There are six native species of reptile in the UK, three lizard species and three snake species. Read about these interesting animals and have a look at where you could be lucky enough to spot one yourself!
Reptiles are fascinating animals, that can sometimes sadly be forgotten about when talking about interesting and exciting UK wildlife.
They have evolved from prehistoric beginnings to the animals you see today and the variety is astonishing. Most lay eggs, but some give birth to live young, they live in an array of habitats and, contrary to general expectations, are often quite shy.
Perhaps you might be lucky enough to come across one basking on a rock to warm themselves, or maybe you'll need to do a little more searching. However, these creatures are more than worth the wait to see. Sadly, due to loss of habitat, some of these reptiles are very rare, which makes a sighting even more spectacular. It's so important that we protect important habitats to ensure that we do not lose our native reptiles and The Wildlife Trusts reserves are working hard to do just that.
So would you like to try and meet some of these amazing critters?
Below take a look at some information about our six native species of reptile and find a handy guide to local Wildlife Trust reserves where you might be lucky enough to spot a reptile yourself!
Have a read and hopefully you'll feel inspired to plan a visit to one of the reserves very soon.
To find out more about this Top UK Wildlife Experience, click here.
The common lizard is the UK’s most common and widespread reptile. It is found across many habitats including heathland, moorland, woodland and grassland where it can be seen basking in sunny spots.
Widespread, they can be found throughout the country, except for most Scottish islands, the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands. Interestingly, the common lizard is the only reptile native to Ireland.
Despite their name and appearance, slow-worms are neither worms nor snakes, but are in fact lizards - they're given away by their ability to shed their tails and blink with their eyelids.
They can be found in heathland, tussocky grassland, woodland edges and rides: basically anywhere they can find invertebrates to eat and a sunny patch in which to sunbathe. They can also live up to 30 years in the wild!
Slow-worms are widespread, found throughout the country, except for most Scottish islands, Northern Ireland and most of the Channel Islands.
Sand lizards are one of the UK's rarest reptiles. They favour sandy heathland habitats and sand dunes and can be spotted basking on bare patches of sand. They also lay their eggs in the sand.
The sand lizard is sadly restricted to a few isolated areas with sandy heaths as destruction of their habitat has reduced their range. They can be found in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, and lives on sand dunes in Lancashire. This lizard has also now been reintroduced into other areas in the South East and Wales.
Our largest snake, the grass snake, particularly likes wetland habitats, but can also be found in dry grasslands and in gardens, especially those with a pond nearby. Females lay eggs in rotting vegetation, often in compost heaps, so always be careful when moving your own compost heaps. Like all reptiles, grass snakes hibernate, usually from October to April.
The grass snake is widespread in England and Wales - you may have even spotted one in your own back garden - but not found in Scotland or Northern Ireland. It is absent from the Isles of Scilly and most of the Channel Islands.
The adder is a relatively small, stocky snake which prefers woodland, heathland and moorland; it is Britain's only venomous reptile. It hunts lizards and small mammals, as well as ground-nesting birds such as the skylark and meadow pipit. Adders hibernate from October, emerging in the first warm days of March, which is the easiest time of year to find them, usually basking on a log or under a warm rock.
Adders are widespread across the country, except for Scottish Islands, the Isles of Scilly, the Channel Islands, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
This rare snake can only be found in a few places, often alongside other rare reptiles like the sand lizard because they both favour the same kind of sandy heathland habitat.
The smooth snake is very rare, confined to sandy heaths in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey and reintroduced populations in West Sussex and Devon. Due to its rarity, the smooth snake is classified as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Where to go...
Snelsmore Common (Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust)
Snelsmore Common contains a range of habitats including heather, wet bog and woodland making it home to a host of nationally rare species. There is a good chance of spotting adder, grass snake, common lizard and slow worm whilst visiting the site. A pond on the reserve also hosts breeding palmate newts.
Over 75% of lowland heath like Snelsmore has been lost and as a result many birds and other animals that inhabit heathland are nationally very rare. It was decided therefore to restore the heathland at Snelsmore Common through a combination of tree and bracken removal, and livestock grazing. This makes this reserve a really special place to visit so don't miss it!
Bovey Heathfield (Devon Wildlife Trust)
Bovey Heathfield nature reserve is a real reptile haven – and is a rather unique nature reserve as it has been rescued from a trashed site of burned-out cars and fly-tipping to a colourful lowland heathland of heather and gorse, along with great dragonfly ponds and stonechats and green woodpeckers on the woodland fringe.
Visit on a hot day and you have a good chance of seeing slow worms and common lizards basking on the patches of bare earth. Grass snakes and adders also make use of the many corrugated iron ‘reptile shelters’ that have been placed around the reserve.
Stapleton Mire (Devon Wildlife Trust)
Stapleton Mire is a Culm grassland site rich in nationally rare plant and insect species. The reserve was acquired by Devon Wildlife Trust from a farmer who had farmed the land in a traditional way for many years, thus maintaining the diverse site we see today.
The Culm grassland communities are very rich and this reserves hosts a variety of wildlife, from roe deer to barn owls to marbled white butterflies.
Adders have been recorded regularly on this site - perhaps you will be able to see one if you visit this diverse reserve!
Rackenford and Knowstone Moor (Devon Wildlife Trust)
Rackenford and Knowstone Moors together with the adjacent Hares Down, represents the largest remaining block of Culm grassland in Devon, a habitat that was once widely distributed across the north of the county but, through changes in agricultural practice, has become greatly fragmented and localised. It is designated SAC and SSSI for marsh fritillary butterflies and Culm grassland (purple moor-grass pasture and wet heath).
Adders and Slow-worms can be found here thriving in the rare grassland.
Abercamlo Bog Nature Reserve (Radnorshire Wildlife Trust)
The special interest of this reserve lies in the basin mires. These hollows could have been carved by ice at the end of the last Ice Age, some ten thousand years ago or they could be hollows left by ancient river meanders.The layers of peat create squidgy vegetation underfoot composed of several species of sphagnum and cushion moss.
Reptiles such as the common lizard have been spotted regularly here and have a liking for hanging about on marker posts that you pass when following a circular walk around the reserve. Look out for them sunbathing on bright days and scurrying about in the undergrowth to escape your feet!
Gilfach Nature Reserve (Radnorshire Wildlife Trust)
Gilfach is a hill farm of open moorland, flower-rich grasslands and oak woodland, bissected by the River Marteg, an important tributory of the Upper River Wye.
The Nature Trail takes a circular route round the reserve, following the river upstream past the otter hide, up the lane and out along the Monks Trod with very fine views of the valley. This is the walk where you are most likely to spot common lizards basking in the sun.
There is a boardwalk along the Monk’s Trod path, in the summer months this one patch of boardwalk can have as many as 50 common lizard basking at any one time – an amazing sight!
Potteric Carr Nature Reserve (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)
Nature paths suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs will wind you around a stunning, safe wetland habitat littered with pockets of woodland and wildflower meadows.
The ponds provide a home for newts, frogs and whirligig beetles with staff on hand to show you the best spots for pond dipping.
A great place to see grass snakes, a visit early in the day (before other visitors have scared them off) is the best time. You can see snakes of all sizes in the ponds in Loversall field or along Loversall delph. The months between April and August provide the best weather conditions for the snakes and you are very likely to spot one or two during this time!
Allerthorpe Common (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)
Allerthorpe Common Nature Reserve is a mosaic of habitat types - dry heath, wet heath, marshy grassland, mire, tall grass, bracken, ponds, broadleaved woodland and scrub.
The lowland heath habitat found here once stretched right across the Vale of York, but now only remains in isolated fragments. This habitat and the wildlife it supports are now rare across the UK.
Patches of gorse scrub provide shelter for birds and their network of roots support a healthy population of adders. Visit on a sunny morning between February and April and you are almost guaranteed close-up views of basking adders. Other reptiles which can be found on the reserve are common lizards and slow-worms.
Strensall Common (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)
Strensall Common is a fabulous large heathland close to York where the pink heads and grey green leaves of cross-leaved heath intermingle with the purple spikes and green foliage of ling heather.
This site is of international importance and holds SSSI and SAC status. Silver birch have been cut back to maintain the open nature of the heathland, this is where you can find common lizards basking on the birch stumps in the sunshine.
Fen Bog (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)
Surrounded by bright purple heather, with a variety of colourful sphagnum mosses underfoot, Fen Bog is a delightful moorland nature reserve.
Besides controlling bracken by hand, the site is grazed by sheep from neighbouring common land. This is beneficial in keeping down coarse grasses that may threaten some of the plant species present such as heather and hard ferns.
The Lyke Wake Walk from Osmortherly to Ravenscar is where you can discover both adders and common lizards which may be scurrying throughout the moorland or basking in the sunshine.
There's not just reptiles on offer here - this site hsa so much more for nature enthusiasts! The site is also renowned for butterflies like the small pearl-bordered fritillary and bog plants such as round-leaved sundew. Meadow pipit breed here and you may even spot merlin passing through.
Holystone Burn (Northumberland Wildlife Trust)
Holystone Burn is a varied reserve with habitats such as upland woodland and moorland vegetation, including oak and birch woods, scattered juniper scrub, areas of wet grassland, heathland, flushes with bog myrtle and a small reed bed.
The site has two species of reptile - adder and common lizard, these are both likely to be found throughout the lowland heath and wet grasslands where there are lots of undercover areas for them to hide in!
Kielder Forest and Border Mires (Northumberland Wildlife Trust)
Kielder Forest is part of the Living Landscapes project which is concentrating on restoring the land in order to enhance it both for the people and the wildlife living there. The area consists 3500 hectares of mires (bogs) and 50,000 hectares of forest.
Restoring the mires to their natural condition will benefit rare species including long leaved sundew, small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies and breeding birds like merlin and curlew. We will work to conserve the endangered red squirrel, and improve wetland and woodland habitats in partnership with the Forestry Commission, Northumbrian Water and other landowners.
Reptiles such as the common lizard have been spotted on site, and the restoration of the valuable bog areas will benefit this species greatly.
Annstead Dunes (Northumberland Wildlife Trust)
Annstead Dunes are an extensive and important part of the Northumberland coast. The area consists of a strip of mature sand dunes at the back of the bay between Beadnell and Seahouses. The foredunes at the seaward edge are up to 10 metres high and slope steeply to the beach below. The fixed dunes to the back vary greatly in height and are at their highest towards the southern end of the site, while at the northern end, near Annstead Bridge, they are lower than the foredunes.
A colony of common lizards can be found on the dunes, sunbathing in the sand! They love the undisturbed dune habitat which covers the reserve.
Whitelee Moor (Northumberland Wildlife Trust)
Whitelee Moor is one of Britain's most important upland nature reserves. It's a site of European conservation importance due to its active blanket bog and heather heaths. A large part of the reserve is rare blanket bog, which is home to a variety of plants including sphagnum mosses, cloudberry, bog asphodel and cotton grasses. The site includes blanket bog, heather moorland, rough grassland and acid grassland, with pockets of valley fen and a few calcareous habitats.
Adder and common lizard are common here as well as palmate newts on small pools along the burn.
Ford Moss (Northumberland Wildlife Trust)
Ford Moss is a lowland raised peat bog set between farmland to the north and a sandstone ridge to the south. The raised mire is set in a hollow and has grown over a small lake which would have been present shortly after the last ice age.
The wetter parts of the site are still home to sphagnum mosses, sundew, cranberry, cross-leaved heath and cotton grasses and the large heath butterfly still breeds on the bog.
The aromatic bog myrtle grows at various places, and the site is home to good numbers of common lizards, with adders also seen on occasion.
Harbottle Crags (Northumberland Wildlife Trust)
This nature reserve is an area of beautiful open moorland and includes the Drake Stone (an excellent viewpoint across the Coquet Valley), where nearby rocks have been scratched and polished by the ice sheet of the last glaciations.
The site is largely covered by upland heather. The peat bog at the eastern end of the lough has formed from a layer of sphagnum moss growing over deep water.
Adder, slow worm and common lizard have all been recorded on the site, favouring the heathland habitat.
Sandwich and Pegwell Bay (Kent Wildlife Trust)
Kent Wildlife Trust's largest and one of its most important nature reserves, with the only ancient dune pasture in Kent. The reserve is made up of a complex mosaic of habitats: inter-tidal mudflats, saltmarsh, shingle beach, sand dunes, ancient dune pastures, chalk cliffs, wave cut platform and coastal scrubland.
The reserve is of international importance for its waders and wildfowl, best seen over winter or during the spring and autumn migrations. It may also be possible to spot the sand lizard at this reserve, using the important dunes for its home – this is a great spot as the sand lizard is very rare!
Reculver Visitor Centre and Country Park (Kent Wildlife Trust)
With commanding views across the estuary, it old sea forts, modern wind-turbines and spectacular migratory birds, this award-winning, eco-friendly visitor centre is set in an extensive country park. The park has regulary won a 'Green Flag' awarded by the Enviroment Agency - and makes an excellent starting point for cliff top and seashore walks.
On the beach there are edible common shore and velvet swimming crabs and beadley anemones. There are also common lizards in the grassland and mining bees in the cliffs.
Stanford Warren Nature Reserve (Essex Wildlife Trust)
This 41 acre Thames-side reserve consists of one of the largest reedbeds in Essex, created by gravel extraction in the 1920s, together with areas of marsh and rough grassland.
Many bird species can be spotted here in the Spring and Summer using the reedbeds. Common Lizard, Grass Snake and Adder frequent the rough grassland, and Harvest Mice nest among the reeds.
Two Tree Island Nature Reserve (Essex Wildlife Trust)
It was reclaimed from the sea in the 18th century when a seawall was built around the saltmarsh, the enclosed area being used for rough grazing and subsistence farming. The island is now bisected by a roadway that neatly divides it into two halves. Essex Wildlife Trust now manages the island as a nature reserve.
Birds such as Green Woodpecker, Kestrel, Short-eared Owl, Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Fieldfare can all be seen. Slow Worms, Adders and Common Lizard can also all be found throughout the grasslands. There are various walking routes around this reserve. Visitors are advised to keep to the marked tracks to avoid disturbing the birds.
Upton Towans Nature Reserve (Cornwall Wildlife Trust)
This nature reserve near Hayle has internationally important dune grasslands which support a range of species inlcuding glow worm, pyrimidal orchid and sky lark. The sand dunes rise steeply from the beach and provide a wonderful vantage point to admire the stunning views across St Ives Bay.
Adders can be found in the grasses on the dunes here, restoration work has recently been carried out throughout the reserve in order to ensure that the habitat is favourable for native reptiles.
Chûn Downs Nature Reserve (Cornwall Wildlife Trust)
The reserve is part of the West Penwith Moors, which overall contain 25% of Cornwall's heathland. The Downs are largely scrub covered and would have been created by woodland clearance in the 3rd or 2nd centuries BC. Stunning panoramic views extend across the landscape of historic small fields, Cornish hedges and spectacular heathland to the sea.
Reptiles have been recorded on site and are likely to be spotted basking in the sunshine and making their way through the heathland.
Higher Hyde Heath (Dorset Wildlife Trust)
Nestled within one of the best areas of the country to see all six native British reptiles, this is an internationally important heathland site, with wet, dry and humid heaths, a selection of peaty pools and ponds, mire and wet woodland. Birds include the ground nesting nightjar, Dartford warbler, woodlark and tree pipit. Many interesting dragon and damselflies live in the wetter areas, whilst grayling and silver-studded blue butterflies can be found on the open heath.
See if you can spot all six species of reptiles on this wonderful site!
Fulbourn Fen (BCN Wildlife Trust)
The old meadows here have never been treated with pesticide or fertiliser, so they have kept the high diversity of plants and insects which traditional farming techniques produced. Six species of orchid have been recorded in the varied grassland lying over complex geology and archaeology, while the woods shelter the reserve and harbour birds and fungi.
Common lizards and Grass snakes have been recorded on this site.