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Best places to see wild birds in the UK

Lorna Cowan / 11 February 2016

Where are the best places in the UK for birdwatchers to enjoy a walk? Here are some of our favourite places to see wild birds.

Visit the Farne Islands, Northumberland, to see puffins

The Farne Islands, Northumberland, for puffins

Back in the 7th century, the Farnes, situated a few miles off the coast of Northumberland, was a sanctuary for Saint Cuthbert. Today, Inner Farne is home to over 37,000 pairs of puffins, and is one of the most exciting seabird colonies in England. The comical puffin, with its big orange feet and red, blue and yellow bill, usually lives out at sea, but comes to nest in burrows in the spring. Follow a half mile circular walk from the boat jetties.

Best time to see: April to end of July.
Also see: razorbills, shags, gannets, Arctic terns and eider ducks.
For more details: National Trust

Brecon Beacons in Wales for red kites

There are so many interesting walking routes in the Brecon Beacons National Park. However, an easy but rewarding walk, accessible from the Visitor Centre at Libanus, takes you towards the common at Mynydd Illtud. En route look out for a red kite, with its forked tail and reddish-brown slender body, soaring high above – around 1,000 breeding pairs are now estimated to exist in Wales.

Best time to see: all year round.
Also see: larks and wheatears.
For more details: Brecon Beacons


Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, for great crested grebes

Visit the wetlands reserve at Lochwinnoch in west Scotland in spring, and not only will you be treated to some spectacular birdsong, you’ll also get to witness the great crested grebe performing its elaborate courting dance. As it tries to attract a mate, the water bird rises up and shakes its head, feathery plumage and all. The Aird Meadow Trail, which is under a mile, takes you through woodland and is suitable for wheelchairs and prams.

Best time to see: courtship takes place in spring.
Also see: whooper swans, grasshopper warbler, the occasional kingfisher and reed bunting.
For more details: RSPB 

The Swale Estuary in Kent for short-eared owls

You may think owls are night birds, but the short-eared owl, named after its short ‘ear’ tufts, hunts during the daytime. Start your stroll at the RSPB’s viewpoint at Capel Fleet, and watch out for the owls flying low over the grassland and open country. Sometimes they’ll even take a break and perch on a fencepost so you’ll get a closer look at their big yellow eyes.

Best time to see: greater numbers can be seen during the winter months.
Also see: glassworts, golden samphires, hen harriers, merlins.
For more details: RSPB

Find out our top 10 dog walks in the UK.

Snettisham knots

Snettisham, Norfolk, for knots

You won’t need your binoculars to watch the wonder that is a flock of tens of thousands of knots swirling above the mudflats at Snettisham’s RSPB reserve. Arriving in The Wash from Arctic Canada in the autumn, at high tide in winter these wading birds are forced to retreat to the lagoons behind the beach and seemingly take flight all at once. If you’re on one of the nature trails in the reserve at the time, stop and be amazed.

Best time to see: large numbers of knots can be seen at high tide between December and March.
Also see: avocets, pink-footed geese, shelducks and oystercatchers.
For more details: RSPB 

The Fleet Lagoon, Dorset, for swans

Spanning just over eight miles, the Fleet Lagoon is the largest tidal lagoon in the UK and is divided from the sea by a bank of shingle known as Chesil Beach. Walk five miles along part of the South West Coastal Path towards Langton Herring to see the muted swans here. Or pay the entrance fee to Abbotsbury Swannery and get up close to the colony. Visit in early summer if you want to see cygnets.

Best time to see: summer when the swans moult and become flightless.
Also see: herons, egrets, gulls, terns, pheasants and buzzards.
For more details: South West Coast Path

Find out about Saga Holidays' birdwatching holidays.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.