Rare & wild: top UK destinations for nature-lovers

For many people, the perfect holiday should consist of two parts sunshine to one part sangria. While millions of Britons head abroad in search of good weather and cheap cocktails, others prefer to stay at home and savour the quieter things in life. A staycation, as it’s known, provides an affordable way to unwind whilst experiencing the natural beauty for which Britain is renowned. Whoever said that the best things in life are free was clearly a cheapskate. Nevertheless, they also had a point: there are some things that money can’t buy, like watching the sun set over Nash Point Lighthouse, or witnessing ospreys hunt over the Solway Firth. If your perfect holiday involves getting up close and personal with Mother Nature, read on to discover our pick of Britain’s best: the most beautiful landscapes that money cannot buy. While your days are spent spotting rare birdlife and wild animals, your evenings can be enjoyed in the comfort of a luxury holiday rental, because being at one with nature shouldn’t mean having to rough it. On the HomeAway website, you’ll find a plethora of holiday properties that are perfectly situated and stocked with little luxuries that help to make a good holiday great. First though, here’s our pick of Britain’s best destinations for nature-lovers.

  1. Solway Firth, Dumfries and Galloway

    If you’re not averse to a spot of walking, you’ll relish the Solway Firth. 200 miles of hiking trails encompass sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and undulating plains. A Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Solway Firth is rightfully regarded as the jewel in the crown of Dumfries and Galloway. During the summer months, look out for ospreys feeding their young, while at nightfall the countryside becomes the playground of barn owls and badgers. Rare birds of all kinds flock to the Solway Firth including barnacle geese, waders and ducks. Bring some binoculars, a packed lunch and pick a good spot from which to watch the action.

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  2. Nash Point, South Glamorgan

    This rocky headland in South Wales is a popular haunt with ramblers and hikers who follow the cliff-top path to Nash Point Lighthouse. 28 miles of coastline provide ample opportunities for picnicking and bird-watching, while the lighthouse itself is a charming sight to behold. Head here at dusk to witness one of Britain’s most spectacular sunsets. You’ll be glad you brought your camera phone. Some views are too precious to consign to a 10-second Snapchat; this is one you’ll certainly want to preserve for posterity. The Vale of Glamorgan attracts bikers, hillwalkers and other outdoor types. Explore the rolling countryside and rugged coastline on the southernmost point of Wales.

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  3. Jurassic Coast, Dorset and South Devon

    Incorporating some 95 miles of coastline, the Jurassic Coast runs from East Devon to Dorset. Clamber over 185 million years of history and absorb the natural beauty of this spectacular World Heritage site. The coastline encompasses three geological eras: the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, each of which is typified by a different type of rock. Fossils are plentiful here, so keep your eyes peeled for these stony souvenirs, each of which tells a unique tale of life from a bygone era. Be sure to check out the Durdle Door, a limestone arch that is dashed by the waves, and stop for a rest at Chesil Bank, where the shingle beach is flanked by a tidal lagoon.

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  4. The Cotswolds

    It takes more than a few leafy trees and some pretty flowers to warrant designating a region an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It would be fair to say the Cotswolds, then, isn’t your run-of-the-mill countryside. Ancient beech woodlands give way to undulating grassland that houses rare plant and animal life. Aside from the naturally-occurring wildlife, you’ll be able to witness penguins, flamingos and storks at Birdland Park and Gardens, which is home to over 500 species. Swim, hike and bike to your heart’s content in the Cotswolds in between taking the time to explore the charming villages and towns that lend this unspoiled part of the world its unique character.

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  5. Orkney Islands

    A short ferry ride from John O’Groats lie Scotland’s Orkney Islands, a haven for birds and marine life of all kinds. Oystercatchers, short-eared owls, seals, whales and dolphins – all can be found here, along with the thousands of breeding seabirds that make their home on the islands’ steep cliffs. It’s not just animal life that the islands are renowned for either: you’ll also find an array of wild flowers including yellow coltsfoot, pink thrift and orchids. There’s also the rare Scottish Primrose which is unique to Orkney, North Sutherland and Caithness. Scuba dive in Scapa Flow and take a boat ride to see the Old Man of Hoy, a rocky monument that enthralls all who cast their gaze upon it.

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