8 Places to See Red Squirrels in the UK / Red Squirrel Week

Red squirrel

Despite being one of the nation’s most beloved native species, red squirrels are still rare in the wild. But conservation efforts are helping to revive their numbers – aided by events like Red Squirrel Week in late September.

Autumn is the best time to spot red squirrels. With fewer leaves on the trees you can see them begin to gather food from the woodland floor for the long winter.

There are plenty of places where you can appreciate ‘sciurus vulgaris’ in the wild, many of which are surrounded by green ‘buffer zones’ to keep grey squirrels at bay.

So if you’re after the perfect autumn walk with some wonderful wildlife, take a look at the best places to spot red squirrels in the UK…

1. Brownsea Island, Dorset

red squirrel feeding

The coastal waters of Dorset provide a great defence against grey squirrels, allowing a large native population of red squirrels to thrive in the wild at this National Trust protected island.

About 250 red squirrels live on Brownsea, making it one of the most populated red squirrel homes in the UK. Its short distance from the Dorset shore in Poole harbour, makes it one of the most scenic and spectacular too!

2. Dalbeattie Forest, Dumfries and Galloway

red squirrel eating

Scotland’s preservation efforts have seen the red squirrel population thrive, with around 75% of the UK’s total native species now living north of the border in Dumfries and Galloway.

There are loads of places to spot red squirrels in Scotland, but the first official trail in southern Scotland at Dalbeattie is one of the most lovely. Here you will find one of the 7stanes mountain biking centres, offering a perfect selection of trails for an active exploration of the red squirrel population.

For a more relaxing time, wander the 90,000 acre Queensberry Estate and grand Victorian Gardens at Drumlanrig Castle and Country Estate.

3. Plas Newydd, Anglesey

squirrel

Views over the Menai Strait and Snowdonia are perfect settings for admiring the local red squirrel population at the beautiful Plas Newydd country house and gardens in Anglesey.

The property and grounds offer plenty of places to walk through the woods and parkland, with benches located throughout.

Originally six squirrels were introduced to Plas Newydd in 2008, but that figure now stands at over 100. They have even crossed the Menai Strait (reds are known to be very good swimmers!).

4. The Isle of Wight

squirrel

The coastal barrier of the Isle of Wight has allowed a beautiful haven for red squirrels to thrive, and a visit to the beautiful Isle allows you to appreciate the reds in stunning natural surroundings.

The Isle’s old railway lines were converted into the Red Squirrel Trail in 2003. The trail runs from Cowes in the north through Newport, Shanklin and Sandown taking in woodlands, wetlands and plenty more in-between.

The Alverstone Mead Nature Reserve is one of the best places to catch sight of red squirrels along the route. Located mid-way down the Isle, it offers a hide so you can appreciate the native red squirrels as they go about their business.

Other Locations:

5. The Snaizeholme Red Squirrel Trail in the Yorkshire Dales offers a viewing area in the Widdale Red Squirrel Reserve.

6. Both Whinlatter Forest Park in Keswick and Aira Force offer lovely places for viewing the resident red squirrels in Cumbria.

7. Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland offers a safe haven for ospreys and salmon as well as red squirrels. The Castle Visitor Centre has a red squirrel room and a red squirrel hide nearby too.

8. Enjoy Formby Red Squirrel Walk where you can explore and spot native red squirrels in beautiful woodland surrounding Formby in Merseyside.

nature infographic

Take a look at our Nature Infographic to see what other wildlife can be seen at this time of the year in the UK, and you can click on the links to search for holiday cottages nearby too!

2017 Autumn Events to Enjoy in the UK

Blackpool fireworks

Blackpool Illuminations, Lancashire: Sept 1 – 5 Nov

Edwardian Blackpool lit up the night sky to celebrate the town’s first royal visit. Since then, seasonal visitors have been treated to a dazzling light show

Today, more than a million bulbs flash, sparkle and twinkle along Blackpool’s famous promenade from the end of August until November. One of the best ways to experience the lights is to take one of the heritage trams along the seafront. Be sure to book early though as the tours are very popular.

Why not take in with the World Fireworks Championships which take place in Blackpool on each Friday in September. It’s all free and a wonderful companion to the illuminations. This year sees Poland, France and South Africa competing for the crown with a special display by the UK to accompany the winner announcement on 29 September.

World Black Pudding Throwing Championships, Ramsbottom: 2nd Sunday in September

This annual competition between Lancashire and Yorkshire sees black puddings hurled at a pile of Yorkshire puddings on a 20 foot high plinth.

You can relax and enjoy the spectacle of black pudding throwing or take part and compete against others in this modern-day war of the roses.

The black pudding used in the competition travels from Bury to Ramsbottom via steam train.

Broadstairs Food Festival, Kent: 29 Sep – 1 Oct

www.broadstairsfoodfestival.org.uk

Broadstairs

Local, award-winning produce, live demonstrations and much much more on the Kent coast overlooking the sandy Viking’s Bay.

This globetrotting gastronomic event allows you to sample an extensive choice of cuisines including Italian, Thai, Chinese and British. These and more can be found in and around the town. Live demonstrations by local restaurateurs, students and tutors from the local college are held in the Kitchen Theatre.

Slindon Pumpkin Festival, West Sussex: 30 Sept – 31 Oct

Slindon, a National Trust village  near Arundel in West Sussex, plays host to a  celebration of gourds and squashes. Each year the Upton family create an enormous artwork entirely from pumpkins displayed proudly on their barn.

The village also offers fantastic walking opportunities having the South Downs on its doorstep as well as the enchanting Slindon woods.

Nottingham Goose Fair: 4 – 8 October

goose fair

The Fair is one of Nottingham’s oldest traditions, dating back to the 13th century.

Legend has it that it that Goose Fair got its name from the hundreds of geese, which were once driven from Lincolnshire to Nottingham to be sold.

This family favourite offers over 500 attractions so There’s always something for everyone to enjoy, including the Fair’s ‘famous’ mushy peas!

Cheltenham Literature Festival, Gloucestershire: 6-15 October

Cheltenham

www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature

Started in 1949, the Cheltenham Literature Festival is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. Early in October, Cheltenham is transformed as more than 600 of the world’s finest writers, actors, politicians and poets take part in a festival designed to celebrate the written word.

Comprising nearly 500 workshops, debates and interviews there is also the Book It! Festival running alongside aimed at families and young readers

Lincoln Sausage Festival: 14 October

www.visitlincoln.com/whats-on/lincoln-sausage-festival-2017

The approach, via the walk up Castle Hill, is heady with the smell, and sound, of sizzling sausages. Be prepared to be amazed at the wonderful flavours available especially the local Lincolnshire sausages that have a very precise list of ingredients

There are many recipe and cooking demonstrations taking place during the day so everyone from the novice to the sausage connoisseur is catered for. Of course if you’d rather savour the sausages cooked fresh on your cottage BBQ, there are many stalls selling all sorts.

Newcastle/Gateshead Juice Festival: 22-28 October

www.newcastlegateshead.com/juice-festival

October half-term can be a challenge when it comes to entertaining the children. The Juice Festival, held in and around the Newcastle and Gateshead area runs all week and is organised by children, for children, but with a wide range of performances, film screenings and workshops designed to entertain and inspire visitors of all ages.

Graffiti artists make their mark on the Juice Art Jam, one of the UK’s longest graffiti walls (legal!), both theatre and dance are used to demonstrate how global and domestic issues affect young people.

Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Festival, Somerset: 4 Nov

www.bridgwatercarnival.org.uk

squibbing

Ever heard of squibbing? Back in the beginning of the 1600s the people of Somerset took effigies of Guy Fawkes to be burnt after the foiled Gunpowder plot, giving rise to this long-standing carnival.

Over 100 floats accompany music and dancing along the parade route through the streets of Bridgwater. The procession ends with squibbing where hundreds of fireworks on sticks are held aloft and lit en masse firing showers of sparks high into the air.

Aboyne Festival of Artisans, Scottish Highlands: 12 Nov

This is one of the UK’s smallest, yet perfectly-formed, festivals. Wonderful chances to both try and buy local produce and locally created crafts. The festival takes place indoors at The Boat Inn, so whatever the weather you are assured of a warm welcome and wonderful food and drink.

Christmas Craft Fair, Brodie Castle, Moray, Scotland: 24-26 Nov

www.nts.org.uk/Visit/Brodie-Castle

Brodie Castle and the stables host dozens of exhibitors offering both sweet and savoury treats, as well as collections of jewellery, clothing with contemporary and traditional accessories, all made with love in Scotland.

Hay-on-Wye Winter Food Festival, Brecknockshire, Wales:  25 Nov

www.hayfestival.com/winterweekend

artisan

Hay-on-Wye’s one-day Food Festival is limited to just 50 local producers to ensure the quality is the best. Entertainment from local brass bands, male voice choirs and folk musicians accompany the fine food on offer.

Now in its 6th year, this fledgling food festival is growing in leaps and bounds

Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Powys: 27-28 Nov

www.rwas.wales/winter-fair 

The Royal Welsh Winter Fair has become one of the most popular on the British agricultural show circuit. Farmers and livestock producers from all over the UK compete over two days for the ultimate accolade.

Apart from the livestock, Welsh food producers showcase their produce and Christmas shoppers can explore the hundreds of trade stands, demonstrations and exhibitions and festive atmosphere. Complete with a free fireworks display on the Monday evening, The Royal Welsh Winter Fair is not to be missed!

Highway to the Highlands – Exploring Scotland’s North Coast 500

Don’t fly half way across the world to experience one of the best road trips ever! The famous Route 66 in America is an unforgettable experience, but so is the relatively new North Coast 500 (NC500) at the top of Scotland.

Launched in 2005 by the North Highland Initiative the route attracted over 29,000 visitors in its first year. The drive includes 500 miles of the UK’s most stunning scenery in the North Highlands, starting and ending in Inverness.

route 500

One of the many NC500 signposts on the route

Some boast they can get round in three days, but why would you?

With an area of over 5,200 square miles to explore it’s far more satisfying to take your time and enjoy the scenery: mountains, glens, beaches, cliffs, ancient castles and much more!

Inverness

Official starting point – Inverness

When’s the best time to do the NC500? May and June are normally the driest; July to September is the sunniest period, but late September until early June is usually midge free!

The best advice is go when it suits you and be prepared for anything. As they say it’s only bad weather if you’re not dressed correctly!

Being so far north, daylight hours vary from 6.5 hours in mid winter to 18.5 hours in summer and there are loads of opportunities to catch sunrises and sunsets.

You may see the Northern Lights between April and August, although any time of year you can witness magnificent dark skies with very little light pollution to spoil the spectacle.

Highland cattle enjoying a golden sunset

If you have the luxury of two weeks then the route can be perfectly split up into 13 short sections. For those who can really take their time there are optional side trips such as Inverness East the Loch Ness Loop, and the magical islands of Skye, Orkney, Lewis and Harris.

Everyone is in for a real treat all the way with landscapes to relish, whisky distilleries to enjoy, history to be devoured, local characters to meet plus plenty of wonderful wildlife!

Glenmorangie Distillery

Make time to call in at The Glenmorangie Distillery

This grand tour of the North Highlands covers a region of contrasts shaped by the climate and natural geology over millions of years.

Easter Ross and the Black Isle offer fertile farmland; Caithness to the north is surprisingly gentle with sandy bays and rocky cliffs. Sutherland and the north and west coasts are a much more rugged affair with an amazing background of high mountains and glens.

North Highlands

North Highlands

It’s impossible to pick out highlights but here are a few things not to miss:

  • Applecross is on a gorgeous remote peninsula in Wester Ross and on route visit Rogie Falls, best viewed from a dramatic suspension bridge and at its best in wet weather!
  • The village of Shieldaig on Loch Torridon is one of the most picturesque in the Highlands and Inverewe is a magnificent highland garden surrounded by mountains, moorland and sea loch.
  • Achmelvich Beach is a stunning bay with fabulous coastal walks and to the north is the thriving community of Durness surrounded by the dramatic countryside of Sutherland.
  • On the north coast you’ll cross the spectacular Kyle of Tongue via a sweeping causeway and further on is Thurso, a hive of activity and the most northerly town on the British mainland.
Kyle of Durness

Highlights on the route – Kyle of Durness in summer

  • John O’ Groats, the most northerly point, is the beginning of many epic bike rides and hikes to Land’s End and also the gateway to the Orkney Islandsan area brimming with wildlife and sea birds.
  • The Castle of Mey was once the Queen Mother’s home in Caithness, but for a real fairy-tale experience Dunrobin Castle, resembling a French Chateau on the east coast, is a must .
Dunrobin Castle

The fairy tale like Dunrobin Castle

The whole of Route 500 showcases the very best of Scotland. It’s mostly untamed with loads of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors and plenty of stop offs to take in the amazing panoramic views.

We have plenty of cottages in the Northern Highlands, too, so check out our website and start planning your break. And if you have done the NC500 let us know your tips and recommendations!

6 Perfect Places for a Picnic

picnic

From forests and woodland to Britain’s dramatic coastline, with hillsides, fields and meadows in-between, your perfect family picnic spot may be closer than you think.

Let’s face it, food really does taste better outdoors. As well as planning your food, you will need to choose your perfect picnic spot. Here are a few ideas…

1. Go wild in the country

We are spoiled with so much stunning countryside in the UK, but if you want to enjoy the beauty of the county with a few welcome creature comforts then pay a visit to one of our accredited country parks.

Recognised country parks must have a natural or semi-natural landscape, be inclusive and accessible and not too far from public toilets (so no climbing over fences and watching out for the local wildlife required!).

Find an updated list of accredited country parks in England on the GOV UK website.

2. Enjoy a picnic for the ages

avebury

The UK’s history doesn’t just make it one of the most colourful places to explore, it also makes it one of the most scenic.

Lay your blanket under the shadow of Europe’s biggest megalithic stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire, feast your eyes on the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire or soak up the view from any number of amazing ancient places.

 3Chew the scenery

There’s even more beauty in Britain’s natural spaces.

The heather and bracken of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall offer a dramatic backdrop to any outdoor meal, as do the North Pennines, from Northumberland’s Hadrian’s Wall into Cumbria.

In Wales, the Clywedog Valley and Trail has seven miles of great walking or take in the hills, woodland and Iron Age fort of Devil’s Dyke, East Sussex. What’s more, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy local delicacies. ‘Bacon badger’, anyone?

4. Just add water

Derwentwater

There’s something about being close to the water’s edge that makes it perfect for a picnic, but if you fancy feasting your eyes as well as your tum then take a short boat ride to St Herbert’s Island on Derwentwater.

Once the home of its namesake, who made the island his hermitage, St Herbert’s also inspired Owl Island in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.

Dorset’s Brownsea Island is also dotted with idyllic picnicking locations – and this one’s home to real squirrels; approximately 200 of the UK’s remaining ‘reds’ live protected on the isle.

5. Somewhere stately

There’s something very English about a picnic on a manicured lawn under the beautiful backdrop of a stately home.

Go the extra mile with a picnic in the grounds of Highclere Castle in Hampshire, filming location for Downton Abbey, or Castle Howard in Yorkshire, which featured in Brideshead Revisited.

Then there’s real history to be explored at one of 100s of National Trust or English Heritage properties, too. Just don’t forget the croquet set!

6. In the city

Holland Park

If you thought the city was no place for a picnic then think again; urban green spaces are perfect for a peaceful stroll and a scenic picnic.

Both Roundhay Park in Leeds and the Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park, London have been recommended by parents as great family friendly picnic spots.

With Calton Hill in Edinburgh, King’s Heath Park in Birmingham and hundreds more urban oases nestled amongst busy streets, finding your picnic spot in the city is half the fun.

National Wildlife Day

National Wildlife Day (Monday 4 September 2017) was founded in 2005 to raise awareness and educate children about endangered animals and the conservation of our amazing planet.

mouse

Zoos, animal sanctuaries and local wildlife organisations are a great starting point for taking part in educational events, fun days out and promotional activities, not just for one day, but for a whole lifetime! Have a look to see what is going on around you and get involved in any local events.

Have you got a favourite animal? Did you know that hedgehogs and red squirrels are amongst the top 10 most endangered species in Britain? You can help them and all the other animals on the list, so get started now!

robin

Try Chester Zoo where you can join in with a guided tour to learn about the everyday lives of the animals living there.

The largest colony of mute swans in the UK is located Near Berwick-upon-Tweed in the Scottish Borders, and the enthusiastic Wildlife Trust volunteers make sure all the birds are safe, healthy and protected. Find your nearest Trust location so you can get involved today.

map

Take a look at our Nature Infographic, where you can find what animals to see and where and when to go, with links to the best spotting locations when on holiday.

World Photo Day – 4 Tips for Taking the Perfect Pic

World Photo Day

How to take better holiday snaps…

So you’ve managed to get everybody in place, the kids are smiling and you’re as positive as you can be that everyone has their eyes open… only to find the finished product is far from great.

Here’s how can you make sure those holiday snaps are going to be something to share!

1. Lighting

Most portraiture photographers will avoid full sun at all costs so it’s understandable to get frustrated when you can’t get the results you’re looking for.

Before you even lift your camera, take a look at the sun’s position and place your subject in the most ideal place, or if it’s a more relaxed shot, move around until the lighting looks good.

Open shade is the most ideal as you can capture the brights of the sun without people squinting and details being blown out. Use a beach brolly, a building or even find a tree, but be careful to avoid hotspots from any dappled sunlight.

If there’s no shade then back-lit images are the next best thing and can give you amazing sun flare and light leaks, so look for the sun being positioned behind the person you’re shooting.

caption pic

2. Composition

Composition can make what would be an ordinary photo look amazing.

There are numerous rules you can use including the rule of thirds, which is great when taking pictures on the beach or with far reaching views.

Rule of thirds

Rule of thirds

Or try framing the image with trees for example. This works great for more closed in shots and where you want beautiful surroundings without detracting from your subject.

Framing the image

Framing the image – the wall, tree on the right hand side and sunny bokeh give depth and interest but work to lead your eye back round to your subject.

If you’re looking to take pictures of the kids then it’s important to get down to their level.

Taking images whilst angling your camera down to the ground won’t usually produce great results so kneel down and move around to find the best perspective.

It’s great for seeing the world from a child’s point of view and even works well for taking pictures of your dog!

Low level photography

Getting down to their level

3. Capture the moment

Instead of choreographing your photos, try having your camera within easy reach so you can react quickly and get that perfect shot.

Most cameras now come with a continuous mode, even the camera on your smartphone, which means you can press and hold the shutter button to take multiple images per second.

This means you have a much better chance of getting that perfect image.

4. Use your camera’s settings

If you have a DSLR camera, don’t be afraid to change your camera’s setting to suit your style.

Play around with a bigger aperture to get that beautiful blurry background or bokeh, or try a faster shutter speed to avoid any blur when the kids are running through.

A slower shutter speed will give you a soft blur to any movement in your photos, so flowing water for example, but be warned, you will then be in need of a tripod to avoid camera shake from your hand.

It’s not all about DSLRs though. Cameras on smartphones take some amazing images and some come with large apertures, allowing you to capture more light and create that blurry background for a shallow depth of field.

Vicki Andrews is a professional photographer in East Lancashire and North Yorkshire.

Food Festivals for August Bank Holiday Weekend 2017

Lichfield Food Festival, Staffordshire, 26th – 28th August 2017

https://www.lichfieldfoodfestival.com

Lichfield Food festival takes place in the centre of the Staffordshire city.

Enjoy a smorgasbord of food and drink, with 100s of stalls offering breads to burgers, cheese to chutney and pies to Prosecco – the list is endless, plus entry is free!

The Great British Food Festival at Bowood house, Wiltshire, 26th – 28th August 2017

Bowood

https://greatbritishfoodfestival.com/bowood-house

The Great British Food Festival offers great food and drink in one of the country’s most treasured locations:  a grade I listed Georgian country house in Wiltshire.

But it’s more than just a scenic food festival!

You have a cocktail of delicious food, ale and wine bars with competitions, an interactive baking stage (with guests from The Great British Bake Off), not to mention challenges and games taking place all weekend.

Food for Thorpe, Essex, 26th and 27th August 2017

Thorpe

http://www.thorpefoodfestival.co.uk

Food for Thorpe is a great day out for all the family with a huge range of amazing food and tasty drinks and a few non-foodie surprises in five acres of Essex countryside.

Celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli will be doing live cookery demonstrations, and there will be magic shows, a vintage fair, craft activities and a classic car display!

River Cottage Festival, Axminster, Devon, 26th and 27th August 2017

river cottage

https://www.rivercottage.net/festival/2017

Immerse yourself in a weekend at River Cottage with a jam-packed program of food, masterclasses, music and festival fun.

Hugh will be there kicking off the weekend and signing books. Attend numerous masterclasses from bee-keeping to sushi and find face-painting, monster-making, music and more to keep your tribe entertained!

BBC Good Food’s Feast at Hampton Court Palace, 26th – 28th August 2017

good food feast

https://www.bbcgoodfoodshow.com

Celebrate summer in the magnificent palace gardens with and array of food and drink with top chefs, cooks and bakers bringing summer dishes to life.

Enjoy browsing and buying from a selection of independent producers. Feast till your heart’s content with mouth-watering street food, picnic treats and out of this world desserts.