10 Of The Best UK Birdwatching Breaks

Are you looking for a unique holiday that lets you get closer to wildlife and allows you to explore the wonderful scenery of the UK? Birdwatching holidays are on the rise, and Britain has some of the best spots in the world to see wildlife in its natural habitat.

If you are looking for birdwatching breaks in the UK, we’ve taken a closer look at ten of our favourite destinations.

What’s the best time of year for birdwatching in the UK?

When it comes to birdwatching breaks in the UK, birders can enjoy what’s on offer all year round. Bird populations constantly move as they migrate with the changing seasons. Of course, not all birds migrate, and many species stay put, which means you can always see a huge variety of birds no matter where you go.

Ten of the Best Birdwatching Breaks in the UK

If you are wondering about the best locations for birdwatching breaks in the UK, here are ten of our favourite spots to visit:

Rathlin Island, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

When it comes to birdwatching holidays in the UK, Rathlin Island is a wonderful spot. Home to 150 people, this island becomes a hotspot for bird lovers. Hundreds of visitors arrive every April to greet the thousands of Puffins that make the 1,000 mile trip from Greenland and Iceland.

What makes this island special is that it’s inhabited year-round by 150 people. Puffins usually prefer to breed and nest on uninhabited islands, like the Farne Islands in Northumberland, or remote corners of the Isle of May off the coast of Scotland.

What’s the best time to go?

As Puffins breed between April and August, this is usually the best time to visit Rathlin Island. You’ll catch the busiest bits of the seabird breeding season and enjoy summery weather.

Where’s the best place to stay?

There are some great places to stay on Raithlin Island, but we recommend The Manor House, costing £200 for two nights on Airbnb. Head to their website to check their availability here.

Star Species on Rathlin:

  • Black guillemot
  • Corncrake
  • Red-billed chough
  • Puffin

North Uist, Outer Hebrides

Another fantastic holiday destination for birdwatchers is North Uist. This remote Isle in Scotland is home to a diverse array of birds and is very secluded. You will truly feel like you’re in the wild, and this is what makes it a great place for birdwatching.

What makes North Uist special is that it has the country’ largest and smallest bird living in the same area! Here you can see both the White-tailed Sea Eagle, with nearly a 2.5 metre wingspan (8ft!), and the country’s smallest avian resident, the Goldcrest; weighing the same as a 20p coin!

When is the best time to go?

One of the best times to head to North Uist is in May. The island comes alive with Cuckoos and huge numbers of rare birds of prey.

Where’s the best place to stay?

North Uist offers great places to stay, but North Uist Forest Retreats is a great destination, offering a range of luxurious cabins all year round. A weekend stay in summer costs from £350. Book your incredible getaway from their website here.

Star Species on North Uist:

  • White-tailed Sea Eagle
  • Cuckoo
  • Short-eared Owl
  • Merlin
  • Hen Harrier

Rutland Water, Leicestershire

Although it might be the smallest county in England, Rutland is home to a huge variety of birds. The various lagoons, wetlands and meadows make a great habitat for some amazing species, including everything from Egrets and Kingfishers to Ospreys, and the Anglian Birdwatching Centre is a wonderful destination. There are more than 30 birdwatching hides with experts on hand to answer any avian questions.

Rutland Water is a special destination as during the summer, the once rare breeder, the Osprey, comes to nest and raise up to 5 young per year. Each year, they arrive in April and depart for the sunny skies of West Africa again in late August.

When is the best time to go?

One of the best times to visit Rutland Water is in August as you’ll catch plenty of migratory birds stopping over for a drink, or even see the incredible power of the diving Ospreys before they make their big journey south.

Where is the best place to stay?

 The Finch’s Arms is a great B&B and located in the heart of the birding action. A double room for 2 nights are available from £320. Find their website here for more availability.

Star Species at Rutland Water:

  • Kingfisher
  • Osprey
  • Egret

The Wild Boar, Lake District

The Lake District is a great place to put on your birding bucket list as it offers some great views of many bird species. With vast landscapes and lakes stretching for miles, the Lake District has many incredible walks and birding hotspots to offer.

One of these hotspots is an unlikely recommendation, but The Wild Boar hotel is one of the best destinations in the region, with the 70-acre estate and woodland being home to an incredible variety of over 40 species of bird. If you want to get up close and personal with some great birds of prey, this hotel also offers an unforgettable Falconry experience.

When is the best time to go?

For some great bird sightings and to welcome the summer migrant in, head to the Lake District in Spring, between March and May.

Where is the best place to stay?

The Lake District prides itself on having a huge range of places to stay, but we recommend the luxury stay at The Wild Boar Hotel. For bed and breakfast doubles from £507, head to their website here to book your weekend now.

Star Species in The Lake District:

  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Mistle Thrush
  • Treecreeper

Guided tours, North Wales

North Wales is a wonderful holiday destination for birdwatchers. With a vast array of habitats to choose, from tall mountains to views of the Irish Sea, this landscape holds over 120 native and migrating birds.

What makes North Wales a special holiday destination is the region offers a vast range of guided bird tours. To really boost your birding list, head out with an expert on a guided 5-day tour of North Wales. Let Alan Davies and Ruth Miller guide you through North Wales’ hidden gems and the incredible birds that can be found.

Fulmar in North Wales

When is the best time to go?

North Wales has great species year-round, but we recommend anytime between August and October. Boost your Bird List with some incredible migrants.

Where is the best place to stay?

One of the best opportunities to see a huge array of birds is to go with the experts. Head to their website for full details of their 5-day full-board tour based at the Princes Arms Hotel in the scenic Conwy Valley. Tours start from just £995 per person and includes food and your room. We think this is really incredible value for money. Don’t just take it from us, check out Alan and Ruth’s website here.

Star Species in North Wales:

  • Red-billed Chough
  • Fulmar
  • Manx Shearwater
  • Pied Flycatcher

Spurn Peninsula, East Yorkshire

Based at the mouth of River Humber, the Spurn Peninsula is a popular destination for birdwatching breaks in the UK. This 3-mile long sandbar juts out into the North Sea and offers unrivalled views of seabirds. This is not a destination to miss, just remember to bring your best scope to get great views of the migrating seabirds.

Spurn also has a great Discovery Centre and a great opportunity to see the entirety of Spurn a bit closer via the Spurn Safari tours in their adapted ex-military 4×4 truck! For availability, check their website here.

When is the best time to go?

To see some great sights, the best time to visit the Spurn Peninsula is anytime between March and September. Rare migrants have a habit of turning up on the beach.

Where is the best place to stay?

One of the closest accommodations near Spurn is Westmere Farm, offering 2 night’s accommodation from £90. Organise your incredible weekend on their website here.

Star Species in East Yorkshire:

  • Whimbrel
  • Wheatear
  • Avocet
  • Oystercatcher
  • Little Tern

The Levels, Somerset

Another great spot for birdwatching breaks in the UK is The Levels in Somerset. Named The Levels as the land is so flat, which is a great advantage for bird life. The Levels have 32 SSSIs (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and is one of the largest wetlands remaining in England.

The Levels are home to many nature reserves which can offer a huge array of bird species. What better way is there to see The Levels with a local bird expert. Offering tours around Somerset, Mike Dilger from The Travelling Naturalist will guide you through some of the best kept secrets of The Levels.

When is the best time to go?

Although this is a wonderful spot throughout the year, the winter months are when the landscape comes alive with wildlife. Winter migrants take full advantage of The Levels’ wetlands and flock in huge numbers.

Where is the best place to stay?

The Naturalist runs many birdwatching holidays in the UK and they offer incredible opportunities to tour with an expert. They also offer tours from £795pp including all accommodation, half board and guiding; Visit their webpage here for full availability.

Star Species in Somerset:

  • Herons
  • Kingfisher
  • Bearded Tit
  • Snipe

Minsmere, Suffolk

One incredible space for bird lovers is a classic reserve, Minsmere. Much loved and featured in BBC’s Springwatch for its incredible number of species and fascinating views, RSPB Minsmere sees incredible UK bird species.

You might not realise, but every April, Minsmere in Suffolk welcomes many Nightingales who have travelled over 3,000 miles from West Africa! They are only here for six weeks a year, so make sure that you book your holiday early, as it is a popular spot for birdwatchers.

When is the best time to go?

Anytime between April and October. Many species are breeding and offer amazing views. Head to Minsmere in April at dusk to catch a glimpse of the Nightjar, and stick around in the early morning to view the Marsh Harriers sailing over the reedbeds.

Where is the best place to stay?

There are some great holiday accommodation options in Suffolk and Norfolk, but one that is within walking distance of Minsmere is The Eels Foot Inn. This great location for those visitors looking for a cosy B&B close to some of the most popular spots. For two nights, a Double room with en-suite can be booked from £220. Head to their website here to book your stay.

Star Species in Suffolk:

  • Marsh Harrier
  • Avocet
  • Bittern
  • Dartford Warbler

Speyside, Cairngorms

Not only does Britain’s highest mountain range offer spectacular views, but the Cairngorms are also home to some of the country’s rarest birds. Visitors to the Cairngorm Mountain might be able to spot the colour-shifting Ptarmigan and Mountain Hare and in the ancient pine forests you should keep an eye out for the charismatic and engaging Crested Tit and Red Squirrel.

The Cairngorms offer incredible views of truly inspiring sights of untouched landscapes and is really the Golden Eagle’s playground. Keep your eyes to the skies in search of these golden wonders.

When is the best time to go?

The Cairngorms is beautiful year-round and houses spectacular wildlife whenever you visit.

Where is the best place to stay?

The Grant Arms Hotel in Speyside is one of the most popular destinations for birdwatchers. The hotel operates The Birdwatching Wildlife Club, with information and guides on hand making it desirable for those seeking adventure and wildlife to do their own thing as well as take part in guided trips. This hotel offers a programme of fascinating wildlife talks and lectures. Book your bed and breakfast here from £100pppn. Check out their website here.

Star Species in the Cairngorms:

  • Crested Tit
  • Ptarmigan
  • Golden Eagle
  • Red Squirrel

The Lake, Cornwall

For those looking for immersive birdwatching holidays in the UK, then The Lake in Cornwall is an incredible destination. This off-grid converted shipping container has it’s own private lake, perfect for Canada Geese, Sand Martins and a few species of falcon!

You’ll have wild ponies for neighbours, and there’s a rowing boat to rent, plus a cage that lowers into the lake so you can keep beer and wine cold. Other creature comforts include a wood burning oven and solar power, and at night visitors are treated to a spectacular display of stars.

When is the best time to go?

Between April to October is the best time. Sand Martins arrive in mid-April.

Where is the best place to stay?

The Lake can be booked from £125 per night. Book your wonderful weekend away from their website here.

Star Species in Cornwall:

  • Sand Martin
  • Canada geese
  • Merlin

Other notable mentions:

Although these ten destinations are our favourites, the UK is packed with amazing birdwatching breaks. Other notable mentions include the Norfolk coastline, which offers a huge collection of guided bird tours ranging from two to five days and gives birdwatchers a chance to see some stunning birds.

Snowdonia in Wales is another great spot for a birdwatching break. The beautiful scenery is home to many different types of wildlife, including rare birds such as the Chough, Puffin and Cuckoos. The Cotswolds should also get a mention, with the region being a wonderful location for birdwatchers of all experience levels.

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