Ramsey Island

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Native name: Ynys Dewi
Ramsey Island viewed from the tip of St Davids Head - geograph.org.uk - 1529756.jpg
Ramsey Island viewed from St David's Head
Ramsey is located in Wales
Location St Brides Bay
Coordinates 51°51′42″N 5°20′34″W / 51.86167°N 5.34278°W / 51.86167; -5.34278
Length 3.2 km (1.99 mi)
Highest elevation 136 m (446 ft)
Highest point Carnllundain
County Pembrokeshire
Population 2
Ethnic groups Welsh people

Ramsey Island (Welsh: Ynys Dewi) is an island about 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) off St David's Head in Pembrokeshire on the northern side of St Brides Bay, in southwest Wales. It is 259 hectares (640 acres) in area.

In Welsh the island is named after Saint David (Dewi Sant), the patron saint of Wales. It was the home of his confessor, Saint Justinian. The nearest large settlement is the city of St David's.

Ramsey Island is less than 3.2 km (2 mi) long and its highest point is 136 metres (446 ft) above sea level at Carnllundain, and is listed as a HuMP. It is the fourth largest island in Wales, after Anglesey, Holy Island and Skomer.[1]


The island has a diverse geology for a relatively small area; it comprises sedimentary, volcanic and intrusive igneous rocks dating from the early Palaeozoic Era. The larger part of the north of the island is formed from mudstones of the Tetragraptus Mudstone Formation (also known as the 'Penmaen Dewi Shale Formation' and again as the 'Road Uchaf Formation' (sic) after the Rhod Uchaf locality on the island's east coast). However Carnysgubor stands proud to their west as it is formed from a more resistant microtonalite intrusion. In contrast the coastal cliffs between Trwyn-drain-du and Trwyn-Sion-Owen and also between Trwyn Ogof Hen and Rhod Uchaf are formed by sedimentary rocks, the mica-rich Lingula Flags and the sandstones and mudstones of the Ogof Hen Formation. The rock strata are typically steeply tilted and commonly faulted.

South end of Ramsey Island

Running NW–SE across the centre of the island from Aber Mawr to the vicinity of The Bitches is a band of late Arenig age tuffs and 'pencil slates' assigned to the Abermawr Formation. Its boundary with the sediments to the north is a fault.

The south of the island is dominated by a rhyolite intrusion as are the islets off its southern coast. To the west of the Ramsey Fault which runs from Aber Mawr to Porth Lleuog, is Carnllundain which is formed from the tough rhyolitic tuffs of the Carn Llundain Formation. These tuffs arose as volcanic ash falls, ash flows and turbidite deposits. Smaller areas of dark grey mudstones interbedded with debris flows grouped together as the Porth Llauog Formation occur around the margins of the rhyolite. Part of the southern margin of the inlet of Aber Mawr is characterised by the mudstones and sandstones of the Trwyn Llundain Formation, a part of the Solva Group of Cambrian rocks.[2][3]


Surveys in the 1990s and more recently have found evidence of prehistoric cairns, field systems, barrows and other anomalies which suggest human activity on the island dates back up to 5,000 years.[4] Mediaeval sites include a holy well and cemetery from the 9th century.[5]

Recorded history[edit]

From 1082, the island was part of the cantref of Dewisland under the control of the bishops of St David's. In the 12th century, it was a place of pilgrimage. In the 13th century, the island was reported to be fertile, producing beef, sheep and goats, and wheat, barley and oats. In the 14th century, 100 acres of the island supported horses, cattle and sheep, and rabbits, rushes, heath and birds' eggs were harvested. A farmhouse, corn mill and lime kiln were recorded in the 16th century, but the farm building was a ruin by the early 19th century. The mill and kiln were in operation until the early 20th century, and in 1905 the island was sold into private hands and ceased being an ecclesiastical holding.[5] A new farmhouse was built early in the 19th century, and was Grade II listed by Cadw in 1992.[6]

Nature Reserve[edit]

Owned and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB),[7] the island has spectacular bird cliffs, coastal scenery and heathland. It is one of the best sites in Wales to see choughs, which are attracted by an ample supply of dung beetles.

Other breeding species include ravens, common buzzards, peregrines, northern wheatears, gulls, auks, Manx shearwaters, razorbills and guillemots.

Ramsey has the most important grey seal breeding colony in southern Britain, with over 400 seal pups born each autumn.[7] In October 2017 the remnant storm of hurricane Ophelia was responsible for some 90 seal pup deaths.[8]

With a permanent population of just two human residents, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Warden and Assistant Warden who live in a farmhouse there, the island is otherwise uninhabited. Tourist boats sail around the island and a ferry service run by Thousand Islands Expeditions operates from Easter-31 October from Saint Justinian's RNLI lifeboat station on the mainland.

Nearby islands and rocks[edit]

Ramsey Island is surrounded by a number of smaller islands, islets and rock clusters, including:

The Bitches in Ramsey Sound, with the farmhouse on Ramsey

Ramsey Sound[edit]

The waters around the island have significant tidal effects, and tidal waterfalls occur between The Bitches.[9][10][11][12][13] The asymmetrical underwater flow can be 3.8 m/s (12.5 ft/s) northward (flood) and 1.9 m/s (6.2 ft/s) southward (ebb), with some turbulence. The sound reaches some 66 metres (217 feet) deep, although a tidal island called Horse Rock protrudes from the water at low tide.[14]

A 400 kW tidal power turbine project was planned from 2014[15][16][17][18][19] and the first turbine of three was installed in December 2015.[20]


  1. ^ The Rough Guide to Wales, Rough Guides, Rough Guide Travel Guides, Mike Parker, Paul Whitfield, 4, illustrated, Rough Guides, 2003, ISBN 1-84353-120-8, ISBN 978-1-84353-120-3, pg. 194
  2. ^ British Geological Survey 1992 1:50,000 scale provisional geological map sheet 209 (England and Wales) St David's
  3. ^ Howells, M.F. 2007 British Regional Geology: Wales (Keyworth, Nottingham, British Geological Survey) pp 45–51
  4. ^ "Ramsey Island: New survey finds 'Bronze Age' site". BBC News. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 27 March 2018. 
  5. ^ a b "Dyfed Archaeological Trust: Ramsey". Retrieved 27 March 2018. 
  6. ^ "British Listed Buildings: The Farmhouse, Ramsey Island". Retrieved 27 March 2018. 
  7. ^ a b Countryside Council for Wales, National Nature Reserves|Ramsey Archived 26 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine. (retrieved 2011-10-28).
  8. ^ "About 90 Ramsey Island seal pups lost to Storm Ophelia". BBC News. 18 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017. 
  9. ^ "Nature"
  10. ^ "The Bitches". the-bitches.co.uk. 
  11. ^ -. "Bitches tidal rapid - South - Wales - Rivers - The UK Rivers Guidebook". ukriversguidebook.co.uk. 
  12. ^ "Canoe Wales -". canoewales.com. 
  13. ^ "Bitches and Tides"
  14. ^ Evans, Paul Stephen (2014). Hydrodynamic characteristics of macrotidal straits and implications for tidal stream turbine deployment pages 107-109, 169. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University
  15. ^ Macalister, Terry. "Tidal power firm signs deal to sell electricity to EDF Energy" The Guardian, 25 September 2014.
  16. ^ , Ellie. "First full-scale tidal generator in Wales unveiled: Deltastream array to power 10,000 homes using ebb and flow of the ocean" Daily Mail, 7 August 2014.
  17. ^ Chris Kelsey (17 June 2015). "DeltaStream tidal energy device further delayed as company seeks new funding". walesonline. 
  18. ^ "Tidal Energy Ltd » Talking Tides: Martin Murphy of Tidal Energy". tidalenergyltd.com. 
  19. ^ "Turbine design turns the tide for renewables". eurekamagazine.co.uk. 
  20. ^ "Giant tidal turbine placed on seabed off Pembrokeshire". BBC. 14 December 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°51′42″N 5°20′34″W / 51.86167°N 5.34278°W / 51.86167; -5.34278