Case Studies - South Stack Cliffs, Ynys Mon

Over 150,000 visitors come to South Stack each year (2004 data). Many of these visitors walk along the coastal path which is often very close to the cliff edge.

A visitor risk assessment has been produced by site and safety staff. The majority of visitors are concentrated in the honey pot area around South Stack and Ellin’s Tower where the paths come close to the edge of the relatively high sea cliffs. Ellin’s Tower acts as an information and viewing point and has RSPB staff based there throughout the busy visitor season. The visitors to this area are felt to be more likely to be unfamiliar with the terrain encountered than those accessing the more remote areas of the reserve. A need to place additional health and safety measures here has been identified. Around the honey pot area the paths are maintained to a high standard and a system of bilingual zoned signage has been introduced:

  • Level 1: At all of the access points to this area, a bilingual warning sign reading ‘Unprotected Cliff Edge’ has been erected with the standard yellow and black warning triangles with black exclamation mark. This is an advance warning to visitors advising them that they are entering an area in which there is no barrier between them and the cliff edge.
  • Level 2: At the end where the access routes join the cliff top path, immediately before the cliff edge a second set of bilingual warning signs reading ‘Dangerous Cliffs’ with a symbol of white triangle with red border and black exclamation marks has been erected. These signs warn visitors that they should not go beyond the sign.

Away from the honey pot area, the likelihood of falls from the cliff is much reduced. This is due to the considerably lower visitor numbers and the increased likelihood that those visiting these areas are more familiar with the terrain. Generally in these areas of the reserve no specific controls are in place to manage health and safety of visitors, the hazards being natural and obvious.

After this and earlier risk assessments the decision not to erect fencing along the path was accepted. There is no history of people falling off the cliff tops, any fencing would detract from the natural landscape and would require extensive maintenance. Legal derogations would have to be applied for as the area is an SSSI and part of an AONB.

Over a number of years some works have been undertaken to use low earth banks as buffers between the path and the cliff where especially sheer drops or crumbling cliff edges were found.

A fully accessible path has also been constructed from the main visitor car park and lead directly to Ellin’s Tower. This is set well back from the cliff edge.

See also the Carnewas, Cornwall case study and the good practice guideline on managing risk from drops

This case study was written by and was published in June 2005

This website entry was last updated on 14 November, 2006

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