Where to go winter wildlife spotting in the UK

Days out, Seasonal, Nature

Posted by Courtney on 29th November 2021

A robin stands in the snowPhoto credit @chelseyleighphoto

Snuggling up in front of a toasty fire with a mug of hot chocolate is certainly enticing, but there’ll always be time for that in the evening. Whilst the sun is still up (and let’s face it, it’s not up for long during the winter months), why not utilise your time prudently and go in search of your local winter wildlife scenes?

British wildlife in winter can be a paradoxical beast; the vast, white blanketed landscape should make it easy to spot orange foxes, red squirrels and leaping brown fawns. Yet, the plummeting temperatures often drive the winter animals in the UK to cluster together in the safety of their respective nests, setts, dens and stables. This, in turn, does make it extra special though, when you do catch a glimpse of that red-chested robin or crafty fox.

Using some of the 1,500 frosty photos sent by our followers as part of our Winter Watch competition in partnership with RSPB, we pulled together the best spots to catch a glimpse of British winter wildlife, from Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands all the way down to Dartmoor in South West England.

Browse our cottages for winter

A young deer with a mountain backdropPhoto credit @Sarah-Inglis


It is not uncommon to find winter-faring creatures roaming the wilds of Scotland as the temperature tumbles, and here, a drowsy-looking adolescent red deer looks up just as Sarah Inglis snaps a favourable shot.

Glencoe is considered the home of Scottish mountaineering and, with the colossal Buachaille Etive Mòr towering sublimely in the background, it wouldn’t be outside the realms of possibility to observe more four-hoofed wonders as you conquer this much-loved Munro peak.

Discover Glencoe cottages

A young deer scampers across a fieldPhoto credit @Vinylvictim


As we spy another adolescent deer in Scotland, it’s fair to say that these mammals are one of a handful of quintessential British winter animals. @Vinylvictim was just leisurely strolling across Kirkcaldy Golf Club one morning when he heard a rustling in the bushes and decided to get out his phone.

Out popped this beautiful, young deer, cantering across the previously untouched powder of this East Scotland landscape. Only gracing us with its presence for mere seconds, it soon retreated into the safety of winter woodland.

Discover Fife cottages

Highland cattle eatingPhoto credit @theemmagram

Lyme Park

Continuing the Scottish theme but moving further south into chilly England, we stop at the National Trust’s Lyme Park on the western reaches of the Peak District National Park. These hairy Highland cattle have no quarrel with ducking their noses under the frost to seize the thawed stems of the brush.

Their heavy coats protect them from the icy winds that prevail during the winter months in the Peaks, making them one of the hardiest types of winter wildlife you’re likely to see this season. We just hope that photographer, Emma, wrapped up warm too.

Discover Peak District cottages

A swan landing on a frozen pondPhoto credit @villagetales.and.waggytails


Not all the wildlife you see over the winter period will be overjoyed with the circumstances they find themselves in. Take this swan in Derbyshire for example. Instead of the often-seen water skiing-style landing, this all-encompassing ice floe ensures that our ivory friend will partake in a spot of ice skating instead.

Janice Dyson caught this mute swan as it broke away from its wedge to land on one of the local ponds in the area, looking to upend and feed, but it looks as though it’ll have to re-join its group and try elsewhere.

Discover Derbyshire cottages

A robin perched on a branchPhoto credit @openbook56


Conceivably the most archetypal of all the winter wildlife we treasure within our borders, the arrival of the red-breasted robin signals to many that winter has truly arrived. British folklore tells that seeing a robin can bring good luck, and the well-known phrase, ‘When robins appear, loved ones are near', suggests that robins are also messengers.

Well, we’re not sure what message this inquisitive little redbreast is imparting but we sure are glad that @openbook56 managed to capture it.

Discover Shropshire cottages

A kingfisher on a snowy branchPhoto credit @nikoleithompson


Sticking with our feathered friends, we continue south to Cheltenham where another fiery-chested percher has found a snowy branch to solitarily hunt for breakfast by a stream in Cheltenham town. Whilst not the most obvious choice for winter wildlife spotting, the striking contrast of the kingfisher’s warming apricot and sapphire plumage against the cold cloak of winter snow provides such a showcase, that it was impossible to ignore this image sent in by Nick Thompson.

Discover Cheltenham cottages

A fox skulking through the snowPhoto credit @FitzpatrickSage

Crystal Palace

A British wildlife-spotting blog wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the vulpine tricksters that often skulk around our streets and countryside looking for their next meal. Impossible to miss with its flame-coloured fur offering a full contradiction to the achromatic terrain in which it finds itself, the fox symbolises to many a sense of winter like no other.

This movement was seized by Sage Fitzpatrick in the district of Crystal Place, London, as the lonesome fox shuffles across the settled snow in search of shelter.

Discover cottages near Crystal Palace

Two stags in a fieldPhoto credit @DainesP


Not all wintery imagery needs copious amounts of snow, or any snow at all in some cases. This staggering photo sent in by Paula Daines, which was taken by her son, shows a misty morning at the National Trust’s Petworth Estate in East Sussex. Through the haze, you can see the Baroque-inspired house in the background, but the foreground is dominated by monstrous antlers worn by two commanding bucks as they saunter through the estate like they own the place. But really, who’s going to argue with them?

Discover Sussex cottages

A squirrel crunching some nutsPhoto credit @chloe_slipknot


You didn’t think we’d write about British wildlife spotting without mentioning our arboreal rodent comrade, the squirrel, did you? Although more common than its red-chestnut cousin, it’s no less special when you catch a glimpse of this grey, bushy-tailed omnivore. Whether on the ground or in a tree, grey squirrels rarely cease foraging for nuts and seeds to store for winter.

By the looks of this one, which was photographed by Chloe Vincent in some church grounds by her house, it’s already begun to store some nuts…in its belly!

Discover Portsmouth cottages

A Dartmoor pony by a torPhoto credit @jonesnic8


Finishing up, we find ourselves in the South West. Not an area that typically receives a good deal of the white stuff, but if you find yourself in the deep valleys or the untamed uplands of Dartmoor National Park, then you could find yourself blessed with a blanket of snow punctured by rugged growths of heath and purple moor grass.

Due to its fluctuating seasonal climate, Dartmoor is an area built for wildlife that can withstand harsh conditions, and the Dartmoor pony, one of only two Devonshire ponies, is as hardy as they come. This photo sent in by Nicola Jones shows an independent nag facing a frost-bitten tor, having just crossed a slush-filled stream.

Discover Dartmoor cottages

Cosy up in one of our cottages

Once you’ve decided where you want to go to behold the wonders of British wildlife this winter, you’ll need somewhere extra cosy to return to in order to warm those toes. Whether it’s a welcoming wooden lodge with a hot tub, a large property with an indoor swimming pool, a romantic bolthole with an open fire, or a dog-friendly cottage so the whole family can get away, you will find what you need in our collection of cottages for winter.

Browse our cottages for winter

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.