Despite being one of the nation’s most beloved native species, red squirrels are still rare to see in the wild. However, large conservation efforts are helping to revive red squirrel numbers – aided by awareness events such as Red Squirrel Week in late September.
Autumn is the best time to spot red squirrels – with fewer leaves on the trees to obstruct your view as they begin to stockpile food from the woodland floor for the long winter.
There are also numerous sites around the country where you can appreciate ‘sciurus vulgaris’, many of which are surrounded by green ‘buffer zones’ to keep the large population of grey squirrels at bay. So if you’re after the perfect place for an autumn walk with some wonderful wildlife, take a look at the best places to spot red squirrels in the UK.
Brownsea Island, Dorset
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 environment of this National Trust protected island.
Approximately 250 red squirrels live on Brownsea, which makes it one of the most densely populated red squirrel habitations in the UK. And its short distance from the Dorset shore in Poole harbour, makes it one of the most scenic and spectacular too!
Dalbeattie Forest, Dumfries and Galloway
Scotland’s preservation scheme has seen the red squirrel population thrive, with approximately 75% of the UK’s total native species now living north of the border in Dumfries and Galloway.
There are many stunning locations to spot red squirrels in Scotland, but the first official trail in southern Scotland at Dalbeattie is undoubtedly one of the most scenic. 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 sedate experience, wander the 90,000 acre Queensberry Estate and grand Victorian Gardens at Drumlanrig Castle and Country Estate.
Plas Newydd, Anglesey
Views over the Menai Strait and Snowdonia provide the perfect scenic accompaniment to your admiration of 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 – which might explain why).
The Isle of Wight
Similar to Brownsea Island, the coastal barrier of the Isle of Wight has ensured a beautiful haven for red squirrels to thrive and multiply. What’s more, 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.
The Snaizeholme Red Squirrel Trail in the Yorkshire Dales offers a viewing area in the Widdale Red Squirrel Reserve.
Both Whinlatter Forest Park in Keswick and Aira Force offer lovely surrounds for viewing the resident red squirrels in Cumbria.
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.