Best orchid sites to visit in the UK

High summer is the perfect time to go hunting for some of Britain's most beautiful flowers. Here is our selection of 10 of the best sites in the UK to see orchids.

Dactylorhiza majalis - endangered spiece of wild orchid (western marsh orchid, broad-leaved marsh orchid., fan orchid)

Orchids can appear to be delicate little blooms which aren’t hardy enough to survive in the variable British climate. However, in many parts of the UK orchid species are thriving, although many do remain a protected species.

Advertisement

There are 52 orchid species found in Britain and these superstars of the wildflower world are a delight to spot in the summer months.

Learn more about how to identify orchids found in the UK with this handy illustrated orchid guide by BBC Wildlife.

Discover a selection of the best sites to see orchids growing wild in the UK with our handy guide.

Advertisement

If you fancy learning more about wild plants found in the UK, have a read of our British wildflower guide or common hedgerow plant and flower species to spot. We also have a comprehensive guide to houseplants which includes advice on hardy plants to grow at home and how best to care for them.

Check before you trek

Orchids bloom just once a year, and flowering times are strongly influenced by the weather. In general, they flower earlier in the south and later in the north. Check species flowering times in a botanical guide and consult with local nature wardens to make sure you’re not disappointed.
Just remember to never trample or pick any wild orchids you see growing wild as many species are rare and protected by law.

Where to see orchids in the UK

Ainsdale Sand Dunes, Lancashire

Marsh Helleborine ( Epipactis palustris) in bloom/Credit: Getty
Marsh Helleborine ( Epipactis palustris) in bloom/Credit: Getty
Marsh helleborines and many other orchids species grow in the dune slacks and under the pine trees. Early in the morning, flowers gleam with dew and summer dusks are scented by evening primroses. It is accessible by public transport; just 20 minutes’ walk from the nearest train station. The dunes are open access from Southport to Formby, information on what is flowering is displayed in Ainsdale beach car park. visitseftonandwestlancs.co.uk

Noar Hill, Near Selborne, Hampshire

Autumn Ladys-tresses -Spiranthes spiralis-, individual stem/Credit: Getty Images
Autumn Ladys-tresses -Spiranthes spiralis-, individual stem/Credit: Getty Images
With a wide range of species you can visit from April to August and see orchids flowering. The first to flower are the early-purple orchids and the last are autumn lady’s-tresses. hiwwt.org.uk/nature-reserves/noar-hill-nature-reserve

Badbury Rings, Dorset

itch of Iron age hill fort Badbury Rings. Wimborne, Dorset/Credit: Getty Images
itch of Iron age hill fort Badbury Rings. Wimborne, Dorset/Credit: Getty Images
This iron-age hill fort is managed with grazing cattle and sheep to keep the scrub down so that the orchids thrive. Walk around the rings of the fort and keep your eyes open for orchids. nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy/features/badbury-rings

Bonsai Bank, North of Sole Street, Kent

Grizzled Skipper
The Grizzled Skipper, one of the many species of butterflies that can be seen at the reserve/Credit: Getty Images
A walk through the woods will take you to the area marked as Bonsai Bank. Flower-rich glades support a range of insect life from butterflies to glow worms.

Witton Lime Beds, North east of Northwich, Cheshire

Wild marsh orchids/Credit: Getty Images
Wild marsh orchids/Credit: Getty Images
Chemical residues from industry created this site of scientific interest. It is one of the few places where both northern and southern marsh orchids grow, so you can also see their hybrid blooming here. designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk

Sandscale Hawes, Cumbria

Coralroot orchid growing wild/Credit: Getty Images
Coralroot orchid growing wild/Credit: Getty Images
Look in the dune slacks for thousands of coralroot orchids. You’ll also be treated to the sight of other orchids and views of the estuary and Lakeland Mountains. You’ll be facing west, so sunsets are long and spectacular. nationaltrust.org.uk/sandscale-haws-national-nature-reserve

Kenfig dunes, Glamorgan

Kenfig national nature reserve
This footbridge over the River Kenfig (Afon Cyffnig) connects Kenfig Natonal Nature Reserve and the Margam Moors/Credit: Getty Images
The best site to see fen orchids, but also contains many other orchid species. You can ring the information centre to check flowering times. plantlife.org.uk/uk/our-work/conservation-projects/coastal/kenfig-glamorganshire

Balranald, Outer Hebrides

Balranald, North Uist, Scotland/Credit: Getty Images
Balranald RSPB Nature Reserve, North Uist, Outer Hebrides, Western Isles, Scotland/Credit: Getty Images
Traditional land management creates the Hebridean machair (grassy plain) that is carpeted in flowers including marsh orchids.

Beinn Eighe and Torridon, Highlands

Mountain range
Grass and stone plateau, Beinn Eighe/Credit: Chris Eilbeck for Geograph
Between Loch Torrin and Loch Maree you can enjoy mountain scenery and particularly Scottish plants among the Caledonian pinewood. Among them, you can see creeping lady’s-tresses.

Whisby Nature Park, Lincolnshire

A beautiful rare wild marsh orchid flowering/Credit: Getty Images
A beautiful rare wild marsh orchid flowering/Credit: Getty Images
Dactylorhiza majalis - endangered spiece of wild orchid (western marsh orchid, broad-leaved marsh orch., fan orch., common marsh orchid, or Irish marsh orchid)
Dactylorhiza majalis – endangered spiece of wild orchid (western marsh orchid, broad-leaved marsh orch., fan orch., common marsh orchid, or Irish marsh orchid)
With thousands of southern marsh orchids in the Orchid Glade, it would be hard not to see orchids here if you visit during flowering season, in June and July.

Extract from Flora exotica: the allure of orchids by Susanne Masters