Best of the British countryside in August

From summer wildflowers to spectacular sunsets, here is a selection of the month's best photos from the UK countryside.

Flowers at sunrise

August is a great month for visiting the beach, walking slowly through wildflower meadows and cooling off with a wild swim in a river, lake or sheltered cove.

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We’ve come across some amazing photography while putting together the August 2021 issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine. Celebrate the month with a few of our favourite August images.

From seasonal wildlife and magical waterfalls to summer sunrises and curious clouds, here is a selection of the month’s best photos from the UK countryside.

Cam is calling

River and meadows
River Cam and the Grantchester Meadows, Cambridgeshire/Credit: Alamy

Unusually for a river, the tranquil River Cam derives its name from Cambridge rather than the other way around. Less than a mile from the convergence of the Cam’s two main tributaries, the Rhee and the Granta, is Byron’s Pool, a nature reserve that marks the start of a 2.5-mile (4km) stretch of water, designated for swimming and free from motorboats, which ends at the university city.


Loch island

Pier on lake in summer
Pitch up for an overnight stay at the basic campsite at the southern end of the island then catch this historic ferry back to Balmaha from North Pier/Credit: Alamy

All of Loch Lomond’s 22 beautiful islands, and 27 islets, are divine in summer. Perhaps the prettiest island is Inchcailloch, at the south end of the loch.

It’s less than a mile long, with a superb lookout point, ancient ruins and an abundance of flora and fauna, and can be reached on a two-minute ferry ride from Balmaha. Once you’re there, a gentle walk leads across the island to Port Bawn (Port Bán), where a well-deserved swim awaits.


Dawn bells

Flowers at sunrise
A stunning summer sunrise from the popular limestone gorge of Winnats Pass with harebells in the foreground/Credit: Getty

Delicate nodding harebells turn to the summer sunrise above Winnats Pass, a stunning limestone gorge that leads to Hope Valley in the Peak District. Grasses and wildflowers, such as the rare Derby hawkweed, thrive in the limey soil above the rock, while underground the pass is riddled with caves and old mine shafts. The name Winnats comes from ‘windy gates’, as winds swirl through here on a blustery day. 


Magpie magic

Magpie flying from a puddle of water, close up
Magpie flying from a puddle of water
Alamy

The Eurasian magpie (Pica pica) is often seen as monochrome but in fact it has a beautiful iridescent turquoise sheen on its black plumage, which is bluer on the wing and greener on the tail feathers.


Lethytep Farm in Cornwall

Farm pond in Cornwall
Lethytep Farm in Cornwall
Alamy

With a hide for bird-watching, the small lake at Lethytep Farm in Cornwall was created to provide a rich habitat for aquatic plants and wildlife. The 21-hectare former farm, transformed by retired farmers Philip and Faith Hambly, now boasts 24 butterfly species, over 100 bird species and 200 species of plants.


Emerald Damselfly

Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa)
Emerald damselfly (Lestes sponsa)
Getty

Unlike other species, this beautiful damselfly often perches with its wings half-open. It hunts mosquitos and other emerging insects. Find out more about Britain’s dragonflies.


Loup of Fintry, Stirlingshire

Loup of Fintry, Stirlingshire
Loup of Fintry, Stirlingshire
Getty

Rising on the quiet slopes of Scotland’s Gargunnock Hills, Endrick Water filters west beneath the Campsie Fells, slinking through a series of small villages and into Loch Lomond. It is a characterful river, not least on its upper reaches where it crashes over a giant’s step into a deep plunge pool enveloped by trees. The falls can be reached on a short walk from a small layby on the B818, half an hour’s drive from Stirling.


Arnside Knott, Cumbria

Sunset over Arnside Knott in Cumbria
Sunset over Arnside Knott in Cumbria
Alamy

A limestone path weaves down 159-metre-tall Arnside Knott towards the estuary – where the River Kent empties into Morecambe Bay – as the sun lowers behind the southern Lakeland fells.


Cinnabar moth caterpillar

Cinnabar moth caterpillars
Cinnabar moth caterpillars feed on ragwort ©Alamy
Alamy

Ragwort is one of the most divisive plants in the countryside. It contains chemicals that are toxic to livestock and it has been blamed for many deaths of horses and other animals. Yet conservationists say the danger is overstated and that it’s a native wildflower vital for pollinating insects. Learn more with our guide to Britain’s moths.


Mackerel Sky clouds

Mackerel Sky clouds over Carmarthen Bay, Carmarthenshire Wales
Mackerel Sky clouds over Carmarthen Bay, Carmarthenshire Wales/Credit: Alamy

There are two types of mackerel sky, filled with characteristic ‘fish-scale’ cloudlets, and each portends its own change in the weather. An altocumulus mackerel sky features thicker cloudlets, often arranged in rows running perpendicular to the wind; this indicates an improvement in the weather. A cirrocumulus mackerel sky is made up of wispier, patchier cloudlets, which herald the bad weather of an approaching front.


Circumzenithal arc clouds

Circumzenithal arc clouds
Circumzenithal arc clouds/Credit: Getty

Also known as a cloud smile or an upside-down rainbow, the circumzenithal arc is an optical phenomenon caused by the refraction of light through ice crystals present in thin cirriform clouds. Because ice crystals refract sunlight more effectively than water droplets, the colours of a cloud smile are often brighter and more intense than those of a rainbow, although the view of a cloud smile is often blocked by low clouds.  


Crossbill

Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra
Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra/Credit: Getty

This stocky finch has a large head and crossed bill, used to remove seeds from conifer trees, such as those that surround Loch Maree. Head to Loch Maree for a chance to spot this bullish-looking bird.


Ullswater

Ullswater, Lake District
A view to Ullswater Lake, Cumbria/Credit: Getty

Famous fell-walker Alfred Wainwright called this south-shore walk – accessible by boot or boat only – “the most beautiful and rewarding in Lakeland”. The water stretches out for 14.5km, while to the south sits the rising skyline of the Helvellyn Range. Catch a boat across one of the lake and return on a 6.6-mile-long shoreline path.


Mawddach Estuary

Mawddach Estuary, Wales
Mawddach Estuary in Snowdonia National Park, Gwynedd/Credit: Alamy

The sinuous Mawddach Estuary shivering through sand between Fairbourne and Barmouth. Enjoy a grandiloquent 5.5km hike through woodland and along hillsides, with spectacular views over the estuary.


Loe Pool

The Loe, Cornwall
Loe Bar and Loe Pool, the largest natural body of fresh water in Cornwall/Credit: Getty

Cornwall’s largest natural lake runs deep with history and legend, but it’s the diversity of the trails that trace the banks of The Loe and the richness of its wildlife that make it such a special place. Discover the lake on foot with a 9.6km (6-mile) walk from Penrose Estate.


Osprey

Osprey
Osprey/Credit: Getty
Getty
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The horseshoe-shaped Rutland Water midway between Leicester and Peterborough is a birder’s idyll and is a great place to spot ospreys, present in the spring and summer – explore the lake on foot or bike.