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Stackpole National Nature Reserve is in south Pembrokeshire and is one of the most breathtaking locations in Wales.
The reserve’s diverse landscape includes the shallow freshwater Bosherton lakes, woodlands, dunes, limestone cliffs and beaches.
Few places around the UK contain such a variety of habitats and wildlife in such a relatively small area.
The cliffs demonstrate the geology of Stackpole.
They are topped by a limestone plateau which was lifted from the sea-bed around 50 million years ago. Look closely and you will see a band of lighter rock, the compressed remnant of an ancient beach, formed when the sea level was much higher.
Two of Pembrokeshire’s finest beaches – the sheltered havens of Broadhaven and Barafundle Bay –lie within the reserve.
Stackpole is an area of limestone grassland and ancient dune grassland which was created during the fifth and sixth centuries. It is bordered by scrub and woodland and, in the Spring, the area is alive with bird song and rich with flowers and butterflies.
Bosherston Lakes were created in valleys in the limestone in the 18th and 19th centuries by the Campbells of Cawdor, owners of the Stackpole Estate until 1976.
The calm surface of the lakes is adorned with white water lilies in summer, together with beds of bright green stonewort: these are a speciality of the lime-rich spring-fed crystal clear waters here.
Stackpole is a stronghold for several species, including one of Britain’s largest populations of the rare greater horseshoes bats.
The lakes are abundant with wildlife especially otters, water birds and dragonflies.
The limestone cliffs, dunes and maritime grassland support many kinds of special plants and animals, including diminutive soil and rock lichens, numerous flowering plants, scarce insects and breeding populations of chough and colonial seabirds.
The National Trust owns and manages the reserve in partnership with Natural Resources Wales.
The Trust operates four car parks at Stackpole (Stackpole Quay, Broadhaven Beach, Bosherston Village and Lodge Park) and a tea room at Stackpole Quay.
Within the Trust’s estate at Stackpole, there is an extensive network of footpaths, some 10 kilometres of which are in the reserve. There are also eight miles of cliff-tops and magical beaches on the Stackpole Estate.
Information about the reserve and the Stackpole Estate is available at the car parks and tea room during the summer months.
The Stackpole for Outdoor Learning base camp and the adjacent Stackpole Centre welcome organised parties of visitors and educational visits by prior arrangement.
The car park, toilets and all visitor facilities are operated by National Trust - see the National Trust website for the latest information about the visitor facilities.
Stackpole is a National Nature Reserve.
National Nature Reserves are places with some of the very finest examples of wildlife habitats and geological features.
There are over 70 National Nature Reserves in Wales.
During the year, the landscape changes at Stackpole National Nature Reserve.
Depending on when you visit, you are likely to see different wildlife, too.
Read on to find out what you could see here during the different seasons.
As the days lengthen, the woodlands come alive with early purple orchids, primroses and pungent wild garlic.
In the grasslands and sand dunes, there is a colourful display of spring squill and cowslips. Thrift comes into flower on the cliffs and clumps of marsh marigold create splashes of yellow on the edge of the lakes.
The cliffs are home to many seabirds such as choughs, guillemots, razorbills and even a few puffins.
You may also spot bats in the woodlands at twilight or feeding on insects over the lakes.
The woodlands are home to the silver washed fritillary butterfly while other butterflies such as the dark green fritillary, common blue and brown argus may be spotted on the grasslands and sand dunes.
Summer brings a varied display of wild flowers to the reserve. Bee orchids, common spotted orchids and wild thyme appear in the grasslands and on the sand dunes and white water lilies grace the lakes. Thrift is still in flower on the cliffs and is joined by golden samphire and wild thyme.
Skylarks can be heard singing overhead and reed warblers can be spotted in the lakes.
Just as in spring, the cliffs are alive with seabirds from choughs to guillemots and razorbills to puffins.
As the weather turns cooler, the grassland is dotted with colourful waxcap fungi and the spindle trees are covered in their distinctive pink fruit.
There’s plenty to see at Stackpole in the winter.
Surrounded by the stark colours of dogwood at the water’s edge, the lakes are a good place to spot a wide range of wintering and other birds including:
Facilities provided by the National Trust include:
Please check the National Trust website for further information.
The car park, toilets and all visitor facilities here are operated by National Trust - see the National Trust website for the latest information about opening times.
Stackpole National Nature Reserve is five miles south of Pembroke.
It is in the county of Pembrokeshire.
Stackpole National Nature Reserve is on Ordnance Survey (OS) map number OL 36.
The main public access to the reserve is via the B4319 Pembroke to Castlemartin road.
Minor roads lead from the B4319 to four car parks operated by the National Trust.
The nearest train station is in Pembroke.
There are bus stops at Stackpole Quay, Broadhaven and Bosherston.
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Coastal Cruiser bus service from Pembroke and surrounding villages goes to the reserve (service number 387 and 388).
During the summer, the National Trust runs an on demand shuttle bus between car parks at Stackpole.
For details of public transport visit the Traveline Cymru website.
The National Trust own and operate these car parks.
There is a parking charge.
See the National Trust website for more information.