The best places to see the most ‘exotic’ wildlife in the UK
Particularly if you live in a town or city, it can be easy to forget that parts of the UK are home to some outstanding natural beauty, and a wide variety of wild animals. Though we’re all stuck inside for the moment, car leasing firm LeaseCar have put together an animal spotting roadtrip route around the UK - meaning you’ve got plenty of time to plan your post-lockdown adventure.
You’ll need to head to Scotland if you want to lay your eyes on a humpback whale or two, but there’s a fair bit of choice once you’re there. The best places to spot them are Newburgh in Fife, the Moray Firth, Stoer Head lighthouse, the Hebrides and the Shetland Islands.
At one time red squirrels would have been a common site all over the country, but they’ve increasingly been forced out by invasive grey squirrels. You can still see the native red in a number of places, though, including Smardale Gill and Wreay Wood in Cumbria, Brownsea Island in Dorset, Freshfield Dune heath in Lancashire and Loch of the Lower in Perthshire.
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Significant numbers of both the grey seal and the common, or bearded, seal call the UK home. They can be found relatively easily on the Orkney Islands, Blakeney and Horsey Gap in Norfolk, Donna Nook in Lincolnshire, the Farne Islands in Northumberland, Moray Firth, Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire and Falmouth in Cornwall.
As one of the smartest sea-dwelling creatures in the world, it’s no wonder that many dolphins choose to spend their time around the UK’s beautiful coastlines. Head to any of the following places for a good shot at seeing them in the wild: Cardigan Bay, Orkney, Shetland, Point Lynas and Puffin Island in Anglesey, Berry Head in Devon, Land’s End Peninsula and St Ives Bay in Cornwall, and the Dartmouth coast.
Not half as scary as they sound, basking sharks are big - they typically grow to 8 metres in length - but harmless, as they only feed on tiny fish and plankton. They’re placid, and relatively unperturbed by divers, if you fancy getting up close. They can be found in the Hebrides, Lyme Bay in Dorset, Cardigan Bay, the Cornish coast, and the Isle of Man’s southern coast.
Though they’re not entirely uncommon, otters are relatively elusive and tend to be difficult to come across out in the wild. Your best chances to see them are in Aughton Woods in Lancashire, Ranworth Broad in Norfolk, the Wolseley Centre in Staffordshire and Cricklepit Mill in Devon.
You might well be familiar with domesticated horses, and while they’re certainly impressive creatures, there’s something somewhat magical about seeing the wild horses that live on the moors of Dartmoor National Park and Exmoor, or The New Forest in Hampshire.
Among the rarest and most elusive creatures on this list, we might typically associate killer whales - or orca - with Seaworld, but there are places right here in the UK where you can spot them in the wild. Try your luck at Cardigan Bay, the Shetland Islands and Orkney for a chance to spot one of the ocean’s deadliest hunters.
As little black and white birds go, puffins are perhaps second only to penguins in the cuteness stakes. But, unlike penguins, you likely don’t have to travel too far to see puffins in the wild. They can be spotted at certain times of year at Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire, Bullers of Buchan in Aberdeen, the North Cornish coast, Skomer, Farne islands in Northumberland and Isle of May in Fife.
While they were wiped out in the rest of the UK before the dawn of the 20th century, golden eagles have made something of a resurgence in Scotland over the last few decades. This means you’ve got a decent chance of spotting them in Mull (Inner Hebrides), the Wester Ross Coastal trail, the Cairngorms and Findhorn Valley, Harris (Outer Hebrides) and Islay (Inner Hebrides).