Wildlife on the Llŷn Peninsula
Llŷn has a unique microclimate, benefiting from the gulf stream, bringing warmer sea temperatures and weather. This makes it a perfect home for unusual habitats and fascinating wildlife. Discover the best places in Llŷn to go birdwatching or catch sight of your favourite coastal creatures, from seal spotting to dolphin encounters.
Seal spotting on the Llŷn Peninsula
The Llŷn peninsula is an important refuge for grey seals, which are larger and more robust than their relatives, the common seal. Approximately 5,000 grey seals live in the water around West Wales and can be seen all year round. Pups can be seen from September to December.
Where to spot seals
Some of the best places to catch a glimpse of grey seals include Porthdinllaen, Enlli and the Coast Path around Porth Meudwy. Large breeding colonies are located at both St Tudwal’s Islands and Bardsey Island, with smaller, isolated groups living along the northern coast, such as the small number found near Porthdinllaen.
Keep your distance from the seals and don't disturb them. Use binoculars to get a great view of cows and their calves during the pupping season. Seal-watching is quite easy as seals are generally quite cumbersome and slow while on land. Just find a good vantage point and sit still.
Wildlife watching with bottlenose dolphins
The Welsh coast is home to one of only two semi-resident UK populations of bottlenose dolphins. If you walk along the coastal path or shore for any length of time you stand a chance of seeing these wonderful creatures all year round.
Where to spot bottle-nose dolphins
Hotspots include many sightings off St Tudwal’s Islands, Cilan and off Bardsey Island. You may be lucky enough to spot a ‘super pod’, when hundreds of dolphins gather together in warm summers to hunt shoals of small fish. In 2005 the Seawatch Trust sighted a pod of dolphins two thousand strong in Cardigan Bay.
Other marine mammals around the peninsula
A smaller relative of the dolphin, porpoises are more often seen in shallower water closer to shore in small groups of up to 10. They’re much less acrobatic than dolphins and don’t leave the water, just breaking the surface with their fins. Risso dolphins or Atlantic white-sided dolphins occasionally venture into the local waters. There have also been sightings of whales, mainly pilot and minke whales, recorded in the south west of the area.
Birdwatching in Llŷn
Beginner or experienced, a walk in the Llŷn countryside will reward you with a wide diversity of habitats and special scenery that makes this peninsula an ideal place for birdwatching. The rocky cliffs and offshore islands are important nesting sites for many birds and the complex ecology and land forms bring together a great variety of species from choughs and peregrine falcons to fulmars, puffins and Manx shearwater.
Choughs at Pen-y-Cil
The chough is the rarest member of the crow family and its Welsh name, brân goesgoch, literally means red-legged crow. There is only a small population of these birds in the United Kingdom, with three-quarters of the UK's population living in Wales. Pen-y-Cil, located at the southern tip of the peninsula is one of the most dramatic places to see these special birds and their wonderful aerial displays.
Nesting seabirds at Carreg y Llam
The ledges of the 100m high Carreg y Llam near Pistyll are bustling with seabirds during the breeding season in spring and early summer and it’s one of the most important seabird nesting sites in North Wales. Large numbers of guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes make the most of the inaccessible slopes to lay their eggs, spending the rest of the year out at sea.
Porth Meudwy birds
A visit to this special valley and cove will reward you with a fascinating range of resident and migrant birds and loads of other wildlife to enjoy in the area. It has been known to welcome rare vagrants too, including a Ruppell's warbler and red-eyed vireo.
Bardsey Island birds
Lying off the tip of the peninsula, Bardsey Island is the only accredited bird observatory in Wales. The nationally important numbers of Manx shearwater that breed here in the summer are one of the reasons why this special place is a Special Protection Area. There is a breeding colony of 10 to 16 thousand birds on the island.
On the east side of the island’s mountain there are 11 species of seabird including kittiwakes, storm petrels, razorbills, and guillemots. The island’s other breeding birds include oystercatchers, wheatears, little owls and long-eared owls.
Dunes, heathland and woodland birds
Heathland and coastal dunes are home to stonechats, goldfinches and sand martins. You may spot the ever-present predators, such as kestrels and buzzards, watching over proceedings. Away from the coastline, you can catch a glimpse of greater-spotted and green woodpeckers, even jays and nuthatches. Local rivers are a great place to spot dippers.
The Llŷn Peninsula is an important route for many migratory such as large numbers of willow warbler, chiffchaff and goldcrest, which arrive in spring and autumn. Regular migrants also include pied and spotted flycatchers, 10 species of warbler, three species of wagtail, six species of thrush and 11 species of finch.
Rare visitors to Llŷn
The list of species that have made it to Llŷn include the eyebrowed thrush, Radde’s warbler and the Isabelline wheatear from Asia. Black-browed albatross from the southern oceans and dark-eyed Junco, yellow warbler, Sora rail, American bittern, American robin and the song sparrow from America have also been seen. Bardsey also has the only record of a summer tanager on this side of the Atlantic.
Learn more about what to see and do on the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales, from rock-pooling at Porthor to exploring culture and history at Porth y Swnt.
Discover more about the ecomuseum on the Llŷn Peninsula. Operating in partnership with seven of Llyn Peninsula’s heritage organisations, it aims to increase cultural tourism.
Have a nature adventure in Wales and discover all kinds of wildlife, from the famous otters of Bosherston Lakes in Pembrokeshire, to the red squirrels of Plas Newydd in North Wales.
A picture-perfect fishing village perched on a beautiful stretch of sandy beach, Porthdinllaen has a rich history, and spectacular views and wildlife abound.
Visit Llanbedrog a long stretch of sandy coast with colourful beach huts ideal for families. A popular destination near Pwllheli on the Llŷn Peninsula.
Nestled in the heart of Aberdaron, Porth y Swnt is a visitor centre like no other. It offers an introduction to the history and culture of Llŷn through audio, videos, sculptures and artwork.