Reconnect with Nature at Watchtree Nature Reserve in Carlisle

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of England’s northern cities, then we’ve got the perfect activity for your stack! Head to Watchtree Nature Reserve in Carlisle to reconnect with nature, among a variety of beautiful, wild habitats, an incredible range of wildlife and more in a pleasant day out in the countryside air that will leave you feeling completely refreshed!

Watchtree - Burial Site to Nature Reserve

There’s a fascinating story behind Watchtree Nature Reserve – in 2001, the then farmland became famous around the world, when it became the burial site for more than half a million animals who had caught foot and mouth disease. Then, thanks to the amazing efforts of the local community, it was transformed into one of England’s most fantastic nature reserves!

No trip to Watchtree Nature Reserve will be the same, with an amazing variety of habitats. The meadows are one of the most stunning features of the reserve, and home to a range of important native wildlife that contribute to this incredible ecosystem – among the flowers you can find as many as 2 million spiders! The grasslands also provide a paradise for shrews, voles and mice, and a valuable nesting site for rare birds like the skylark and curlew, as well as the iconic stoat. Head to the woodland and admire the explosion of colour with a variety of flowers, skittish hares and deers, and the relaxing sound of birdsong – don’t forget to keep an eye out for Britain’s rare red squirrel!

Where can I find Watchtree Nature Reserve?

Watchtree Nature Reserve is about 6 miles west of Carlisle and 6 miles north east of Wigton town. You can drive to the nature reserve from Carlisle via the B5307, heading south from the city centre past the Hospital towards Kirkbride. At Kirkbampton School, turn left and follow the signs to Wiggonby for one mile, where you'll find the reserve on the left-hand side.

The wetlands, hedgerows and hay meadows are also a haven for wildlife. Watchtree’s bodies of waters host an incredible variety of aquatic species, from frogs, toads, newts, dragonflies as well as otters! The hedgerows are also important sites for wildlife, acting as a ‘corridor’, home to hedgehogs, the rare yellowhammer bird, and the diving kestrel bird of prey.

Being a 205-acre reserve, whatever you’re looking to discover at Watchtree, there are plenty of different walking routes and trails you can take depending on the season. If you’re heading to Watchtree in spring, take the spring explorers trail and see life begin anew. See wildlife at its most active in the summer explorers trail, or enjoy the fresh air of autumn and see the changing colours of trees on the fresh hare autumn trail.

It is a pedestrianised circular loop with a free car park and pram accessible.

  • Open 9am – 4:45 every day. Last entry at 4pm.
  • Car park closes at 5pm.
  • Cafe open from 10am – 4pm every day.
  • Download their walking trails and maps here.
  • Two mile circuit available for wheelchair users.


Check out things to do nearby...