Great places to see red squirrels

Red Squirrel (Image: Jon Hawkins Surrey Hills Photography)

With distinctive russet fur, tufted ears and twitching tail, a red squirrel is a captivating sight. Autumn is a great time to see them as they forage nuts to cache for the winter months.

Tune into the sights and sounds of the woodland and forest, listen for the chattering call, and look out for the gnawed husks of cones – watch out for them raining down from above!

Leaping red squirrel © Peter Cairns/2020VISION

Once common, the red squirrel population has fallen from around 3.5 million, to around 120,000, of which 75% or more are in Scotland.  

Scottish Wildlife Trust

One of the best places for year-round close-up views is Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre and wildlife reserve.  There are specially designed squirrel feeder boxes and rope walkways set up in the woodland feeding station, within metres of a large observation window.  Visitors can watch from the comfort of the visitor centre, with a hot drink or snack, as red squirrels feed and play outside. 

Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Cumbria Wildlife Trust's Smardale Gill is a premier nature reserve for spotting reds, along with Wreay Woods

Northumberland Wildlife Trust

Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s reserves where you might catch a glimpse of red squirrels include Hauxley, where they have been captured on trail cameras on a feeder near the visitor centre, and East Cramlington Pond. There are good poulations at Holystone North Wood and Holystone Burn.  Red squirrels are seen regularly at Tony’s Patch.  Rarer sightings where reds are turning up include Juliet’s Wood and Briarwood Banks.

Lancashire Wildlife Trust

Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Freshfield Dune Heath nature reserve enjoys frequent sightings in the woodland.

Dorset Wildlife Trust

Brownsea Island nature reserve, managed by Dorset Wildlife Trust, has a strong population and the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust's Bouldnor Forest may offer glimpses of red squirrel leaping from branch to branch. With no introduced grey squirrels on these islands, their smaller cousin thrives here.

Find out more about this top wildlife experience here.

Images: Leaping red squirrel © Peter Cairns/2020VISION