Best places to see wildlife in the UK

Lorna Cowan / 18 February 2016

If you enjoy walking – and love looking out for wildlife along the way – then here are our favourite places in the UK to do both.



Kielder Forest, Northumberland, for red squirrels

According to the Forestry Commission, there are only 140,000 native red squirrels left in Britain, compared to 2.5 million of the American grey squirrel. Try to spot one while walking the trails in Kielder Forest in Northumberland. If you stumble upon some chewed pine cones on the ground, there may be a hungry squirrel in the trees above. They are also fond of the nuts on beech and sweet chestnut trees.

Best time to see: late autumn, when there are not so many leaves on the trees.
Also see: badgers, pipistrelle bats and ospreys who breed between April and September.
For more details: Forestry Commission 

Falmouth in Cornwall for dolphins

Want a good chance of seeing common and bottlenose dolphins? Then head to Pendennis Point near Falmouth in Cornwall. The mystical creatures come in search of the plankton here, and you almost get a full 360 degree view of the Fal Estuary and Falmouth Bay from the headland, which is also the start of an easy walk. The castle at St Mawes on the eastern side of the estuary is also a good vantage point.

Best time to see: between June and August, though dolphins can be seen all year round.
Also see: grey seals on the rocks, basking sharks during the summer, and sea birds including cormorants and fulmars.
For more details: South West Coast Path

Read our suggestions for the best walks on the South West Coast Path.

reindeer

The Cairngorms in Scotland for reindeer

Britain’s only free-ranging herd of 150 reindeer live in the mountains and moorlands of the Cairngorms in the north east of Scotland. Yet despite its severe climate, the National Park is a haven for 25% of the UK’s most threatened species, including the rare Scottish wildcat and the capercaillie grouse. For fans of Rudolph and his chums, half-day treks with reindeer herders are available during the summer.

Best time to see: all year round - reindeer are not just for Christmas!
Also see: snow buntings and white mountain hares in winter, the ptarmigan, red squirrels and golden eagles.
For more details: Cairngorms

The New Forest in Hampshire for wild ponies

Around 3,000 bay and chestnut ponies, standing no taller than 148cm high, roam freely in the 193,000 acres of unspoilt open heathland and ancient woodland that makes up the New Forest. There are 143 miles of tracks to explore, walks for all abilities, and an abundance of wildlife to see. All six species of deer found in the UK also wander around the National Park.

Best time to see: all year round, foals are born in the spring.
Also see: reptiles and amphibians including adders, frogs and toads, as well as dragonflies, butterflies and heathland birds.
For more details: New Forest

Read our suggestions for the best dog walks in the UK.

Sea eagle

The Isle of Mull for white-tailed sea eagles

The white-tailed sea eagle, Britain’s largest bird of prey, has been successfully reintroduced on the Inner Hebrides island of Mull after becoming extinct in the early 20th century. Every year, the Mull Eagle Watch offers ranger-led expeditions, but with a wing span of over two-and-a-half metres you may also see the majestic bird while walking through one of Mull’s amazing forests.

Best time to see: from mid-April and throughout the summer.
Also see: golden eagles, buzzards, whales, porpoises, dolphins, puffins.
For more details: Forestry Commission Scotland

Gilfach Farm in Wales for otters

The otter is a shy, secretive animal so you’ll need a lot of patience, and a dose of luck, to get a good glimpse at one. But otter numbers in the UK are on the up so visit Gilfach Farm in Powys, part of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, and bid your time near the river banks. If the elusive otter fails to make an appearance, simply enjoy the glorious views over the valley as you wander through the meadows.

Best time to see: early morning or around sunset from October through to December when they come to the waterfalls to chase the leaping salmon.
Also see: dippers, pied flycatchers, red kites and green woodpeckers.
For more details: Wildlife Trust

Read our suggestions for the best places to see wild birds in the UK.

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