Go wild in the country: 10 of the best UK wildlife holidays – The Guardian

Whether it’s walking or whale watching, put nature in the spotlight with a wonderful country break
Discover the richness of Scotland’s wildlife on a week-long tour, focusing on the rewilding programmes that are opening up across the Highlands. The trip offers the chance to see red kites – recently reintroduced to the region – bottlenose dolphins and ospreys, as well as watching pine martens from a private hide. Visits to remote crofts include talks on rewilding and time with a ranger at the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, home to white-tailed eagles and red deer. The trip can also be booked as a private tour.
The six-night trip costs £1,395pp, including accommodation, all meals and a guide; wildernessscotland.com
The Field Studies Council specialises in natural history days and experiences for schools, and also offers structured family holidays, based in FSC accommodation. Their three-night Minibeasts, Mice and the Mole weekend gives kids the chance to go river-dipping, set traps for small mammals (before releasing them) and hunt for minibeasts, with plenty of time to explore the beautiful countryside around Box Hill.
A three-night break, departing on 28 October, costs £130 for adults/£100 for children, including all meals and activities; field-studies-council.org
Home to one of the largest dolphin populations in Europe, the 60-mile stretch of Cardigan Bay is populated by 250 of the aquatic mammals. Bay to Remember runs dolphin-watching trips from April to October, from a quick one-hour trip to a more in-depth two-hour experience that offers the best chance of seeing dolphins. Longer trips take in Cemaes Head, home to a grey seal population, and all offer the chance to see the guillemots, razorbills and cormorants that nest above the bay. Stay at the nearby Red Lion, which has simple but comfortable rooms from £80 B&B (redlioncardigan.co.uk).
One-hour dolphin trips from £26pp; baytoremember.co.uk
One of the most wildlife-rich corners of England, this small group of islands off the Northumberland coast is home to thousands of grey seals and seabirds, with dolphins skimming through the surrounding waters. Billy Shiel’s Boat Trips offers a variety of experiences, from 90-minute seal-spotting excursions to longer cruises, taking in the smaller islands, including the mythical Lindisfarne. Stay at the Joiners Arms in Newton-by-the-Sea, which has opulent doubles from £190 B&B (joiners-arms.com).
Seal cruises £20pp (farne-islands.com)
Notoriously difficult to spot, a badger seen in the wild is an unforgettable experience. Two specially designed hides at Badger Watch Dorset offer one of the best chances of seeing one. Each hide can be booked privately for up to eight people, from 6.30pm until the lights are shut off at midnight. Alongside badgers, the hides offer a good chance of seeing foxes, deer and rabbits. Stay in nearby Dorchester, where the King’s Arms offers chic rooms from £105 B&B.
Hides cost £80 (1-4 people); £120 (5-8 people); badgerwatchdorset.co.uk
The skies over Norfolk teem with birdlife from August through to November, when the autumn migrations see dozens of species, from sandpipers and egret to ibis and owls, pass over the coastline. Norfolk Birding offers a three-night birdwatching break each month, with accommodation in a traditional farmhouse and trips each day to different areas of the county. Walks take in the salt marshes and sand dunes, with more than 100 bird species usually recorded over the weekend.
A three-night birding weekend costs £390pp based on two sharing; norfolkbirding.com
See one of nature’s most majestic species roaming free across open moorland on a half-day safari to some of the wildest, most stunning parts of Exmoor. The safari offers the chance to see both red deer stags and other species from the comfort of a Land Rover, with plenty of opportunity to get out of the vehicle to enable better viewing. Book room at the Exmoor Forest Inn, where the cosy dining room offers produce from the pub’s own farm. Doubles from £113 B&B (exmoorforestinn.com).
Red Stag Safari £75pp; redstagsafari.co.uk
Once famous for its whaling fleet, the Yorkshire coast is one of the best places in England to spot Minke whales, who appear in late summer, following the mackerel shoals. Yorkshire Coast Nature runs daylong guided boat tours from Staithes, combining time on shore to familiarise the group with the variety of local sea birds, with up to six hours on the water, spotting whales, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoise. Shorter, four-hour “twilight” trips are also available. The Royal George is a classic fisherman’s pub in Staithes, with three comfortable rooms from £100 B&B (theroyalgeorgestaithes.co.uk).
Day trips £90pp; yorkshirecoastnature.co.uk
The southernmost of the Inner Hebrides, Islay is as famous for its wildlife as its whisky, due to its varied habitat of wet grassland, moorland, bog and lochs. One of the best ways to explore the coastline – and spot some of the many bird species, otters and seals that call the island home – is by kayak, which move silently through the water without alarming nearby wildlife. Kayak Wild Islay offers three-hour or full-day guided trips, taking in hidden coves, long sandy beaches and hidden ancient sites. Stay at Glenegedale House, an award-winning B&B with four boutique-hotel standard rooms from £210 B&B (glenegedalehouse.co.uk).
Full day kayaking £80pp/half-day £60pp; kayakwildislay.co.uk
Puffin Island, at the north entrance to the Menai Straits, is a bird sanctuary and nesting site for many species of birds, and seals and porpoises are often spotted in the sea. It is the perfect place to spot the Atlantic Puffins – they arrive in April to nest and are here until the end of July when their pufflings are independent. Seacoast Safaris offers a range of trips and there are boats available for private charter. The Bull in Beaumaris is a classic coaching inn with chic rooms from £121 B&B (bullsheadinn.co.uk).
A two-hour Puffin Island & Menai Strait cruise costs £38pp; seacoastsafaris.co.uk.
This article was amended on 1 July 2022. An earlier version muddled two puffin spotting points in suggesting Pembrokeshire’s Skomer Island, but going on to describe Puffin Island, which is off the Anglesey coastline. The latter was the intended suggestion.


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