Top 10 family wildlife holidays in the UK

Staycationing this summer? Here are 10 places to introduce kids to the joys of wildlife.
 
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Top 10 family wildlife holidays in the UK

 1. PEMBROKESHIRE

The Pembrokeshire coast has been great for wildlife-sprinkled family holidays since my children first toddled. Part of the appeal comes from its many beaches and coves, which are ideal for rockpooling, decorating sandcastles and boogie-boarding.

More recently, we’ve homed in on St Davids, from where you can reach rocky headlands and low hills to the north or sandy beaches to the south. Peregrines whizzing past, puffins out at sea and hedgebanks alive with red campions and other wildflowers are all part of the mix. A trip to chough-rich Ramsey Island offers both thrills and wildlife. Kenny Taylor

Find out more

Ramsey Island is an RSPB reserve and open from April to October ☎ 07836 535733. Boats cross from St Justinian. Thousand Island Expeditions ☎ 01437 721686; www.thousandislands.co.uk Venture Jet ☎ 01348 837764; www.venturejet.co.uk

 

 

2. FARNE ISLANDS

Neither my wife nor my two children had ever seen a real puffin, and the easiest way to remedy this was a visit to the Farne Islands. The day we went, the sea was covered with a thick mist, adding an air of mystery to the adventure, and our first glimpse of the islands was when we were just 50 yards from the jetty.

Mid-June is the time to go. Almost every square inch of the island is occupied by nesting seabirds, mostly puffins, guillemots, razorbills, Arctic terns, shags and cormorants, and the children loved exploring among the birds and boulders in the summer sunshine. One creature made a particularly big impression on Harris: “the tern that pecked daddy so hard his head was bleeding”. Well, at least we’ll both always remember that. Gordon Buchanan

Find out more

The main islands for breeding seabirds are Inner Farne and Staple, and both are open from April to October. Contact the National Trust ☎ 01665 720651; www.nationaltrust.org.uk

 

 

3. DWYRYD ESTUARY

For children, there is something reassuring about going to the same place for a holiday each year, so we regularly return to the Dwyryd Estuary in Snowdonia National Park. For the duration of the holiday, our lives – like those of the estuary’s wildlife – are dominated by the tides and the weather. We love to sail, for instance, but there is only a small window of time when this is possible.

The estuary is a magnet for waders, and on shore we regularly see buzzards perched on telegraph poles. The best bit is arriving along the farm track, going over the top of the hill and seeing whether the tide is in. It’s the natural rhythms of life children don’t experience in the city that make these family holidays so special. Vassili Papastavrou

Find out more

To the south of the estuary is Morfa Harlech NNR, an area of sand dunes and saltmarshes. Visit http://countryside.wales.info

 

 

 4. BROWNSEA ISLAND

With red squirrels, sika deer and waterbirds all within a short walk of the quay, Brownsea Island is the perfect setting for a family outing. And though it was October when we visited, the day was warm and sunny.

We made straight for the hide overlooking the vast lagoon, where we saw a distant flock of spoonbills. But faraway birds can only hold my children’s attention for so long, and soon we headed off for a walk through the woods.
The children climbed trees, picked up pine cones and oak leaves, and displayed the boundless energy that made me wish I were young again. And we saved the best for last – close-up views of red squirrels on the Autumnwatch obstacle course. Stephen Moss

Find out more

Ferries run daily to Brownsea Island from Poole Quay and Sandbanks from March to October. The National Trust owns the island ☎ 01202 707744; www.nationaltrust.org.uk

 

 

5. BASLOW EDGE

Baslow Edge is a moorland wilderness in the east of the Peak District, easily reached by car or, more arduously, on foot from Baslow. Superbly situated, it has magnificent views down the valley to Chatsworth House.

Up on the moor, there are plenty of grouse, buzzards and kestrels. Our children loved imitating these birds, heaving themselves into the heather, tracking beetles as they ran for cover. At Eagle Stone, a weathered lump of gritstone, my daughter invented a story about a bird that whisked naughty children away to the fairy castle (otherwise known as Chatsworth). An hour up here will leave any youngster exhilarated, and hopefully exhausted, too. Mark Rowe

Find out more

Baslow Edge is 2km north-east of Baslow, accessible via tracks and footpaths. You can park at the north end of Baslow Edge if you take the road east out of Curbar.

 

 

6. THE ISLE OF MAN

Despite the beauty of the gorse-covered coast and purple-heather hills, this Celtic kingdom is untainted by mass tourism. The town of Peel is close to our boys’ idea of heaven: a sandy beach and a Viking castle that is reputedly haunted by the fearsome Moddey Dhoo, a ghostly black dog. Plus grey seals snorting among the fishing boats and ice cream served on the harbour wall.

Wildlife memories include counting choughs along Spanish Head and a basking shark patrolling Niarbyl Bay. Clan McDonald will invade again soon, Manannan’s mist permitting. Robbie McDonald

Find out more

A number of airlines fly to the Isle of Man from all over the UK. Further details at www.isleofman.com Ferries depart from Liverpool, Belfast and Dublin. www.steam-packet.com

 

 

7. DARTMOOR

We live in Devon, so going to Dartmoor is not really a holiday for us, but it’s a great place for a day out. On walks through Pullabrook Wood, we’ve watched dippers bobbing on rocks in the river, and at dusk on Trendlebere Down we have listened to the weird, churring calls of nightjars.

The dawn chorus in Yarner Wood is worth the early start, with chiffchaffs and redstarts among the songsters. We followed one morning sortie with a picnic breakfast watching the sunrise. Take a walk in Bluebell Wood near Meldon in May and look out for early purple orchids along the road verges. My daughter Hannah loved discovering beetles and sat for ages watching a caterpillar chewing a leaf. Paul Glendell

Find out more

Pullabrook Wood, Trendlebere Down and Yarner Wood are all part of East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths NNR. Natural England ☎ 01626 832330; www.naturalengland.org.uk

 

 

8. ISLE OF SKYE

As a family, we’re pretty adventurous, and our youngest, Arthur, made his first trip to the Masai Mara when he was just eight months old. But when we want a quick break with guaranteed wildlife, few places can beat Skye.

The scenery is stunning, the beaches empty and the people friendly but, above all, Skye is packed with otters. For a family obsessed with the creatures, it’s perfect. Our favourite cottage in the Sound of Sleat provides views of otters as they fish along the beach, so we can all rush out and follow them. We also drive over to Ord and scan for golden eagles, or down to Armadale to watch common and grey seals. Charlie Hamilton James

Find out more

You can drive to Skye by taking the toll-free road bridge that connects it to the mainland at the Kyle of Lochalsh. An extensive ferry service runs from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye. www.ealaghol.co.uk

 

 

9. THE LIZARD PENINSULA

Two summers ago, we rented a cottage between Coverack and Lizard Point. A short hike through woods and heather moorland took us to a beach that was only exposed at low tide and accessible by foot.

Our boys found brittlestars and starfish left in the rockpools by the retreating tide, and, poking around the low-water mark, they found a flatfish hiding in the sand. Once, as Alfred and I sat by the stream running down to the beach, a male golden-ringed dragonfly shot out from under the bridge. Compared with our home county of Cambridgeshire, this was truly exotic. Lynn Dicks

Find out more

Helston is the major local town and the hub of the bus network. For more details, visit www.visitlizardcornwall.co.uk

 

 

10. MULL OF GALLOWAY

Many moons ago, on impulse, we took the children to Scotland’s southernmost point, the Mull of Galloway. Picnicking below the lighthouse in a rock garden of thrift, we watched guillemots jostling on cliff-ledges and gannets plunge-diving into the glittering sea below.

While rockpooling in shallow bays north of Portpatrick, Laura came face-to-face with a grey seal, which was as fascinated by her as she was by the crabs scuttling over the sand. Years later, we received a postcard from Laura, now 21, repeating the visit with her partner. “We’re back,” it said. Our favourite place had become hers. Phil Gates

Find out more

The Mull of Galloway is an RSPB reserve ☎ 01556 670464; www.rspb.org.uk

 

 

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