Header image by Reuben Hustler
The UK is rich with areas of outstanding natural beauty and boasts an astonishingly varied range of animals to call them home. Due to its relatively small size, it’s also among the most accessible and convenient places for tourists to cover a range of landscapes in a relatively short space of time. It’s no wonder, then, that a record 41.7 million of them chose to visit the country in 2018. Here are just a few of our favourite places to escape the crowds:
The Lake District
Voted Top UK Destination by readers of Wanderlust Magazine, the Lake District was immortalised in verse by no less than William Wordsworth himself (who also made his home there). The region’s combination of mountains, woods and open water has been preserved for a grateful public ever since, and the grandeur of the views is no less now than then. In terms of wildlife, it’s the largest sanctuary for the native red squirrel in England, with many birds of prey also appreciating the scenery. Hikers are well served by walking routes through the heart of it all, and there’s a fine choice of restaurants to reward you at the end of the day.
Perhaps not so well-known, Dungeness is a truly unique spot within the UK – an inhabited stretch of shingle with such singular looks that it’s been the location for countless British films. A modest hamlet of houses (full of old railway carriages and fishermen’s dwellings) only add to its desolate charm. The amount of creatures calling this National Nature Reserve (and Site of Special Scientific Interest) home is hard to believe. Dungeness boasts 600 types of plants, for example – a third of all the varieties found in the whole country!
Photo by Zoltan Tasi
Cairngorms National Park
Further north, Cairngorms National Park is one of Scotland’s most-visited spots for wildlife on a grand scale, encompassing a large portion of the country’s entire woodland. With mountains, moorlands and rivers, the area manages to host 25% of the UK’s threatened species and the park’s engagement with wildlife watching means it’s among the best places to witness them in their natural state.
Photo by Joe Green
The Jurassic Coast
The UK has, in its time, been home to far more than just the species you’ll see today. And, if natural history is of particular interest to you, there are few better sites than the Jurassic Coast. Stretching from East Devon to Dorset, its fossil-rich rocks resulted in it being awarded England’s first natural World Heritage Site. And, with picturesque seaside towns dotted along the trail, there’s no loss of comfort, however far back you explore.
Photo by Andy Holmes
This historic island just off the coast of Wales has been inhabited since prehistoric times, as evidenced by its stone monuments. Throughout its colourful history it’s hosted druids, pirates and Vikings (although visitors will be quite safe nowadays). Boasting both heritage trails and wildlife walks, Anglesey’s highlights include high cliffs, hidden coves, sandy beaches and the area’s native seals playing in the surf below. Even further out, those with a taste for sailing or diving will find the waters inviting, and there’s even a Sea Zoo to see the local wildlife up even closer.