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The best places to go for wildlife in the UK

“In wildness is the preservation of the world,” wrote naturalist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, and the UK's diverse landscapes serve as a potent reminder that you don’t need to hop on a plane to go on safari. From the haunting cry of the red kite in the valleys of the South Downs to the ghostly presence of the Scottish wildcat stalking the ancient Caledonian forests, the playful dance of otters in the Norfolk Broads to the comical gatherings of puffins on the Pembrokeshire Coast, these are the best places to go for wildlife in the UK. 


South Downs

A cluster of wooden barns set amongst countryside in West Sussex

Spanning West Sussex, East Sussex, and Hampshire, this National Park offers a serene escape in the heart of the English countryside, easily accessible from Winchester and Chichester. Trek along the 100-mile South Downs Way and keep your eyes peeled for majestic red kites soaring overhead, their distinctive forked tails silhouetted against the sky, while shy roe deer dart through the dappled shade of the woodland edge, delicate and graceful. In spring, the meadows erupt in a kaleidoscope of colours, with wildflowers like cowslips, orchids, and ox-eye daisies dancing across the landscape. As dusk falls, the haunting calls of barn owls echo across the valleys, while badgers emerge from their setts to forage under the moonlight.

Where to stay: Comprised of a four-story millhouse and a rustic couples' barn, set within English topiary gardens, Mill of Arun is a magical multi-generational estate. Its restored 700-year-old grain barn, Figgy Court provides a romantic retreat; with honey-hued oak beams, a cosy mezzanine bedroom, and a riverside hot tub. And its cinematic family home, Mulberry Mill, has a storybook character that has to be seen to be believed.



A beach house in Mousehole with balcony over hanging the shoreline

The Cornish coastline, carved by the relentless lashing of Atlantic waves, sets the stage for a raw and beautiful wildlife experience. Seaside towns like St Ives and Newquay, along with the fishing villages of Mousehole and Polperro, provide the perfect base for exploring. Witness the cavorting of basking sharks, the antics of playful dolphins, and the curious gaze of seals as you venture out to sea. Inland, amid the wild moors and ancient woodlands, lies a world of secretive wildcats, otters, and rare butterflies. The striking red bill and the haunting call of the Cornish Chough serve as an emblem of the county's successful conservation efforts. Nature is always putting on a performance, whether you're wandering the South West Coast Path or diving beneath the waves.

Where to stay: Perched on the rocks of Mousehole, Holanen combines contemporary design with antique furniture and local artwork. It’s a prime vantage point to watch dolphins play in the waves and the glow of St Michael's Mount shimmering across the bay.


Scottish Highlands

Architecturally interesting home on Loch Rannoch, in Scotland

The Scottish Highlands beckon with mist-shrouded peaks, mirror-like lochs, and vast expanses of wilderness. Inverness is the gateway to these mountains, and the remote outposts of Ullapool and Durness offer myriad opportunities for wildlife encounters. Golden eagles, the lords of the skies, swoop above the craggy peaks of Glencoe and the Cairngorms, their piercing gaze scanning the landscape for prey. Statuesque red deer roam in the heather-clad hillsides, their roars echoing through the glens during the autumn rutting season. The elusive Scottish wildcat stalks silently through the undergrowth of the Caledonian pine forests, while snoozing otters, leaping salmon, and diving ospreys make their homes in the lochs and rivers, fringed with moss-draped trees and fern-covered banks.

Where to stay: Inspired by Le Corbusier's clean lines and Scandinavian simplicity, Elemental has two private beaches, an acre of wildlife-rich gardens, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.


Pembrokeshire Coast

A Welsh beach shack on the waters edge

The Pembrokeshire Coast, easily reached from St Davids and Tenby, offers a front-row seat to some of the UK's most spectacular marine life. Embark on a boat from Fishguard or Milford Haven and find yourself surrounded by the playful antics of bottlenose dolphins, the inquisitive faces of Atlantic grey seals, and perhaps catch a glimpse of a porpoise breaking the surface. Towering cliffs, sculpted by the relentless attrition of the ocean, are home to vast colonies of seabirds. Puffins, with their comical expressions and colourful bills, share the ledges with guillemots, razorbills, and the occasional peregrine falcon. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path winds its way through wildflower-strewn meadows and windswept headlands, offering the chance to spot butterflies, otters, and, if you're lucky, pods of orcas cruising offshore.

Where to stay: Cable Hut, a romantic coastal home, harmonises modern interiors with the organic world. Floor-to-ceiling windows reveal horizon vistas while wild gardens seem to merge with secret beaches.


Norfolk Broads

A tree lined driveway leading up to a white house with red tiled roof

Shaped by centuries of human intervention and reclaimed by nature, this network of navigable rivers, tranquil lakes, and reed-fringed marshes is a stone's throw from the cathedral city of Norwich and the market towns of Wroxham and Beccles. Glide along the peaceful waterways in a traditional wooden boat or a modern kayak, and the Broads will reveal secrets at every turn. Marsh harriers glide over the swaying reedbeds, their distinctive V-shaped silhouettes and keen eyes searching for unsuspecting prey. Great crested grebes, elegant and poised, perform their mesmerising courtship dances, feathers gleaming in the sun. The booming calls of bitterns echo across the marshes in spring, a testament to the successful restoration of their habitat. As the seasons change, migratory wildfowl, including thousands of wigeons, teals, and shovelers, seek refuge in the sheltered wetlands.

Where to stay: Nyssa is a bohemian sanctuary that blends old-world charm with modern wellbeing, featuring a yoga studio, ice bath, sauna, and hot tub, within a rustic setting that embodies the spirit of restorative design and positive-energy architecture.


New Forest

A rustic home with clad walls and a tiled and galvanised roof, located in the New Forest

Once a royal hunting ground for William the Conqueror, the New Forest is a patchwork of woodlands, heath, and streams within easy reach of Southampton and the Georgian town of Lymington. Wander the forest trails, the soft crunch of leaves underfoot and the mottled sunlight filtering through the canopy, and stumble across wild ponies, descendants of the horses that carried medieval lords and ladies, grazing contentedly on the open lawns. Fallow deer drift silently through the woodland, their spotted coats and presence betrayed only by the snap of a twig. High in the canopy, the drumming of woodpeckers and the melodic songs of warblers fill the air, while rare butterflies like the silver-studded blue and the elusive purple emperor flit among the glades. Be sure to visit the Hampshire village of Beaulieu, where a 16th-century high street overflows with artisanal shops.

Where to stay: Pepper Shack and The Sanctuary are two peaceful cabin retreats on the outskirts of Lymington, close to the New Forest, offering a serene escape amid the wilds of nature, with directional interiors, hot tubs, and the gentle sounds of the forest creating a soothing atmosphere.


Isles of Scilly

GP3341 - A country home surrounded by fields and forestry, swimming pool in the garden

Cast adrift just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly feel a world apart despite being accessible by ferry from Penzance or by plane from Land’s End. This cluster of five inhabited islands and numerous uninhabited islets is an arcadia for wildlife. Step ashore on the largest island, St Mary's, and you'll find the surrounding waters are a playground for grey seals, their faces popping up from the waves as they follow your boat's wake. Dolphins often accompany the inter-island ferries, leaping and diving in the foam. The islands' mild climate and unique geology support a remarkable array of flora and fauna. Rare wildflowers, like the dwarf pansy and Scilly sea lavender, paint the coastal slopes in a vibrant palette. The red-barbed ant, found nowhere else in Britain, goes about its business among the sand dunes, while puffins and Manx shearwaters nest on the rugged cliffs.

Where to stay: Elowen offers a magical escape near Porthcurno Beach, with an outdoor pool and hot tub nestled in a wooded valley; its owners recommend day tripping to the Isles of Scilly by hopping on a plane from Land´s End Airport, helicopter or Scillonian from Penzance.


Brownsea Island

A beach house with sea views through verdant gardens; firepit and outside seating

Accessible by a short boat ride from Poole, Brownsea Island is a place where the clock seems to have stopped, and nature reigns supreme. This mosaic of woodland, heathland, and lagoons is a testimony to the power of conservation and a reminder of the precious diversity of the British Isles. As you step ashore, red squirrels scamper through the trees, their tufted ears and bushy tails rarely seen on the mainland but thriving here thanks to the absence of predators and careful management of their habitat. In the open grasslands, a flash of iridescent blue betrays a peacock, while the sound of birdsong fills the air as you wander the trails, from the musical trills of blackbirds to the raucous cries of jays. Come summer, the lagoon becomes a hive of activity, with sandwich and common terns diving for fish, while avocets and spoonbills wade through the shallows on slender legs.

Where to stay: Perched near the muscovado sands of Hive Beach on the Jurassic Coast, Sugar Ray is a clapboard beach house with Mediterranean-inspired outdoor spaces and eclectic interiors; travel to Brownsea via Poole Quay aboard the Brownsea Island Ferries.


Feeling inspired? Read about our "big five" properties for safari on home soil, discover the homes that feel at the ends of the Earth, or browse the full collection of luxury homes in the UK and Ireland.

Properties featured in this article: The Cable Hut, Sugar Ray, Elemental, Holanen, Pepper Shack, Figgy Court, Elowen, Nyssa, Mill of Arun, Mulberry Mill

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