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South Walney Nature Reserve In The Lake District – A Complete Guide

South Walney Nature Reserve is a coastal reserve on the west coast of Cumbria. A great place for birdwatching and home to a Grey Seal colony. Here’s a complete guide.

How To Get To South Walney Nature Reserve

Located on Walney Island, close to Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, you can drive over Jubilee Bridge to get to the Island.


Just a 2 mile drive west from Barrow-in-Furness, it only takes a few minutes to reach Walney Island by car. Once on the island it’s approximately a 5 mile drive to reach the nature reserve.

Follow the signs for Walney Island and Jubilee Bridge. Once on the island follow the brown signs left at the traffic lights for half a mile.

Turn left into Carr Lane and follow the road past Biggar Village and on past South End Caravan Site. The Nature Reserve is about half a mile past the caravan site.

You will find a free car park with a Visitor Centre and toilets all located at the Old Coastguard Cottages.


Buses run from Barrow-in-Furness to the village of Biggar. From the village of Biggar the reserve is just under 4 miles, across mostly flat terrain.

South Walney Nature Reserve Entrance Fee

Adults: £3.00 per person.

Children: £1.00 per person.

All monies are used to help manage the nature reserve.

South Walney Nature Reserve

South Walney Nature Reserve Opening Times

Monday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm.

It closes at 4pm in the winter.

South Walney Nature Reserve

Best Time To Visit South Walney Nature Reserve

Depending what you are hoping to see at the reserve here is a list of what you can see and when.

Year round

Barn Owls, Short-Eared Owls, Peregrines and Grey Seals at high tide.


Courting Eider ducks and returning spring migrants- wheatear, willow warbler and sandwich terns. Thrift and sea campion come into flower.


Nesting Gulls, Eiders, Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers, Arctic Little Terns and Sandwich Terns. Burnet Moths and Grayling butterflies. Viper’s bugloss, Yellow Horned Poppy and Sea Lavender are in flower.


Migratory Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Redstart and Pink-Footed Geese.


Large numbers of waders and wildfowl feed and roost around the nature reserve.

Take a picnic and enjoy everything South Walney Nature Reserve has to offer and don’t forget your binoculars!

The road to the nature reserve can become flooded and therefore impassable during very high tides and stormy weather.

Dogs are not allowed at South Walney Nature Reserve at any time due to ground nesting birds.

What To Pack

Photography Camera


Day Bag

Power Bank

Reusable Water Bottle


Lightweight Rain Jack

South Walney Nature Reserve

Walney Island History

Measuring 11 miles in length and just under 1 mile wide, Walney Island is a narrow stretch of land that lies across the tip of the Furness Peninsula in Ulverston and is connected to the mainland by a bridge.

The island formed during the last glacial period when the River Duddon was a large glacial lake. The lake laid down deposits at its mouth which eventually became Walney Island.

The name Walney is likely to be of Norse origin but there has been some evidence of a Neolithic settlement found on the Island.

The monks of Furness Abbey are said to have farmed it during the medieval period. Later, during the 19th and 20th centuries salt, sand and gravel were extracted from the area leaving large lagoons.

This previous use of the land has influenced the wildlife that can now be found at South Walney Nature Reserve.

Leased from Holker estates since 1963, South Walney Nature Reserve covers an area of 130 hectares and is managed by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

It was a different kind of quiet to that at Furness Abbey and then our final stop was a complete switch up.

It was time to head to Shed 1 Gin In The Lake District.

South Walney Nature Reserve
South Walney Nature Reserve

What To Expect At South Walney Nature Reserve

Along with stunning views across Morecambe bay, this peaceful nature reserve is said to be one of the finest bird watching sites in Cumbria.

Walney Bird Observatory, which collates bird records from across the island, has recorded 300 species of bird on Walney Island since the foundation of the bird observatory in 1964.

With a choice of different coloured trails to follow and 8 bird hides to visit, you can explore and examine all the wonderful flora and fauna, so don’t forget your binoculars!

As well as all the different species of birds, South Walney Nature Reserve is also home to the only Grey Seal colony in Cumbria.

Grey seals can be seen playing in the water at high tide, year round, at their only haul-out location (where seals come out to rest or breed) in Cumbria.

This is an absolute paradise for keen bird watchers, with the added bonus of beautiful views, cute Grey Seals and some unusual and beautiful plant life.

South Walney Nature Reserve
South Walney Nature Reserve
South Walney Nature Reserve
South Walney Nature Reserve

Where To Stay In The Lake District


Lakes Hotel & Spa

This luxurious hotel is perfectly situated with views of Lake Windermere, a short stroll from the village of Bowness-on-Windermere.

The hotel can arrange collection from Windemere station which is just 10 minutes away.

Lakes Hotel & Spa has some of the best on-site facilities in the area, half of the rooms with hot tubs on private balconies. There’s also an on-site spa, a stylish restaurant and a cocktail bar. As well as bike hire, wakesurfing and paddleboading.

There are many walks that you can take straight from the hotel gates, and there are even boats that travel the length of Windermere, making it easy to visit surrounding areas.


The George Hotel by Best Western

This traditional hotel stands in the very centre of the bustling market town of Penrith.

Free parking and free Wi-Fi is available at the property. Meals are available to enjoy in the intimate, candlelit Devonshire restaurant which boasts a beautiful open fire.

The wood panelling and old local wall prints combine to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, where many generations of loyal visitors have returned time after time.


Albany House

Located in Penrith, Albany House offers bed-and-breakfast accommodation with free WiFi access throughout.

Guests benefit from free public parking facilities near the accommodation. The property also boasts a 4 gold-star rating from the AA, along with breakfast awards.

Rooms at Albany House B&B come with a flat-screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities and either an en-suite or external bathroom.

Breakfast is available between 8:00 and 9:00 every morning in the common breakfast room.

For more places to stay in the Lake District, you can check the latest prices on

Planning Your Trip

Book Your Flight

Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight.

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Book Your Accommodation

Use to find the best accommodation deals.

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Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Use SafetyWing to find the best travel insurance for you.

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Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.

Book Your Tours & Activities

Use GetYourGuide to book your activities in advance.

They sell the best tours, excursions and activities to attractions around the world.

Conveniently book, download and access your tickets on the move all from your mobile.

Book Your Rental Car

Use to find the best deals on rental cars in the area.

They compare all major car rental companies and allow you to easily book the perfect vehicle for your trip.

Buy Those Last Minute Bits

Use Amazon to buy everything you need for your adventure.

They offer next day delivery and you can use my travel packing checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

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South Walney Nature Reserve