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Britain’s best bird watching towns

As long as you remember to wrap up warm, the last stages of Autumn is one of the best times of the year to see birds in Britain, with migration bringing huge flocks at once and occasionally very rare individuals that have taken a slightly wrong turn on their journey.

People sometimes are turned off by the idea of ‘Twitching,’ but actually, you can experience some breathtakingly beautiful moments watching birds in flight and also use it as a perhaps rare opportunity for calm and a chance to appreciate the world around you.

If you are new to bird-watching, there is plenty of ready information out there, such as the RSPB website, which is a great source for getting started and where you can also sign up to the Big Garden Bird Watch, taking place next year from the 28th-30th January.

Bird watching is also a great way see some beautiful parts of the country that you might not have explored before. Below we list out top 5 towns where you can bird watch and also enjoy a further trundle around.


The largest of the five towns in the metropolitan borough of the City of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, its history dates back to Roman times, with evidence to suggest that the modern day town was built upon a Roman soldier settlement. Queens Park in Castleford provides evidence of Anglo Saxon roundhouses, and the history of the area also includes it being the site of Oliver Cromwell’s encampment.

Other settlers to the town include birds, and the best place to seek them out is the RSPB reserve, Fairburn Ings – an 8 minute drive, or 40 minute bus ride from Castelford. Recent spottings at the site have been a Female Stonechat and Goldcrest. As we go further into winter, Golden eye, Goosander, Peregrine and Smew are expected.

Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve - by Liberty Monkman

Fairburn Ings Nature Reserve – by Liberty Monkman

The site is open from 9am-4pm, November-February with lots of great seasonal events coming up. There is even a Visitor and Information Centre, binoculars for hire and viewing facilities.

Whilst in the area, a visit to Castleford Museum to find out more about the town’s heritage and also Queens Mill, which was once thought to be the largest stone grinding mill is the world is recommended.

Of course the town is also home to the Rugby League team, Castleford Tigers, with fixtures starting from February.

If you like to shop then Junction 32 has you covered, with over 80 outlet stores. For an indoor adrenaline rush, Xscape Yorkshire has a laser zone, indoor climbing and snowboarding as well as other activities and places to eat.

Dawlish Warren

Dawlish is a charming coastal town in South Devon. Its first inhabitants were fishermen and salt makers, but later on the town attracted visits from Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.

Dawlish Town from the beach

Dawlish Town from the beach

The town centre has plenty of shops and places to eat, including Bah!Humbug! a retro sweet and ice cream shop, and Gay’s Creamery and Pie Shop. A couple of minutes walk will take you to the beach.

In the town itself, you can spot the famous black swans on the river, but a short train ride on Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s stunning South Devon railway line to Dawlish Warren will give you access to the Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve situated on the River Exe estuary.

The reserve comprises 500 acres of open access grassland and sand dunes and because of its location, is one of the most important spots for wildfowl and wading birds in the whole of the South West.

Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve

Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve

Each Autumn, up to 23,000 birds migrate to Dawlish Warren and stay until late March. 3 hours before and after high tide Dunlin, Grey Plover, Bar Tailed Godwit, Oyster catcher, Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal can be found sheltering on the shores.


Nestled in the gorgeous Costwolds, despite its unique arts heritage and festivals,Stroud is one of the most unexplored and least commercialised areas in the district.

Birds obviously appreciate its qualities, and every Winter around 350,000 flock to the WWT run Slimbridge Wetland Centre for food and shelter. A 20 minute drive from Stroud, the centre is situated on 325 acres estuarine grasslands on the River Severn.

Slimbridge Wild Fowl Reserve

Slimbridge Wild Fowl Reserve

Among the top spots are Bewick’s Swans, Eurasian White-Fronted geese, Red Shank, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Wigeon and Teal.

The accessible centre is open from 9:30 am – 4pm during Winter and has great facilities, including lots of opportunities for learning and hands-on fun.

As well as being brilliant for birds, Stroud has also been named a ‘must visit’ location for Vintage Fashion Finds and antique books. The town has three dedicated vintage clothing stores, three second hand book shops, five antique/second hand furniture shops and two record shops selling vinyl, and the Shambles Market is open every Friday and Saturday for keen-eyed bargain hunters. There is also a Farmer’s Market on Saturday, and Stroud Market on Sunday.

As you would expect, there are many beautiful walks, with five valleys meeting at the town and the landscape providing inspiration for Author Laurie Lee. There is also the Stroudwater Canal route.


Southwold Harbour

Southwold Harbour

This seaside Suffolk town is home to the famous Adnams Brewery and Distillery, where traveller’s can refresh themselves after a journey.

Feathered flyers-in make their restorative pilgrimage to Minsmere RSPB, where they can make the most of woodland, wetland and coastal scenery. Birds you are likely to find in the Winter are the Great Spotted Woodpecker,Red Throated Diver, Golden Eye and Bewick’s Swan.


Sunset over reedbed - Ian Barthorpe

Sunset over reedbed – Ian Barthorpe

The award-winning centre is open from 9am-4pm, November-February, and has a range of great facilities, including volunteer guides for those new to bird watching to make the visit a memorable one.

Once you have twitched to your heart’s content, a 25 minute drive into Southwold will give visitors plenty to explore, from the Electric Picture Palace Cinema built in 1912 (tours available) and Southwold Lighthouse which stands in the centre of town, to the uniquely quirky Pier.

There is also plenty of history to uncover, with the town’s naval, seafaring and fishing background. In warmer months, visitors can have a go at crabbing.


Rhayader in Powys, Wales, is the first town on the River Wye and is home to the dams and reservoirs of the Elan and Claerwen Valleys.

A four minute drive, or 20 minute walk away is Gigrin Farm, a family owned working farm. Their onsite Red Kite Feeding Centre is open all year round, and has helped with the reintroduction of what was once one of the UK’s rarest birds. The farm has both general hides, accessible hides and specialist Photographic Hides available for use. There is also an onsite coffee shop and caravan and camping pitches.

Red Kites at Gigrin Farm

Red Kites at Gigrin Farm

Rhayader and the Elan Valley also provides visitors with rare opportunities for walking, cycling, horse riding, fishing and arts and culture. One walk is the is Rhayader town trail, which starts from Smithfield Market and is suitable for wheelchairs and prams and is a great way of seeing the town .

One incredible example of something completely different to do is the Willow Globe Open Air Theatre, a living scaled down version of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, powered entirely using green and sustainable energy. Although most of their performances take place during the summer months, every second Thursday they run ‘Have a Go Workshops,” in Rhayader from 14:00-17:00pm for wannabee thespians.

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