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3 STUNNING WILD ISLES BREAKS PERFECT FOR A SUMMER STAYCATION

Earlier this year, Sir David Attenborough once again wowed the nation when he premiered his latest nature documentary series, Wild Isles. Having spent his long career journeying all over the world, the 96-year-old naturalist and presenter is staying closer to home this time around.

Once the series finishes, you might be compelled to visit some of the locations featured in the series. Thankfully, in the case of Wild Isles, that will be easier than ever to staycation this summer and discover the beauty of the British Isles.

1. KINGFISHERS, RIVERS STOUR, AVON AND FROME
The chalk streams of Britain are, according to Sir David, “one of the rarest habitats on Earth,” with 85% of the world’s 200 or so to be found in southern England. 

The mineral and oxygen-rich chalk creates clear water and the perfect habitat for some incredible species including water crowfoot, damsel flies, and brown trout. You’ll also find minnows, and their chief predator, the kingfisher. 

“One of Britain’s loveliest birds,” it is often only a flash of electric blue that signals the passing of a kingfisher. They fly low above our chalk streams and rivers at up to 30 mph and enter the water almost silently, eating half their body weight in minnows each day.

Wild Isles was filmed on the Rivers Stour, Avon and Frome. The latter rises in Dodington, near Chipping Sodbury in South Gloucestershire. This area sits on the western edge of the Cotswold’s area of outstanding beauty. 

Next door to Chipping Sodbury is the small village of Old Sodbury. The village is part of the Cotswold Way, making it a great location for walking breaks. 

The village also marks the start of the Frome Valley Walkway, a 20-mile walk to Bristol Harbour that follows the River Frome, giving you a great chance to see kingfishers and other Wild Isles wildlife.

Not too far to travel from the Future Planning offices, you might also consider a visit to the Avon, either at Defford where you can enjoy stand-up paddleboarding or in the historic town of Tewkesbury, home to Europe’s largest medieval festival.

2. PUFFINS, FARNE ISLANDS, NORTHUMBERLAND
The Farne Islands in Northumberland are home to up to 55,000 pairs of puffins. The sea birds – easily identifiable thanks to their bright orange beaks and feet – mate for life and will return each year to the same burrow. 

Puffins feast on lesser sand eels, a slippery prey just 30cm long. Not only is overfishing diminishing the supply of eels, but climate change is also pushing the eels to the north. What’s more, as Wild Isles grippingly shows, local gulls are only too keen to steal the puffin’s hard-earned dinner.

If you’re considering a trip to Northumberland, the best time to catch the Farne Island puffins is between April and late July. 

Equally, you might want to head to the Pembrokeshire coast near Skomer Island. Sir David is seen meeting the puffins here and the whole coast is perfect for a spring or summer holiday.

Boat trips to Farne Island set off from Seahouses. A picturesque market town with a beautiful beach and harbour, it is within the Northumberland Coast area of outstanding natural beauty. 

If you’re looking to take a trip to Skomer Island, you’ll find plenty of boat rips along that stretch of the Pembrokeshire coast. Only one, though, lands on the island itself. Trips from Martins Haven take 15 minutes and give you a full day of sightseeing and animal watching.

3. GANNETS, BASS ROCK, FIRTH OF FORTH
Wild Isles was filmed over three years and beautifully captures the moment, at the height of summer when gannet nests flood the island of Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth.

With a wing span of more than two metres, gannets are the largest seabird we see in Britain. It remains to be seen though, how the avian flu outbreak of 2022 affects gannet numbers this summer.

You can take a boat trip out to the rock from North Berwick, where the Scottish Seabird Centre run regular services. As well as tightly packed nests, you might also witness the extraordinary sight of gannets diving into the sea for food, hitting the water at speeds of up to 60 mph.

The rock also boasts a 19th-century lighthouse and the ruins of a castle.

Scotland features prominently in Wild Isles. You might also consider a trip to Islay off Scotland’s west coast. Here you’ll find whisky distilleries, hiking trails, and golf courses, as well as the chance to see white-tailed eagles.

And for the very adventurous, who can forget the stunning sight of orcas breaching the surface near Muckle Flugga, close to the most northerly point of the British Isles? Killer whales head to Shetland each spring but catching sight of them isn’t easy.

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