Best places to stay for birdwatchers

Spend the day spotting birds on the wing then fall asleep to the hoots and calls of the wild in a birders’ paradise

Old barn in countryside
Published: January 26th, 2022 at 6:41 am
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There are few greater pleasures in life than waking up to the sound of birdsong; to the fluting rise and fall of a calling blackbird, the gentle tune of a robin, the complex tones of a great tit. You can experience this delight on a morning walk or, better still, why not spend the night in the very place where the chorus begins, listening from the comfort of your bed as it evolves from dawn through to mid-morning?

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Once the music settles down, spend the day exploring the surrounding countryside, then return as dusk falls for another round of song, this time infused with the hooting of owls and other nocturnal creatures.

We've selected some of the best places in the UK to stay for birdwatchers - and bird-listeners. From luxuary coastal retreats to tents in trees, our list has something for everyone.

Best birdwatchers' accommodation in the UK

Uist Forest Retreat, Outer Hebrides

Luxury accommodation in a forest
Uist Forest Retreat is raised above the forest for maximum exposure to birdsong/Credit: Uist Forest Retreat

Home to Britain’s largest bird, the white-tailed eagle, as well as its smallest, the goldcrest (it weighs the same as a 20p piece), the island of North Uist is a birding paradise. Guests at Uist Forest Retreat will be treated to views of Vallay Island and the hills of Harris from luxury wooden cabins up in the treetops, where short-eared owls, merlins and hen harriers may also be spotted. uistforestretreat.co.uk

Elmley Nature Reserve, Kent

Rural accommodation
Start the day by listening to the dawn chorus from Vanellus's outdoor bath/Credit: Rebecca Douglas Photography

Deep within this family-owned nature reserve in north Kent, the shepherd hut Vanellus – with its floor-to-ceiling window – is beautifully designed to “let nature in”. While soaking in the outdoor bath on the private deck, you can listen to the ‘peewit’ of lapwings over the marsh, and the plop of great-crested grebes diving for dinner. elmleynaturereserve.co.uk

Low Wray Tree Tent, Cumbria 

Orrest Head and Windermere, Lake District National Park
Low Wray is ideally placed for exploring the hills around Windermere in the Lake District National Park/Credit: Alamy

Fancy rocking gently to sleep under the bough of a tree on the shore of Lake Windermere? Low Wray Campsite’s ‘tree tents’ are canvas spheres suspended in the trees, complete with a wood-burning stove, comfy beds and a platform where you can soak up the Lakeland views. From the nearby bird hide, watch red-breasted mergansers and cormorants dabble on the water. nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays

Glenarm Castle, County Antrim

Accommodation overlooking sea
The positioning of Glenarm's pods means you have the chance of spotting both sea and woodland birds from your bed/Credit: Glenarm Castle and Gardens

Birders will be spoilt for choice among the rich patchwork of habitats on the Glenarm Estate, where you can spot grey wagtails along the river, razorbills by the sea and willow warblers and treecreepers in the woodlands. Guests can stay in one of the Ocean View pods or within the cosy confines of the Barbican Gate House, boasting gothic windows, a turret staircase and a wood-burning stove. glenarmcastle.com

Spurn Bird Observatory, Yorkshire

Disused lighthouses at dawn
Spurn Bird Observatory sits on Spurn Point in East Yorkshire/Credit: Phil Macd Photography, Getty

Spurn Peninsula, at the mouth of the River Humber, is one of the best areas for birding on mainland Britain, hence this happily situated observatory in Kilnsea at the northern end of the coast. Extend your visit with a stay in one of the shared hostel rooms, with views over the estuary. After watching avocets, oystercatchers and other seabirds, call in at the nearby Crown & Anchor to celebrate. spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk

Southcombe Barn, Devon

Old barn in countryside
Fall asleep to the sound of hooting owls in this old Dartmoor barn/Credit: Southcombe Barn

Swathed in sumptuous linen in a four-poster ‘meadow’ bed, you can fall asleep to the hoot of owls and wake up to wood warblers at this magical retreat in the heart of Dartmoor. Completing the al fresco experience, guests can also enjoy an outdoor wood-fired bath with views of Bell Tor and Bonehill Rocks in the distance. southcombebarn.com

Bardsey Bird Observatory, Gwynedd

Bird on a rock
Visit the island in spring for a chance to spot wheatears/Credit: Getty

There is room for up to 12 guests in the basic but comfy hostel of the observatory, based in an old farmhouse at the heart of the island. Located off the tip of the Llŷn Peninsula, Bardsey is home to over 22,000 breeding pairs of Manx shearwaters from March to October. Guests can also expect to see wheatears and blackcaps in spring, and perhaps even rarities such as the bright yellow citrine wagtail. bbfo.org.uk

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Main image: Southcombe Barn/Credit: Southcombe Barn

Authors

Abigail is a freelance writer and editor based in Hereford.

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