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Best Nature Reserves in the UK

Monday 04 March 2024

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The UK is brimming with wildlife. From bogs to beaches, our natural habitats are home to tens of thousands of different species of all shapes and sizes. Many of these creatures can be found within our country’s beautiful nature reserves, sanctuaries designed to protect vulnerable flora, fauna, and fungi. Exploring the thriving natural world on your doorstep is easy, so come along with CrossCountry to discover the best nature reserves in the UK.

Rutland Water, East Midlands

One of the largest man-made lakes in Europe, Rutland Water  is a haven for wildlife. It was developed in the 1970s to preserve, protect, and develop the local ecosystem. Since then, the results have been astonishing, with the reserve overseeing the first hatching of an Osprey chick in central England in over 150 years. It’s now one of the best nature reserves for enjoying bird watching in the UK, with events, trails, and immersive experiences for the whole family all year round.

Various bus routes are available from Stamford station to Rutland Water Nature Reserve, or for those keen on walking, Oakham station is a forty five minute amble away.

Pensthorpe, Norfolk

Spread over six hundred acres, Pensthorpe Nature Park in Norfolk splits the River Wensum, making a home for species from both sides of the river. It was established as a European Special Area of Conservation in 2004 due to its efforts in breeding endangered and threatened species and habitats and has remained a unique place to find certain wildlife. Whether it’s the red squirrel or grey crowned crane, families will have great fun spotting endangered species at Pensthorpe. 

Gilfach, Radnorshire

In the heart of Wales, Gilfach Nature Reserve spans 166 hectares of rolling hills, purple fields of heather, and meandering rivers. From woodland to moorland, the area is a sanctuary for hundreds of different species, like pied flycatchers, mountain bumble bees, and Atlantic salmon. Every autumn, the salmon can be glimpsed leaping along the River Marteg. Their journey takes them up charging waterfalls to calmer waters where they lay their eggs on the riverbed. A viewing platform – open in late October and November – offers the chance to view this magnificent sight, but if you miss the spectacle, the natural beauty of Gilfach is more than enough for a refreshing day out.

Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

Boats lined up on the river at Gibraltar Point

For those seeking the perfect combination of natural sights and wildlife encounters, Gibraltar Point is a must-visit. Hugging the dramatic Lincolnshire coastline, the reserve presents outstanding views of the landscape in every direction. It’s also the perfect places to glimpse dozens of bird species, like skylarks and little terns. The best time to spot them is in October at the visitor centre viewpoint. With a bit of luck, visitors may even spot a common seal swimming along the reserve's shores

Blacka Moor, Sheffield

Few sights are as majestic as the bellowing stag roaring amidst the sunrise, but if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse at Blacka Moor. The nature reserve spans across Sheffield and Rotherham and is home to this dramatic creature – among others. Whether you’re drawn to the red and white spotted fly agaric fungi,the charming flower meadows, or the ancient woodland, Blacka Moor makes the perfect day out. 

Blacka Moor is easily reachable from Sheffield station via one of the area's regular Peak Link buses. The reserve is about a half hours journey with plenty of scenery to enjoy along the way.

Montrose Basin, Angus

Montrose Basin  is most famous for its pink-footed geese, with one of the largest gatherings to be found in the UK. They begin arriving in late September until tens of thousands arrive per day in October (the record is around 90,000 in one day). Its proximity to the sea means the nature reserve is alive with wildlife all-year-round, with redshanks and oystercatchers wandering the shores and bright bills stalking the mud for worms.

The reserve is a thirty minute walk from Montrose station, which can be accessed via connections from Dundee station and Aberdeen station.

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

Skomer is a small island just off the coast of Pembrokeshire and is a haven for local wildlife. Sheltered in the surrounding waters and the island’s inlets you’ll find puffins, seals, and a variety of other species, as well as flowers such as bluebells. It’s hugely popular with locals and tourists alike, attracting a wealth of photographers. But make sure you time it right – the island is only open for visitors between April and September.

A colony of puffins on Skomer island.

Bystock Nature Reserve, Devon

Within touching distance of the Jurassic Coast, Bystock Nature Reserve stands as one of the best places in Devon to bask in nature. There are fifty nature reserves in Devon, and Bystock outshines them all with its variety of habitat, including open meadows, lily ponds, and heaths. Regular avian visitors are nightjars, great spotted woodpeckers, and dragonflies, as well as hundreds of other creatures to see. Its relatively small size makes it more than accessible for most people.

There are routes available to Bystock Nature Reserve from Exeter St David’s. The journey will reward views of the River Exe, known for its record breaking salmon population. 

If you’re planning to get out into nature, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or the CrossCountry app. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

Written by Julia

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