the crowds. You can tell them apart from the similar-looking razorbills by their slender, more elongated necks and beaks.
RAZORBILL – 100% OF WildSide Users (2/2) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Much like other seabirds, razorbills are best observed on the cliffs when they congregate in colonies in spring and summer. At other times of the year, razorbills are likely to be back at sea. They can easily be spotted from the cliff tops looking out to South Stack Island, where they clamber around their nests and fly between the cliff faces. They can also be seen swimming on the surface of the sea below. When they do arrive on land to nest they gather in their thousands making it an incredible spectacle!
Photo credit: WildSide team member Chris White