Bempton Cliffs are spectacular for a summer date with seabirds. Image by Mark Smales

As holidaymakers across the country seek new places to visit without going abroad, RSPB England's Annabel Rushton reveals the top 20 sites for a staycation in nature this summer.

For many, travelling to other countries conjures up the possibility of discovering incredible creatures, secret wildernesses and spectacular scenery. With over 100 RSPB nature reserves across England, we are keen to show just how many dramatic landscapes and how much wonderful wildlife there is to be discovered closer to home. Whether it’s wild city breaks, a trip to the seaside, adventurous mountains, enchanted forests or the tranquillity of a stroll through whispering reeds and wetlands, we've got a destination for everyone.

Wild city breaks

Spotting wildlife is perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when picturing a city break, but these nature reserves are within easy access of some of England’s top cities, so if it’s a more urban trip you’re after, why not combine some sight-seeing with natural history at the following locations:

A bird's-eye view of Saltholme by Jim Stephenson 

Beside the seaside

Golden sandy beaches, pebble strewn shorelines and striking cliff faces aren’t only the preserve of a holiday in the Mediterranean. They can be found in some of the most nature-rich corners of England and are particularly apparent on these flagship RSPB nature reserves:

A stroll along Shipstal Shoreline at Arne by David Kjaer (

Enchanted forests

There’s something about taking a stroll through trees that is soothing for the soul. With so many legends and folklores wrapped up in England’s forests, they are the perfect place to let your imagination carry you away into a fairy tale land. Discover three of the most magical:

Will you spot a fairy in the woods at Coombes Valley? Image by B.Elliott

Adventurous Mountains

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lake District is very popular for exploring England’s mountains, but while the masses often head to the honeypot areas of Windermere and Keswick, our Haweswater nature reserve, in partnership with landowners United Utilities, is a hidden gem just waiting to be uncovered in this secluded corner of the National Park. Along with taking a hike up the rugged, mountainous landscape of Harter Fell or High Street, unique wildlife experiences are also on offer such as badger watching and red squirrel photography, from the site’s purpose-built hides. Find out more:

The magic of Haweswater by Patrick Neaves 

Tranquil wetlands

Going for a walk through the calming surroundings of a wetland, with the rustling of reeds and the backdrop of bird song, does wonders for mental and physical wellbeing. Whether you’re an early bird up with the dawn chorus, you enjoy a saunter past peaceful pools in the middle of the day, or prefer an evening stroll as the sun sets, these popular nature reserves are marvellous for mindfulness at any time of day:

The light and landscape is food for the soul at Dungeness. Image by Ben Hall (

Wildlife and the outdoors has brought much needed solace for many of us in these challenging times, with over half of people in the UK turning to and noticing the nature around them more during the pandemicNow, we hope that this connection to the natural world can grow, with more people seeking staycations in nature to refresh, relax and look after their wellbeing.

Wherever you are, find your nearest wild adventure with the RSPB here.