Where to Spot British Wildlife: The Best UK Holidays for Nature Lovers

There’s something so magical about seeing a wild animal in their natural environment, especially up close. Britain is full of wonderful creatures if you know where to look, from rare birds to herds of shy deer. We’ve gathered together some of our favourite wildlife-spotting locations across Britain, from the Cornish coast right up to the Cairngorms.

Wildlife in the Cairngorms

If you love spending time in the great outdoors, there’s nowhere quite like Scotland. We have a special soft spot for the Cairngorms because there’s such an astonishing variety of wildlife in this one spectacular area. For a start, it’s home to the UK’s only free-range herd of reindeer, then there are the golden eagles, the ospreys, the ptarmigans, the mountain hares, the red deer… It’s a truly magnificent place for wildlife spotting.

Secluded Forest Cottage on the shores of Loch an Eilean is the perfect place to look out for passing wildlife.

Sea safaris in the South West

The warmer waters of the South West attract some unusual marine visitors: Minke whales, fin whales and humpback whales are often spotted off the Cornish coast, along with basking sharks, sunfish and pods of leaping dolphins. Seabirds nest along the cliffs, including the rare chough. Take a sea safari from Padstow or a glass-bottomed boat trip from St Ives to spot marine and coastal creatures.

The Boathouse in St Ives is a short walk from the harbour, where you can pick up a boat trip along the coast, or even spot dolphins and seals in the bay.

Bird spotting in East Anglia

The unique coastal landscape and climate of Norfolk and Suffolk make the East Anglian counties the perfect habitat for a whole host of bird life. Migratory birds make great use of this handy stop-off point, making spring and autumn the best time for a bird-spotting holiday in East Anglia. Visit the RSPB reserves at Snettisham, Titchwell Marsh and Strumpshaw Fen, as well as reserves at Breckland and Hickling Broads – and these are just a few of the incredible sites in Norfolk and Suffolk!

Puffins in Northumberland

We’re sticking with seabirds, but heading up the coast towards Yorkshire and Northumberland. Great colonies of puffins nest along England’s northern cliffs and outcrops, with the Farne Islands of Northumberland providing one of the birds’ most glorious-looking habitats. The puffins arrive in the early spring and you should start to see pufflings (surely the cutest word in the English language) from June. Look out for seals and dolphins as well, or head inland to spot wild goats and roe deer.

Charming Pepperclose Cottage is close to the beautiful beach at Bamburgh (you can even see the castle from the cottage).

Free-roaming ponies in the New Forest

The New Forest in Hampshire is famous for its free-roaming ponies (around five thousand of them, in fact). While they wander at will, they’re not actually wild: the New Forest ponies are all owned, and have grazing rights in the Forest. They’re joined by cows and donkeys and in the autumn, local farmers are allowed to graze their pigs among the trees, who love eating up the scattered acorns. This ancient way of managing woodland creates a healthy and natural ecosystem. Find out more about the Forest’s other inhabitants at the New Forest Wildlife Park.

Bluebell Copse Cottage is on the edge of the Forest, in 70 acres of beautiful farmland. It’s also close to lively Southampton.

Welsh wildlife

Wales is rich in wildlife and you’ll encounter an especially diverse range of fauna in lovely Pembrokeshire. From bats to basking sharks, Atlantic grey seals to stonechats, all manner of animals live in or visit this beautiful part of the country. Look out for rare species like choughs and skylarks, while deer and ponies roam the hills and woods. Visit in the spring for the puffins and the autumn for the seal pups.

Luxury Cornerstone Cottage has sea views and great walks from the doorsteps: perfect for your wildlife holiday in Wales.

Top wildlife parks and aquariums in Britain

For guaranteed wildlife spotting (parents of young children, we hear you!), try one of Britain’s many excellent zoos, parks or aquariums.

  • Longleat: the UK’s best-known wildlife and safari park tops every list.
  • The National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth: the largest aquarium in the country.
  • Chester Zoo: there’s a British Wildlife Experience as well as lots of exotic animals..
  • Whipsnade Zoo: the biggest zoo in Britain.
  • Woburn Safari Park: Bedfordshire’s famous drive-through park.
  • Blackpool Zoo: there are over 1,000 animals in the resort’s much-loved zoo.
  • Blue Planet Aquarium: the Ellesmere Port attraction is a great family day out.
  • London Zoo: the world’s oldest scientific zoo first opened in 1828.

And then of course, the UK is home to so many smaller animal sanctuaries, caring for species from horses to hedgehogs, seals to seabirds. There are also wildlife reserves across the country, managed by organisations like the RSPB.

This elegant garden flat in Bath is an easy drive from Longleat Safari Park.

Holiday cottages for wildlife lovers

Many of our luxury holiday cottages are in lovely rural locations, where you’ll often see wildlife from your own garden or patio. Take a look through our collections, and find your perfect nature-spotting spot.

What to do in the Cairngorms

If you love an outdoor adventure, spending time exploring nature or simply admiring beautiful scenery, there’s nowhere quite like the Cairngorms. This magnificent National Park in the Highlands of Scotland has everything you could want from a Scottish getaway: soaring peaks, free-roaming wildlife, crystal-clear lochs, whisky distilleries… Here’s the Handpicked Cottages guide to what to do on holiday in the Cairngorms.

Walking in the Cairngorms National Park

Welcome to walkers’ paradise. Escape to the Cairngorms to enjoy some of the best hiking Britain has to offer, including 55 Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) and five of the six highest peaks in the UK. You’ll also explore woodlands, rivers, lochs and welcoming villages. If you’re a cyclist rather than a walker, there are some superb mountain biking trails in the Cairngorms as well as footpaths.

The Tower in Kinloss has some great walks from the door and is just five miles from the sea (yes, the Cairngorms even features a stunning stretch of coast for clifftop and beachy walks).

Spotting wildlife in the Cairngorms

From soaring birds of prey to the UK’s only free-range reindeer herd, the Cairngorms provides a safe haven for some fabulous creatures. Look out for red deer and mountain hares, as well as birds like capercaillies, ptarmigans and red grouse. A pair of ospreys visits in the summer and you may even see one of the Cairngorms’ golden eagles. For easier wildlife spotting, the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig is a great place to take the family.

One of the wonderful things about a Cairngorms holiday is that you’ll often encounter wildlife from your cottage garden! The Old Smithy at Seasgair has access to the River Nethy, which is a lovely spot for bird watching.

Experience dark skies

We’re so used to street lamps and lights from homes and businesses, even in small villages, that we don’t realise just how dark the night can be. The low light pollution levels in the Cairngorms make this the perfect destination for a bit of stargazing. Visit the Cairngorms Dark Sky Park for some of the best stargazing locations, and look out for talks and events at this incredible place.

For deep, dark nights, pick somewhere secluded to stay, like Achnahatnich House in Aviemore.

Historic sites in the Cairngorms

For culture and heritage centres (and shopping), the Cairngorms has more than its share of welcoming towns and villages: Perth, Inverness, Aviemore, Kingussie and Balleter are all in the Cairngorms and if you need a city fix, you’re not far from Aberdeen. Historic sites include the majestic Ballindalloch Castle, or visit the evocative ruins of Loch an Eilean Castle. Learn more about the Jacobite rising at Ruthven Barracks or delve deeper into Scotland’s ancient past by exploring archaeological sites in the Cairngorms.

What could make a better base for historians than Loch an Eilean Cottage? Just look at that location!

Cairngorm adventures

We’ve touched on hiking and mountain biking and these are just two of the many outdoor activities in the Cairngorms. You can also see the National Park from horseback: the native Highland ponies can handle any terrain with ease. In the winter, make the most of the Cairngorms’ three ski centres, which offer lessons for skiers of all ages and stages. In the summer, you have your pick of watersports on the many lochs, including SUP and kayaks. The Cairngorms is also a popular wild swimming location.

If you want a good base for an outdoor adventure holiday, try Easter Duiar near Grantown-on-Spey. Its large garden, table tennis and pool table make it the perfect place for sporty families.

Take the scenic route

Imagine you’re in a car commercial and drive through breathtaking scenery along Britain’s highest public roads. The Snowroads Scenic Route stretches for 90 miles between Blairgowrie and Grantown-on-Spey and is simply the most incredible place for a drive (on a clear day). Make sure you stop off at the vantage points for the best photo opportunities.

Osprey’s Nest is a luxury lodge close to one end of the route, at Grantown-on-Spey. If you prefer to travel by rail, you’re also not far from the heritage Strathspey Railway.

The best Cairngorms food and drink

If you love a good malt, there are six distilleries in the Cairngorms National Park alone and you can easily book onto a tour (and taster experience) during your stay. Food-wise, you can tuck into locally sourced salmon and Highland-reared beef, as well as game such as venison and grouse. There are even places where you can catch your own fish! Veggies don’t despair: book onto a foraging trip to discover Scotland’s amazing wild larder.

There are a lot of places to eat and drink in this part of Scotland, including some wonderfully inviting pubs. If you prefer preparing your own food, you’ll love the kitchen at Milton Lodge – perfect for feeding the whole clan.

Book your Cairngorms holiday cottage

This part of Scotland has so much to offer the visitor and we’re delighted to introduce our collection of luxury holiday cottages in the Cairngorms. Look out for features like stargazing skylights, cosy outdoor fire pits and secluded gardens with magnificent views. You’ll love it here.

The Best Places to Celebrate Easter 2024 in the UK

Easter is a great time for a holiday in the UK. The weather is starting to warm up nicely, the landscape is lush and green and even the cities are bursting into bloom.

There’s also plenty to do at this time of year, a lot of it centred around chocolate and Easter eggs! We’ve made a list of some of our favourite places for a British Easter break – feeling tempted?

Bath and the Cotswolds at Easter

With its elegant, honey-coloured buildings and many lush green spaces, Bath just seems like one of those cities that was made for spring. Enjoy ambling along its historic streets and flower-filled parks, picking up a Sally Lunn bun on your way. There are plenty of family activities planned over Easter in Bath’s many visitor attractions, including at the world-famous Roman Baths.

York: the chocolate city

Like Bath, York is a lovely springtime city, with pretty streets, parks and riverside walks. However, we were drawn to York by its Chocolate Story, a fabulous attraction that takes you through York’s long history as a confectionary centre. There are special activities planned for Easter, including chocolate egg-making workshops and tasting sessions. You can also attend a service in York Minster, admire the city from the river on a boat cruise, or shop for more Easter goodies among York’s many independent shops.

Easter in the Garden of England

Spending spring in this lovely part of the country sounds just perfect. There’s so much to do and see in the county of Kent, from the stunning coast to its many pretty little villages. If you’re looking for a fun Easter day out with the family, we recommend Hever Castle, which is hosting a range of trails and activities. The flowers at Hever are also at their best at this time of year – stroll among the tulips and daffodils in the gardens and woods.

Hydrangea House in Hythe makes a great base for a family holiday in Kent, with the added bonus of being near the sea.

Ready to roll in Presto

Great scenery, great towns, great food – and some great British traditions! Lancashire is a brilliant place to visit at any time of year; however, we’d suggest an Easter holiday here so you can experience the legendary Preston Egg Rolling. Every Easter Monday, hundreds of people descend on Avenham and Miller Parks, with eggs, to take part in this old tradition. As well as the egg rolling itself, there’s street theatre, live music and workshops.

Bailey Cottage is in the lovely Ribble Valley area, just half an hour away from Preston.

An Easter escape in West Wales

If your idea of a spring break is to escape to a beautiful rural location, head for the tranquillity of West Wales. The coastline in places like Ceredigion is simply stunning, while inland, there’s a beautiful blend of lush rolling countryside and dramatic mountains. Head out for a hike through this postcard-perfect landscape, looking out for newborn lambs and listening to the birdsong.

Ty Gwyrdd is a recently renovated cottage in Pembrokeshire, with the most spectacular views. You couldn’t be in a lovelier location for walking.

Family holidays in Fife

For a family holiday with lots to do, we always enjoy heading up to Scotland. Perthshire, Fife and Tayside is an area especially rich in historic attractions, with some excellent hiking for those of us who love the great outdoors. As always, the National Trust for Scotland has laid on some great entertainment for families at Easter, with Easter Egg trails in most of its properties. If you’re staying near Fife, try the trail at Kellie Castle with its famous Arts and Crafts gardens.

Book the family into The Old Cart House in Auchtermuchty, which has a shared swimming pool and play areas – perfect for the kids.

Find your perfect luxury holiday cottage for Easter

Whether you fancy making, hunting or rolling Easter eggs this year, there’s a lot going on across the country for Easter 2024. Take a look through our collections of luxury holiday cottages in the UK and book your springtime break.

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