11 Places to See Wildlife in Wales
If you love all creatures great and small, Wales is the perfect holiday destination. The diverse landscape is home to some of the UK’s most fascinating animal and plant species.
Grey seals and porpoises splash in the waters around Pembrokeshire, while puffins flock to Skomer Island. Searching for razor-billed birds of prey? Head to the red kite feeding station at Gigrin Farm or watch the ospreys hunt at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve. Wherever you go in the country, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Ready to discover more amazing wildlife in Wales? Keep reading as we round up some of the best hotspots to sneak into your travel itinerary.
What animals are native to Wales?
Before we reveal several hidden gems for nature enthusiasts, let’s explore some of the most iconic Welsh wildlife.
You’re almost guaranteed to spot seals in Wales. Head to the rugged coastline during pupping season from mid-August to December. There’s also a chance of catching larger marine species around Cardigan Bay. Minke and pilot whales are common in summer. Killer whales very occasionally swim down from northern Scotland, chasing schools of tasty herring.
On land, the offering is just as exciting. There are five native deer species in Wales, including the red deer. It’s the country’s largest native land mammal. Plus, you’ll find badgers, otters and hedgehogs in both urban and rural environments.
Finally, keep your eyes on the sky! The majestic mountain ranges and cliffs attract the most fabulous aerial acrobats. Highlights include ospreys, red kites, puffins and Manx shearwaters. Remarkably, onlookers recently glimpsed a young white-tailed eagle soaring over South Wales for the first time in 220 years!
Wildlife in North Wales
1. Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve
The Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve in North Wales teems with wonderful Welsh wildlife. The mixture of bog, swamp, woodland and scrub supports countless animal and plant species. One highlight is the magnificent Osprey.
The reserve is famous for the Dyfi Osprey Project, which has been instrumental in aiding the Welsh osprey population. Since 2009, the team have been educating visitors on habitat conservation and nest preservation. Plus, the dangers of egg collecting. Thanks to this initiative and similar ones across the UK, breeding pairs have risen from one in 1954 to over 300 in 2023. The best time to visit is from April to September.
As the days grow longer, watch common lizards and reed warblers feasting on four-spotted chasers. Another elusive summer bird is the superb-looking nightjar. It’s a master of silent flight and perfectly camouflaged with mottled, bracken-like feathers. You’ll have to be patient to peep its exquisite plumage. Keep a lookout around dusk and listen for an unusual churring call.
2. RSPB South Stack Cliffs
RSPB South Stack Cliffs on Holy Island in Anglesey is one of the best places to enjoy seabirds in Wales. Woody heathland and grassy farmland give way to dramatic cliffs overlooking the temperate Irish Sea. Around 180,000 people visit the reserve annually, making it one of the country’s most popular wildlife destinations.
What can you expect to see? As you can imagine, thousands of unique coastal birds! There are 9,000 nesting sites for puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwake and fulmars. The habitat is especially crucial for choughs – a crow-like bird with a striking red beak. In winter, watch them feed alongside their much larger cousins, the ravens.
Elin’s Tower is only a short walk from the visitor centre. It offers a fantastic vantage point for the seabird colonies. After drinking in the glorious views, explore more wildlife walks in Anglesey.
3. Cwm Idwal Nature Reserve
Want to combine wildlife in Wales with outdoor activities? Cwm Idwal Nature Reserve is a must-visit. The breathtaking glacial valley sits at the northern end of Snowdonia National Park and is the oldest nature reserve in the country. Thanks to its interesting ecology, Charles Darwin conducted much of his scientific research here.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to explore this beautiful region. Alongside scaling steep fells, you’ll walk through colourful wildflower meadows and heathland. In spring, the rare Snowdon lily emerges from rocky crevices. Equally gorgeous, flowering purple saxifrage brightens the landscape come the colder winter months.
Flowers attract insects, which in turn entice abundant birds and mammals. Ring ouzels and wheatears take advantage of this delicious summertime feast. Higher up the craggy mountaintops, you might see peregrine falcons. Did you know they can reach speeds of over 200mph when diving?
4. Clocaenog Forest
Clocaenog Forest is a conifer habitat the size of 10,000 rugby pitches. Several beginner-friendly walking trails cut through the shady canopy. Walk far enough, and you might stumble across winding rivers, open moors and the Pincyn Llys monument. This structure is the highest point of the woodland, delivering scenic views across the Vale of Clwyd.
However, many people come to Clocaenog Forest for one reason. It’s one of the last strongholds for red squirrels in Wales. These adorable creatures first arrived in the 1950s, attracted by the blend of European larch, Sitka Spruce and pine. The forestry team carefully monitor the tree species to make the habitat less attractive to the non-native and highly destructive grey squirrel.
Don’t be upset if you don’t see one during your trip – they are highly secretive. Instead, watch out for other Welsh wildlife, like tawny owls, hazel dormice and bats. There’s always something amazing to see if you look hard enough!
Wildlife in Mid Wales
5. Gigrin Farm
You don’t have to travel to the coastal regions to find incredible Welsh wildlife. Luckily, there are also plenty of memorable places to visit in Mid Wales. One of our favourites is Gigrin Farm – a 160-acre agricultural haven famous for its red kite feeding centre.
By the middle of the 19th century, red kites were locally extinct in England, Scotland and Ireland. However, a small population struggled on in Mid Wales. Tragically, there was only one breeding female in the 1930s. Thanks to the efforts of Girgrin Farm and other preservation programmes, red kites are now flourishing in the UK.
The RSPB monitors the feeding station, which provides a lifeline to hundreds of birds (around 600 during winter). You can watch the action from one of the five spacious hides every day of the year between 2pm and 3pm. There is also another feeding station nearby at the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre.
6. Llyn Brianne Reservoir
Llyn Brianne Reservoir is a gargantuan structure, holding 64 million cubic metres of water. What’s more, it’s an official Dark Sky Discovery Site. On a clear evening, lie underneath a blanket of twinkling stars and soak in the area’s outstanding natural beauty.
The region is remote, so it’s a good idea to bring your own refreshments and supplies. Feeling brave? Stand atop the stone-built walls and marvel at the summer swallows as they swoop and glide. Buzzards regularly hunt along the neighbouring hillsides too, while wildfowls search for fish.
Best of all, RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas is only a mile or so away. Here, you’ll discover countless species hard to see elsewhere in the UK. Plump dippers visit from the continent and are only found along clear, fast-flowing rivers. Tree pipits and marsh tits are both on the UK Birds of Conservation Concern Red List, but you have a good chance of spotting them if time’s on your side.
Wildlife in West Wales
7. RSPB Ramsey Island Nature Reserve
RSPB Ramsey Island Nature Reserve is a utopia for seabirds and seals in West Wales. It’s recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Natura 2000 site. As such, thousands of people visit annually or book a round-island boat trip. The latter is a fantastic way to get closer to the fluffy seal pups as they lounge on the remote beaches.
The habitat is free from rats and mice, meaning the bird population has boomed. It’s a Special Protection Area for chough, which nest in the nearby caves. The best time to see them is summer. The newly fledged juveniles are delightful to watch as they learn to fend for themselves.
Plus, the island is the best place to spot seals in Wales. From mid-August, they return to the shores to breed and give birth. It’s not unusual to see upwards of 60 pups at once by September!
8. Skomer Island
Skomer Island is the ultimate Welsh wildlife adventure off the Pembrokeshire coast. It boasts a bustling collection of seabirds in Wales – not to mention dolphins and seals.
The Manx shearwater colony is one of the largest in the world. Experts believe there are 350,000 breeding pairs on the island (as per the latest census in 2018), which is half the global population! Part of Skomer’s success is its offshore location, where nests are safe from ground predators. The birds arrive in late February and March and stay until July, before migrating to the South American coast.
Another high point is the puffins. Combined with Stockholm Island, Skomer forms one of the busiest colonies in the UK. These quirky, comical-looking birds delight onlookers with their clumsy waddles and grunting calls. Boat tours give you the best vantage point and run from April to September.
9. Welsh Wildlife Centre & Teifi Marshes
The Welsh Wildlife Centre & Teifi Marshes is a fun-filled day out for the whole family. Alongside plenty of wildlife in Wales, there are walking trails, children’s activities and an adventure play area. The Glasshouse Cafe also serves mouth-watering refreshments for famished explorers. Refuel with their warming soups and homemade cakes.
In winter, you’ll witness one of nature’s most hypnotic phenomena. Thousands of starlings gather in a murmuration, dancing across the dusky sky before roosting. On top of this, expect vast numbers of wading birds, including teal, widgeon and curlew.
Although elusive, it’s possible to spot otters and bitterns hiding in the marshes too. However, you’ll probably have a better chance with the kingfishers. Stay alert for a flash of blue along the water’s edge, and keep an eye on the low-hanging branches.
Wildlife in South Wales
10. Penllergare Valley Woods
Penllergare Valley Woods near Swansea is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. The sweeping Victorian estate comprises over seven miles of woodland trails, two lakes and one waterfall on the River Llan.
The forest is known as “the lungs of South Wales“. There are over 250 acres to explore, which come alive with birdsong and bluebells in spring. Willow warblers, whitethroats and black caps flit between the trees and scrub. On the lake, kingfishers and dippers share their watery oasis with otters and European eels.
Once you’ve traversed the forest, why not stop by the Penllergare Equatorial Observatory? The owners are partnering with Dark Sky Wales to restore the building. They also want to introduce a planetarium. Far enough from the surrounding cities, it’ll offer guests a fantastic opportunity to scan the skies for shooting stars and constellations.
11. Forest of Dean and Wye Valley
Last but not least is the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley. It’s on the border of England and Wales, separated by the River Wye. If you want to become one with nature, we suggest swapping traditional accommodation for a top camping site. There’s nothing more magical than relaxing underneath the stars, serenaded by hooting owls.
Keep your eyes peeled for several remarkable bird species. Hawfinches almost look too exotic for Wales, resembling parrots with powerful bills and vibrant feathers. Aspiring ornithologists are always on the lookout for goshawks. These ferocious hunters are about the same size as a buzzard with broad wings that allow them to hunt in dense woodland.
The forest inspired J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”, so you can imagine how wild and untouched it is. Alongside birds, wild boar and fallow deer graze on roots, bulbs and seeds. They play a pivotal role in keeping the woodlands healthy.
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Nick, your trusted guide to Wales travel and exploration, shares a deep passion for this enchanting land. With years of exploration, Nick offers expert insights into the best of Wales. Join him on a journey through its captivating history, culture, and hidden gems, as he inspires you to create unforgettable Wales travel experiences.