Sunday 20 May 2012

Island No. 460: South Stack (Ynys Lawd)

If you think South Stack looks like the perfect location for a comic book, then you are not alone. The combination of a lonely lighthouse on a small island, accessed only by a metal bridge across a narrow sea channel after descending 400 cliff-side steps understandably appealed to the creator of Les Gardiens des Enfers. There's no doubt it fires the gothic imagination, but on a sunny day it's simply a stunning place to visit. Before starting your descent, make sure you have the £4.80 cash to buy an entrance ticket at the bottom, or turnaround and buy your ticket from the RSPB Visitor Centre down the road.

The path down offers great views of the nesting seabirds on the adjacent cliffs. Choughs pad around on the nearby grassy slopes, and the warm walls provide welcome hotspots and shelter for some of our rarer butterflies.

South Stack is covered with herring gulls nesting amongst the sea thrift. It is also the only place on Earth where you can find the spatulate fleawort.

Part of the entrance fee includes a guided visit to the lighthouse, built in 1808-09. It has a fine, if vertigo inducing, spiral staircase.

From the top of the lighthouse, 60m above sea level, you can see the precipitous zigzag of the cliff path down to the island's bridge.

The latest incarnation of the bridge was built in 1997 to span the 30m gap.

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