If you’re a fan of wildlife, you don’t have to travel as far as you might think when planning a wildlife spotting trip. The UK has an abundance of landscapes to explore that are home to an incredible array of wildlife, from soaring birds to those you can glimpse beneath the waves. If you’ve yet to visit these five places, be sure to add them to your bucket list.
1. Farne Islands
Sir David Attenborough once described the Farne Islands as his favourite place to see “magnificent nature” in the UK. If it’s not on your list of places to visit, it certainly should be.
This group of islands is just off the coast of Northumberland. Today, they have no permanent population, but nature thrives here. From seabirds soaring above you to dolphins skimming the waters, there’s plenty to see. It’s also home to a colony of grey seals and, if you’re really lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Minke Whales. The islands also have an interesting history: Saint Cuthbert lived here as a hermit, and monks, lighthouse keepers, and shipwrecked soldiers have called the Farne Islands home at different points in history. You can take a boat across to the islands between March and October from Seahouses Harbour.
2. Cairngorms National Park
Right in the heart of the Scottish highlands, the Cairngorms National Park guarantees breathtaking views. When you look at the lush landscape, it’s not surprising that wildlife can be spotted all across this national park.
Most of the endangered and highly elusive Scottish wildcat population call the Cairngorms home. While it might require a bit of luck to encounter the wildcats, you could also see deer, otter, red squirrels, Ospreys and much more. When visiting the Cairngorms, you can head out on a hike by yourself or book a guide to take you to the spots most frequented by wildlife. It’s not just the wildlife that makes this park a great place to visit; there are plenty of other attractions too. From ancient castles to a ski centre, there’s something for everyone.
3. Richmond Park
You don’t have to travel to remote locations to enjoy UK wildlife. Just a stone’s throw from central London, Richmond Park is an excellent place to visit if you want a mix of natural and urban attractions. The park is an important habitat for wildlife and is a national nature reserve.
Despite being able to catch a glimpse of Saint Paul’s Cathedral from some parts of the park, it’s home to hundreds of fallow and red deer roaming freely. As well as deer, over 144 species of bird have been recorded in the last 10 years at Richmond Park, including woodpeckers, owls, and kestrels. Small mammals call the park home too, but they’re not always as easy to spot, so keep your eyes peeled for rabbits, foxes, shrew and bats.
4. Lundy Island
Just off the coast of Devon, Lundy Island offers dramatic views and a range of animals that call the unspoilt land and coastal waters home.
While the island only has one native mammal – the pygmy shrew – its population has become much more diverse over the centuries. On land, you can spot Sika deer, rock wallabies, Lundy ponies and many other feral and domesticated animals. Around the coastal waters, seabirds are easy to spot, including puffins, and below the waves offers just as much for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep an eye on the waters and you could spot grey seals, dolphins, basking sharks, and much more thanks to the rich habitat.
5. Cardigan Bay
If you’re hoping to spot marine life, Cardigan Bay in Wales is an excellent place to head. The marine environment is full of wildlife. Throughout the year you regularly find bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise here. Getting out on the water with a boat trip provides you with even more opportunities to catch a glimpse of elusive animals, like leatherback turtles, orca and humpback whales. The visitor centre is a great place to learn more and find out how to spot the local wildlife.
As well as wildlife to explore, there are plenty of other attractions at Cardigan Bay too, including stunning castles, water sports and coastal towns to stroll around.
You don’t have to travel far at all to take in UK wildlife either – you could spot many native bird species and other animals in your garden or local park too.
Remember, some attractions may be restricted or closed at the moment due to Covid-19, so make sure you check before planning your trip.