RSPB Nature Reserve, South Stack Lighthouse and a circular walking route.

September 28, 2018
Tim Coysh

Near Holy Island on the northwest coast of Anglesey

South Stack is an island situated just off Holy Island on the northwest coast of Anglesey. Home to the RSPB Nature Reserve, South Stack Lighthouse and a circular walking route.

South Stack cliffs Nature Reserve is a wonderful reserve made up of heathland and farmland set on a stretch of dramatic sea cliffs.

The historic South Stack Lighthouse is located on a small island reached via a descent of 400 steps down the steep mainland cliffs.

The South Stack walking route is a circular walk which combines a superb section of coastal walking and some modest but rough mountain terrain near to Holyhead.

Aerial view of the beautiful cliffs close to the historic South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey - Wales, United Kingdom

South Stack Cliffs Nature Reserve

South Stack Cliffs RSPB Reserve is home to breath taking views, plenty of seabirds (of course!) and South Stack Lighthouse itself. 

The RSPB information centre at Ellin’s Tower provides lots of information about the wildlife. In the nesting season, nest cams are set up to watch chicks and parent birds close up and cameras placed in the cliffs provide live and close up shots of razorbills and puffins. A very informative member of the RSPB is at hand to answer any questions and to point out the birds that are nesting, even pointing out where the porpoises and dolphins can be regularly spotted.

Ellin’s tower was built as a summer retreat for the wife of William Stanley in 1867. Ellin was a keen observer of the bird life to be found around South Stack. In 1980 it was acquired by the RSPB who carried out renovation work and opened to the public as an information centre and bird hide in 1982. For more information about facilities at South Stack Cliffs Visitor Centre: South Stack Cliffs Facilities

The RSPB has done a good job of making the area as accessible as possible, without spoiling nature. You can hire binoculars from the visitor centre and enjoy a coffee and cake before you set out to discover the treats that South Stack has to offer. 

Collectively, North and South Stack, Gogarth Bay and Holyhead Mountain form the most westerly peninsula in Anglesey.  Some 300 hectares of this headland, with its rocks, cliffs, lowland heath and pasture, is looked after by South Stack RSPB Reserve. South Stack on the western coastline of Anglesey is a haven for winter birds. It’s a draw not only to the cliff-breeding auks, gulls, petrels and peregrines, but also, in autumn and spring, to passing migrants such as ring ouzels, grasshopper warblers, wheatears, crossbills, redstarts, and occasional rarities such as dotterel and Lapland bunting.

In the warmer months, the coastline is alive with 10,000 breeding puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmar petrels, shags and kittiwakes, noisily making use of the ledges. 

South Stack Lighthouse

South Stack Lighthouse was first conceived in 1665 when a petition for a patent to erect the lighthouse was presented to Charles II, the patent was not granted. South Stack Lighthouse was finally built by Trinity House in 1809, marking the tiny islet off Anglesey at the north west tip of Wales.

In the mid-1870s the lantern and lighting apparatus was replaced by a new lantern. In 1909 an early form of incandescent light was installed and in 1927 this was replaced by a more modern form of incandescent mantle burner. The station was electrified in 1938. In September 1984 the lighthouse was automated, and the keepers were withdrawn. The lighthouse is now monitored and controlled from Trinity House’s Planning Centre in Harwich, Essex.

Newly reopened for 2017 The historic South Stack Lighthouse is reached via a descent of 400 steps down the steep mainland cliffs.

Visitors may tour the former lighthouse engine room before climbing to the top of the lighthouse. For more information about South Stack Lighthouse visitor centre: South Stack Lighthouse Visitor Centre   

South Stack Lighthouse Walking Route

The 4.5-mile ’moderate’ circular walk combines a superb section of coastal walking and some modest but rough mountain terrain near Holyhead. Starting from Holyhead Breakwater country park, the walk includes the summit of Holyhead Mountain. The views are spectacular all along the ridge, walking through the purple heather and the yellow gorse if you’re lucky you may spot peregrine falcons, kestrels, choughs, ravens and much more. The climb to the summit is a bit steep but the stone steps are great all the way up. At the top, there are 360-degree views of Anglesey, Holyhead and the sea. You see Ireland and the Isle of Man in the distance too.

There are numerous walks around South Stack, if you are interested in bird watching, walking, rock climbing, photography, you’re in for a treat. South Stack is one of Anglesey’s must-see landscapes. It’s stunning and a reminder of just how beautiful North Wales is. 


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