Seeing red

Five Places to See Red Squirrels in The Lake District

You can see non-native grey squirrels everywhere, but if the only red squirrel you’ve ever seen is in pages of The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter, we’re here to help you spot those elusive, russet-coloured rarities in the wild.

Discover the Elusive Red Squirrels in The Wild of Lake District

Can Catch a Glimpse

Although their numbers have dwindled drastically – from millions to only around 140,000 – in recent years (boo to the greys for eating all the food and taking up all the space), thanks to numerous conservation projects, there are several places in the Lake District where you can catch a glimpse of these tree-dwelling, bushy-tailed, tufty-eared native beauties.

We’ve rounded up our top five places to see them below – and if you need a place to stay while you’re here squirrel-spotting, one of our holiday cottages will make the ideal base for your visit. Don’t forget your binoculars!

Smardale Nature Reserve, Kirkby Stephen

Home to a wide range of wildlife, including red squirrels, which live in the trees in the ancient woodland, Smardale Nature Reserve is looked after by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust and makes a great away-from-it-all day out for the whole family.

With scenic walks to enjoy, woodland to explore, and rare plants, birds and butterflies to discover too, if you’re visiting for the red squirrels, the best time to come is during autumn and winter when the trees are bare – although you can see them racing through the trees all year round. 

More info

Dodd Wood, Keswick

High above Bassenthwaite Lake you’ll find Dodd Wood and, hopefully, red squirrels. Managed by the Forestry Commission, make your way up to the top via one of the numerous marked trails and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views when you get there. 

Head to the feeding station at the osprey viewpoint (ospreys were successfully and naturally reintroduced to the area in 2001) and you should see red squirrels bounding over to enjoy a feast at all times of the year.

More info

Aira Force, Ullswater

One place you’ll almost certainly see red squirrels (although we can’t promise it) is Aira Force. The National Trust (working with the Penrith & District Red Squirrel Trust) have created a red squirrel trail, with feeders placed at various points on the footpaths to attract the charming creatures.

If you’re unlucky enough to not see one on the day you visit, at least you can admire the spectacular waterfall and enjoy the hike.

More info


The relatively remote Ennerdale valley is a wildlife-lover’s paradise. Spot otters, spy over a hundred species of birds, detect deer, and keep your eyes peeled for our friends, the red squirrels. If you see any conifer cones stripped of their scales and seed, it’s a sure sign the red squirrel is in town.

Thought to be home to around 150 red squirrels, regular patrols from various conservation groups help ensure the pesky grey squirrel doesn’t get a foothold in the valley.

More info


If you go down in the woods today, you may well spot a red squirrel or two leaping from branch to branch. Located in one of the wildest corners of the Lake District, Haweswater is home to the semi-ancient oak woodland of Naddle Forest, a red squirrel safe haven, managed by the RSPB. 

Also look out for the ring ouzels, red deer, and pied flycatchers in this dramatic and varied landscape. Keen photographers can rent the purpose-built Woodland Wildlife Hide run by Wild Intrigue.

More info

Squirrel yourself away in one of our comfortable holiday cottages

Discover Grey Crag Barn, one of our stunning properties.

Its garden is a haven for nature, where lucky guests may encounter charming red squirrels!

Red Squirrel FAQ

What is the best time to see red squirrels in the Lake District?

Red squirrels can be seen in the Lake District all year round, but they are most active during the early morning and evening hours. The best time to see them is also during the autumn and winter months, when the trees are bare, and it’s easier to spot them moving through the branches.

What do red squirrels eat?

Red squirrels are omnivores, but their main diet consists of nuts and seeds. They also eat insects, fruits, and fungi.

How big are red squirrels?

Red squirrels are about the size of a small rat, though arguably much cuter (no offence to the rat lovers out there!). They have a reddish-brown coat, a white belly, and a famously bushy tail.

What are the threats to red squirrels?

The main threats to red squirrels are habitat loss and competition from grey squirrels. Grey squirrels are larger and more aggressive than red squirrels, and they often outcompete them for food and resources.

What can I do to help red squirrels?

There are a number of things you can do to help red squirrels, including:
1. Supporting organizations that are working to protect red squirrels and their habitats
2. Planting native trees and shrubs in your garden
3. Avoid feeding grey squirrels
If you are lucky enough to see a red squirrel in the Lake District, please take a moment to appreciate these beautiful creatures. They are an important part of the Lake District’s wildlife, and they play an important role in the ecosystem.

Report your red squirrel sightings

To help make sure we all do our bit to monitor, protect and maintain the scarily small red squirrel population, it’s important to report any squirrels you spot during your visit to the Lake District. 

If you’ve spotted a red, report it here.

Discover more of the Lake District’s Quiet Places

Venture off the beaten path and relish the many advantages of exploring its quieter, more secluded areas. Your journey will be filled with tranquillity and the chance to create unforgettable memories.

Discover the authentic charm of less-visited villages and trails, providing a true sense of the region’s culture and history.

a base to explore from

We’d love you to spend your trip to the Lake District in one of our holiday cottages. Wherever you plan to stay in the county, find your perfect sanctuary here.

We can’t wait to welcome you – the reds are looking forward to meeting you too.

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