18 of the Best Nature Reserves to Visit in the UK
Reconnect with the diverse landscapes of the Great British countryside by exploring one of the UK's nature reserves. Maintained by various bodies, such as the Wildlife Trust, RSPB and National Trust, nature reserves not only protect natural places and the wildlife that inhabits them but also allows people to discover them. We've compiled a guide to the UK's best nature reserves, what makes them special and where you can camp nearby.
1. Auchalton Meadow, Scotland
Situated in South Ayrshire, on the West Coast of Scotland, Auchalton Meadow sits on the site of 19th-century lime workings. Looked after by the Scotland Wildlife Trust, the meadow is a vast grassland rich with orchids. At the height of the summer, Auchalton is buzzing with flourishing plant life and bustling insects.
2. Axmouth to Lyme Regis Undercliffs, Dorset
Stretching five miles between the seaside town of Lyme Regis and Dorset village of Axmouth, the Undercliffs are a National Nature Reserve is the result of the UK's largest landslip. In springtime, woodland birds swoop above the reserve and plants begin to bloom including several rare ancient indicator species such as Dogs Mercury and Purple Gromwell.
3. Beinn Eighe, Scotland
Towering above Loch Maree in the Scottish Highlands, Beinn Eighe is the biggest of the three magnificent Torridon peaks. Covering 4,758 hectares, Beinn Eighe became Britain's first National Nature Reserve in 1951. Explore mountain peaks and ancient pinewoods, and keep an eye out for soaring crossbills and swooping golden eagles.
4. Cabilla and Redrice Woods, Cornwall
Situated just three miles east of the historic Cornish town of Bodmin, the Cabilla and Redrice Woods are one of the finest ancient woodlands in the country. The reserve boasts an extensive range of forest, with ancient oak and hazel, as well as river and wetland belts.
5. Derbyshire Dales, Peak District
Lying among the rolling hills of the Peak District National Park, the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve comprises five individual limestone valleys. In June, ascend Lathkill Dale for spectacular views of the winding river and vibrant display of blue-coloured Jacob's ladder.
6. Donna Nook, Lincolnshire
Covering more than six miles of Lincolnshire coastline between Saltfleet and Grainthorpe Haven, Donna Nook National Nature Reserve is an excellent day out for the whole family. In November and December, colonies of grey seals migrate to Donna Nook to give birth to their pups beside the sand dunes.
7. Duke's Wood, Nottinghamshire
Located in the quaint countryside of Nottinghamshire, Duke's Wood Nature Reserve combines a deciduous woodland and industrial archaeology. Stretching over 8 hectares, Duke's Wood sits on the location of the UK's first onshore oilfield. You'll find the "nodding donkeys" dotted around the wood, the restored pumps of the oilfield.
8. Gilfach, Wales
Sitting within the historic Welsh county of Radnorshire, Gilfach is an old hill farm offering spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding Marteg Valley. Teeming with buzzing wildlife and fascinating history, Gilfach was once a working hill farm but is now a nature reserve popular with hikers, dog walkers and birdwatchers.
9. Inversnaid, Scotland
Perched on the banks of Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Great Britain, Inversnaid Nature Reserve sits in one of the most picturesque landscapes in Scotland. Surrounded by the awe-inspiring peaks of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Inversnaid is a haven for birds, including warblers, twites, redstarts, flycatchers and grouses.
10. Lindisfarne, Northumberland
Marooned off the Northumberland coast and only accessible by causeway at low tide, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne is a dramatic and historic piece of British heritage. Covering over 3,500 hectares of dunes, saltmarsh and mudflats, the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve was founded to protect essential wintering bird populations.
11. Merkinch, Scotland
Overlooking the shimmering waters of the Beauly Firth in North Scotland, Merkinch Local Nature Reserve is a hidden gem in the heart of Inverness. Teeming with wildlife such as roe deer, owls, weasels, cormorants and herons, Merkinch is a wonderful place for a walk or picnic.
12. Pensthorpe, Norfolk
Located beside the meandering River Wensum, Pensthorpe Natural Park has won Norfolk's Best Large Attraction award multiple times and for a good reason. Explore over 700 acres of ancient woodland, tranquil lakes and pristine gardens - including the impressive Millennium Garden, designed by renowned plantsman Piet Oudolf.
13. Salthill Quarry, Lancashire
Once upon a time, Salthill Quarry lay at the bottom of an ocean. Today, this lofty nature reserve is a paradise for some of the country's most beautiful flora and fauna. Situated in the heart of the Lancashire countryside, Salthill Quarry is brimmed with blossoming wildflowers, skittering butterflies and swooping birds.
14. Samphire Hoe, Kent
Positioned just two miles west of the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, Samphire Hoe is a nature reserve and country park created at the time of the construction of the Channel Tunnel. Combining dramatic views, wildflowers and peaceful walks, Samphire Hoe is an extraordinary part of the Great British coastline.
15. Slievenacloy, Northern Ireland
Located in a sloping valley in the rolling Belfast Hills, around 10 miles from the Northern Irish capital, Slievenacloy is a stunning nature reserve and grassland rich with wildlife. Offering breathtaking views of five of Northern Ireland's six counties, Slievenacloy is a mosaic of meadows, rush pasture and moor grass.
16. Sutton Park, Midlands
Located in and named after the royal town of Sutton Coldfield on the outskirts of Birmingham, Sutton Park National Nature Reserve is an urban park comprising 2,400 acres of heathland, wetland and marshland. As well as being a National Nature Reserve, Sutton Park is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
17. Rhinog, Wales
Sitting within the Snowdonia National Park, the Rhinogs, known locally as the Rhinogydd, are a range of lofty mountains in North Wales. Consisting of angular rocks and upland heath, the Rhinog National Nature Reserve has various pathways perfect for a challenging hike. Ascend the Roman Steps, originating from medieval drovers' routes and marvel at the surrounding views of the Welsh countryside.
18. Westhay Moor, Somerset
Part of the mystical Avalon Marshes in Somerset's historic Levels and Moors, Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve is a low-lying swampy area that provides a home for rare wildlife. Stretching over 500 hectares, Westhay Moor is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
If you're looking for more historical days out in the UK, take a look at our favourite World Heritage Sites you can visit on your next camping trip. If you are thinking of taking a camping trip with children, make sure you read our guide to the best theme parks in the UK.