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The 5 Best Winter Wildlife Days Out by Train

Travel by train for unforgettable winter wildlife days out and encounter rare British species thriving in the cold. Grab your Railcard and discover your next rail adventure

Sure, in winter, many creatures will gladly tuck themselves away until the spring, but there are others who have no problem being out and about during these cooler months. And that means the chilliest of seasons remains a fantastic time to catch sight of some of Britain’s best wildlife (when they want to play ball, of course).

Here are 5 winter wildlife days out in Britain to check out, which you can get to by train (and cheaper, too, when you book your tickets with a Railcard).

1. Mountain hares in the Peak District

The uplands of the Peak District are the only places in England where you can see the elusive mountain hare. Smaller and rounder than the brown hare, with white winter fur from December to spring, you’re most likely to spot them darting across the Dark Peak’s heather moorlands.

To maximise your chances of seeing a mountain hare, go on an organised walk with an experienced hare spotter or plan your own route around the Dark Peak’s Derwent Edge and Outer Edge. Keep your eyes peeled at all times and have either your binoculars or a long-lens camera within easy reach as you head out onto the moorlands off Pennine Way.

You can start or end your mountain hare walk with a bite to eat at the Outside Café(external link, opens in a new tab) in nearby Hathersage, with baked potatoes and hot-filling sandwich rolls on the menu.

Nearest stations: Hathersage, Glossop, Bamford, Hope

2. Woodlarks in the New Forest

While many British birds migrate south for winter, the woodlarks of the New Forest stay put and break out into beautiful songs. You have a fantastic chance of seeing and hearing the woodlarks in the New Forest in winter, where they nest on the heathland and head to higher perches to warble in January and February.

The New Forest is their heartland and we recommend you get off the train at Brockenhurst and walk a little way south to Setley Plain. From here, you have views over the rolling hills all the way to the Isle of White on a clear day and a good chance of spotting them among clumps of heather and bracken on the edge of farmland.

After your woodlark spotting, rest your feet and enjoy a hearty meal at The Filly Inn(external link, opens in a new tab) nearby.

Nearest station: Brockenhurst

3. Reindeer in the Cairngorms

If you’re looking for winter wildlife days out in Scotland, don’t miss your chance to visit Britain’s only free-ranging reindeer herd in their natural Scottish Highlands habitat.

There are two ways to see them. One is in the paddock at Glenmore Village in the Cairngorms National Park. The other is on a hill trip organised by the wildlife park’s staff. Don’t ignore advice on the essential winter gear you’ll need to tackle the exposed and boggy terrain. Without it, they may turn you away.

The joy of going on this hill trip is that you walk among reindeer – you can even have a short hand-feeding session, too. You need a good level of fitness for the reindeer trip but it’s absolutely worth it – getting close to these beautiful and sociable creatures will have you smiling all the way home.

Nearest stations: Aviemore, Carrbridge, Dalwhinnie, Kingussie, Newtonmore

4. Seals in Horsey

Every winter on Norfolk’s Horsey Gap, a large colony of female grey seals come ashore to give birth (the birthing season runs from late October to early February). It’s an amazing opportunity to see these creatures during this special period – and the cute white seal pups on the beach are a bona fide crowd-pleaser. By December there are 100s of them covering the sands down to Winterton Beach!

While the Horsey Beach area is cordoned off to stop you from getting too close and disturbing them (they can move ‌surprisingly fast when they want to), there are great viewing areas on the dunes overlooking the beach.

You could visit the seals as part of a not-too-taxing circular walk that takes you around Horsey Windpump(external link, opens in a new tab), after which you can proceed to the Nelson Head pub for fireside refreshments.

Nearest station: Great Yarmouth

5. Starlings in Brighton

Another seaside wildlife spectacle you can catch during the winter months takes place along the coast of Brighton. Pick a spot overlooking the sea about half an hour before the sun goes down and watch starlings put on a spectacular murmuration.

The starlings create swooping waves in the sky in their 1,000s at dusk from November to March, and a fun place to watch them is from Brighton’s Palace Pier, where there’s a starling observation point and cafe called Starlings Roost.

The cafe also has a night-vision camera under the pier where you can see them settled after dark. If it’s raining, you could take a trip up the Brighton i360 observation tower to see the starlings and still stay dry (you can get 2FOR1 on tickets for this when you travel by train, too).

Nearest station: Brighton

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