Where to spot British wildlife: the best UK holidays for nature lovers


Friday 8th March, 2024

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.

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