The Lake District has an amazing variety of animals and birds. Creatures that you never, or rarely, see anywhere else in the country are readily spotted here. There are also farm animals in abundance and it is often said by locals travelling from the south that you know you’re in Cumbria when you start seeing sheep!
Wild animals, such as deer, fell ponies, stoats and red squirrels can’t be found everywhere in the region, but if you go to the right places at the right time, stay quiet, and be patient, you will often spot them.
Here are some of our favourite friends from the Animal Kingdom and where you might spot them around the Lake District and Cumbria.
Don’t forget to book your ideal holiday cottage nearby – many of our holiday homes enjoy occasional visits from these critters!
The red squirrel is extinct in most parts of the UK, but they are still at home across much of Cumbria and you can spot their bushy tails in any number of lightly wooded areas. Some of the best places to spot red squirrels include Dodd Wood and Whinlatter Forest Park near Keswick, Greystoke Forest in Penrith, Smardale Nature Reserve near Krikby Stephen, and Argill Woods Nature Reserve near Brough. Put together a picnic and enjoy a day of walking and squirrel spotting in these lovely areas!
Ospreys were once native to much of the UK but became extinct in England in 1840 and Scotland in 1916. In 1954 they reappeared in Scotland and by the 1990s the occasional pair visited the Lake District in the summer. With help from The Lake District Osprey Project, a breeding pair set up home in Dodd Wood, above Bassenthwaite Lake, in 2001. You can now spot them swooping through the skies as you pass the lake, or between April and August head to viewing points at Dodd Wood or Whinlatter Forest to watch the nest.
Owls and Birds of Prey
The Hawk & Owl Centre at Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass plays an important part in conservation locally, nationally and internationally. In the fabulous centre, you can get up close to a variety of common and endangered owls, vultures, and birds of prey. There are daily (and some nightly) flying displays as well as heron feedings on the canon bank.
At the opposite end of the Lake District, in Lowther near Penrith, is the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre. With hawks, vultures, falcons, eagles and owls from around the world, you can see birds that you will unlikely ever see in the wild.
There is no one place in the Lake District that is good for bird watching – you can take your pick! Sea birds on the sandy stretches of the Solway Coast, rare birds in a huge selection of nature reserves, hovering kestrels and hunting buzzards, ospreys, and an innumerable number of smaller birds… The Lake District and Cumbria is a true birdwatcher's paradise!
The Red Deer is the UK’s largest native mammal. Though shy, there are various herds around the Lake District and Cumbria. For the best chance of spotting red deer, head to Haweswater RSPB Reserve, Ennerdale, or Grizedale. Remember to stay quiet to improve the likelihood of spotting one of these glorious creatures!
Scattered about on hills in the rugged Lake District landscape are a few small groups of fell ponies. This hardy breed is thought to have roamed through the north of England since prehistoric times and they are well-suited to the difficult conditions of the Lake District fells.
Though sometimes difficult to find, head to Cold Fell near Ennerdale Bridge, where a wandering group can often be seen. You can also find a cottage in nearby Ennerdale.
If you’re an animal lover staying in the southwest of the county during your holiday, then you must visit South Walney Nature Reserve. With amazing views across Morecambe Bay, it is also home to the only grey seal colony in Cumbria! These ‘dogs of the sea’ can be spotted at high tide all year round.
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The famous Herdwick sheep are a favourite of Cumbria. With their sweet faces, they are iconic of the Lakeland fells. You don’t have to try very hard to find a flock of Herdwick in Cumbria – take a wander around any part of the countryside in the northwest and you are bound to spot some! Herdwick sheep are perfect for the fells with their hardy nature and their instinct to stay in one area, without the need for fences.
The Lake District is known as one of the most pet-friendly parts of the UK, with places like Keswick having won ‘Most Dog Friendly Town’ on a number of occasions. You will see these four-legged favourites wherever you go, but keep a special eye out for Patterdale Terriers and Lakeland Terriers, which are native to the Lake District.
These adorable-looking mammals are actually one of the UK’s top predators, so don’t get too close! This furry-favourite was almost driven to extinction in the UK during the 20th century and, although their numbers have increased slightly, there is still a long way to go. Despite that and their famous elusiveness, you might be lucky enough to spot these playful creatures, especially in the rivers of the Eden Valley, or along the lakeshores of Ullswater and Derwentwater.
With no shortage of water, the Lake District has a huge range of fish and eels. From the famous Arctic Charr – found in the Lake District since the ice age – to salmon, pike, trout, and much more, you can find every UK-native fish in the waters of Cumbria. Take a look at our guide to the top fishing spots in Cumbria and the Lake District for more.
Alpaca & Llamas
Though obviously not native to the Lake District, there are nonetheless a few places where you can find both alpaca and llamas! The Lakes Distillery in Bassenthwaite has its own herd of alpaca, or you can enjoy an alpaca walk or llama trek with Alpacaly Ever After (pictured) on the Lingholm Estate near Portinscale! For more llama fun, head to the Llama Karma Kafe near Penrith.
Everywhere you look you will find a farm in the Lake District! But if you want to get up close and personal with some of the animals, there are plenty of options. Enjoy a stay at one of our farm cottages, or head to one of the many petting farms available. Try The Gincase on the Solway Coast, Walby Farm Park near Carlisle or Greenlands Farm Village near Kendal. There are pigs, cows, sheep, ducks, chickens, and more!
The Lake District Wildlife Park
Just 10-minutes from Keswick and close to Bassenthwaite Lake, The Lake District Wildlife Park is a fabulous day out for all the family. With animals ranging from zebras to meerkats, snakes to rabbits, lynx to wildebeest, and alpaca to gibbons, there is plenty to see! You can also spot the Northern Eurasian Lynx which, though extinct in the UK wild, would have once roamed the forests of Cumbria! A range of interesting talks, demonstrations, and experiences will keep everyone entertained.
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Perfectly placed on the western shore of Windermere, Lakes Aquarium boasts an array of underwater and waterside creatures. During your visit you will see the likes of local fish such as pike; clownfish; piranha; and unusual-looking but amazing axolotls. There is also an underwater otter tunnel that all ages will love! Round off your watery adventure with a cruise from the pier right outside the aquarium.
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You’ll find animal magic everywhere in the Lake District and we hope that this guide helps you start your adventure! For your perfect holiday cottage, head over to our holiday cottage search.
Please note that some animal attractions, especially working farms, do not accept dogs and opening hours vary considerably throughout the year, so please check individual attractions before you go.
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