10 top trips to discover wildlife and nature in the UK

Compact, diverse and packed with wildlife, the UK is one of the best and easiest places on the planet to experience the natural world. Here are ten trips to see the best of the UK...

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1: Photograph Dorset’s spring treasures

A colourful hawkmoth in Dorset (Wildlife Worldwide/ Alex Hyde)
Colourful hawkmoth in Dorset (Wildlife Worldwide / Alex Hyde)

Award-winning photographers Nick Garbutt and Alex Hyde are on hand to guide you through the ancient meadows of Kingcombe in Dorset, 200 years old and untouched by pesticides, as you wander this tranquil and inspiring 'workshop' to fine tune your photographic skills.

The hedgerows, fields and hay meadows surrounding the Kingcombe Centre are home to a huge array of wildlife, some common and easy to see, others a little more demanding, but all beguiling subjects for you to photograph. The air will be buzzing with bees, butterflies and other insects.

No matter what level you are, you'll come away with new techniques and skills, and a portfolio filled with small creatures and plants.

Who: Wildlife Worldwide

When: 12 & 18 May, 2017

How long: 3 days

How much: £495 (exc. flights)

2: Explore remote Orkney and the Shetland islands

The Shetland coastline (Dreamstime)
The Shetland coastline (Dreamstime)

As the UK’s northernmost isles, the Orkneys and the Shetlands offer intriguing archaeological sites, spectacular seabird colonies, and waters teeming with otters, White-beaked and White-sided Dolphin, as well as Humpback, Minke and predatory Killer Whales.

You’ll visit the spectacular seabird ‘cities’ of Noss, Sumburgh and Skara Brae, a fantastic chance to tick off rare breeds and see birds in spectacular numbers. 

A highlight of the trip is a dusk visit to Mousa. Here, inside the ancient Pictish broch stonework, you'll be treated to the rhythmic ’churring’ of tiny Storm Petrels, a sound as old as time.

Who: Speyside Wildlife

When: Jun/Jul 2017

How long: 10 days

How much: £2,295 (inc. domestic flights)

3: Venture south to the Isles of Scilly

Rushy Bay Beach on Bryher (Dreamstime)
Rushy Bay Beach on Bryher (Dreamstime)

Scattered to the south west of Cornwall, the Scilly Isles are unlike anywhere else in the UK. Only five are inhabited, but they all have their own unique charm and character.

Beautifully unspoilt and with very little traffic, it's all about the outdoor life here. The climate is the best in the UK, and you'll enjoy empty white sandy beaches, turquoise seas and nature trails pretty much to yourself.

St Mary’s is the largest and busiest of the inhabited islands, but still offers mile upon mile of coastal paths and nature trails. The island of Tresco is a mere stone’s throw away and boasts landscapes sculpted by the wind and waves. 

St Agnes is the UK’s southwestern outpost. A whitewashed lighthouse meets the edge of the Atlantic and on the west side, granite cairns overlook rocky edges, marking the site of the countless ships lost on this treacherous spot.

Who: Wexas

When: Departures throughout the year

How long: Flexible

How much: POA

4: Get active in the Cotswolds

The rolling Cotswold hills (Dreamstime)
The rolling Cotswold hills (Dreamstime)

Can a destination be both relaxing and physically challenging? The Farncombe Estate, certainly tries to be. It is a back-to-nature bolthole on a Cotswold hill that provides a range of structured or unstructured outdoor activities, all within reach of your room in the golden stoned manor house.

Visitors can choose between hiking in the rolling Cotswold hills or learning a new skill like archery. Activities are held in the morning and afternoon, leaving plenty of time to walk to Broadway town for lunch or a walk to the local Broadway Tower. 

Qualified instructors are on hand to make your Cotswold experience as fulfilling and enjoyable as possible.

Who: Chapters Experience Holidays

When: 7 Jul & 18 Aug 2017

How long: 3 nights

How much: £496 (exc. flights)

5: Conquer Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall near Housesteads (Dreamstime)
Hadrian’s Wall near Housesteads (Dreamstime)

Explore the raw beauty and multi-layered history of Wall Country, a distinctive English region, dominated by the wall that the Romans built over field, crag and river nearly 2000 years ago.

From bustling medieval market towns, through gentle farmland and craggy rocks strewn with tumbled Roman stones to thick woods and wild loughs, this is a landscape that inspires awe and is a character in its own right.

This tour offers a wealth of different elements: a remarkable landscape, a deep history and traces of Roman power. Wander amongst the archeological finds at Vindolanda, soak up the beauty of Cragside or Lanercost priory, and dine on the local food and drink, influenced by the region's chaotic history.

Who: Peter Sommer Travels

When: 8 Jul 2017

How long: 7 days

How much: From £2,495

6: Paint watercolour landscapes in the Lake District

Derwent Water Lake (Dreamstime)
Derwent Water (Dreamstime)

What better way to explore and understand the spectacular Lake District than to paint it? Under the watchful eye of watercolour specialist Fiona Pruden, you will learn landscape painting techniques, from the very basics needed for complete beginners to more advanced skills for the more experienced artists, all in one of the most beautiful corners of England.

Based at Hassness Country House, there will be short strolls to perfect locations from where to learn and develop your technique. There will also be time to explore the beautiful Buttermere landscapes, within a stone's throw of the house for even more inspiration.

Who: Chapters Experience Holidays

When: 14 Oct 2017

How long: 4 nights

How much: £650 (exc. flights)

7: Hike Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast

St Bees beach (Dreamstime)
St Bees beach (Dreamstime)

Looking for a long-distance challenge in one of the most beautiful corners of England? The 194 mile Coast to Coast walk from St Bees on the Cumbrian coast to Robin Hoods Bay on the North Sea shore could be for you, taking in three National Parks and some of the country’s most inspiring scenery.

This hike tackles the 110-mile eastern section from Kirkby Stephen to Robin Hoods Bay. You’ll walk from inn-to-inn, staying in B&Bs, guesthouses and small hotels. 

With the Lake District behind you, you’ll cross the Pennines, the backbone of England, into the glorious countryside of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Continuing east, you’ll enter the heather moorland of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, before dipping down to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast. Dip your toes in the sea, have a pint in the pub, and then take a well-earned snooze.

Who: Ramblers Walking Holidays

When: Spring and autumn 2017

How long: 9 nights

How much: From £999 (exc. flights)

8: Come face-to-face with Skomer’s puffins

An Atlantic Puffin on Skomer (Dreamstime)
Atlantic Puffin on Skomer (Dreamstime)

The Atlantic puffin is one of the most photogenic seabirds in the world, a delightfully eccentric subject that will bring smile to your face and a sparkle to your photos. Skomer is the perfect place to photograph them, especially when award-winning wildlife photographer Bret Charman is on hand to give you tips and advice.

Spending three full days on the island, you can escape the throng of day visitors and photograph puffins unhindered. The birds are used to human presence, so you'll get plenty of superb photographic opportunities. 

As well seeing as puffins, there will also be a chance to witness the phenomenon of Manx shearwaters returning to the island as darkness falls. Around 70,000 birds arrive after sunset, looking for their breeding burrows, a magical moment only experienced by those lucky enough to be overnighting on the island.

Who: Wildlife Worldwide

When: Jun 2107

How long: 3 days

How much: From £445 (exc flights)

9: Seek out Scotland’s Big Five in the Cairngorms

A wild stag in Scotland (Dreamstime)
Wild stag in Scotland (Dreamstime)

This all-inclusive wildlife-watching holiday takes you right into the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, searching for Scotland’s prize mammals, including the Big 5 from the Year of Natural Scotland's Big 5, from a few years back. 

In the wild uplands, Mountain Hare hide from fearsome Golden Eagles and Red Deer stand silhouetted in dramatic mist. Around Ballintean's woods, you’ll spot Red Squirrels, busy at special feeders, and Roe Deer, grazing in the meadows. After dinner, you’ll visit the hide to see elusive Pine Marten. 

You’ll also spend a day on Moray Firth searching for dolphins, otters and minke whales, before returning for a night ‘safari’ in pursuit of badger, deer and owls.

Who: Speyside Wildlife

When: 5 Aug 2017

How long: 8 days

How much: From £1,195 (exc. flights)

10: Walk the four corners of Anglesey

Llanddwyn Island (Dreamstime)
Llanddwyn Island (Dreamstime)

Anglesey’s coastal path is one of the best kept secrets of Wales. The country's largest island is steeped in history, wildlife and natural beauty, and this walk takes in the four corners of its officially recognised 'Areas of Outstanding Beauty'. 

With towering cliffs, sandy beaches, woodlands, mountains, marshes and grassland, you're bound to enjoy the variety on offer on the island.

During your four days of walking, you'll take in limestone escarpments, wide beaches and sand dunes on the southern coast, with dramatic sea cliffs and remote landscapes on the northern coast, before finishing at the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch. The lengthy name was invented in Victorian times to encourage tourism, a successful endeavour, as travellers are still making visit here some 150 years later.

Who: Ramblers Walking Holidays

When: Summer and autumn 2017

How long: 5 nights

How much: From £559 (exc. flights)

Main image: Old Man of Coniston (Dreamstime)

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