Butterfly walks

Nothing says summer better than a walk in the sunshine with beautiful butterflies all around. Our specialist butterfly volunteer, Matthew Oates, has chosen ten top butterfly walks across the country to help you enjoy the best of the British summer.

You can also watch Matthew's butterfly diaries, which explore his early love of butterflies and career as a nature conservationist, as well as the decline and recovery of the silver-spotted skipper on Watlington Hill.

Ashclyst Forest, Devon

In spring and summer Ashclyst Forest on our Killerton Estate is teeming with butterflies. This 1.5 mile, leisurely walk may reveal the pearl-bordered fritillary, small pearl-bordered fritillary, and the silver-washed fritillary which is known as the 'happiness butterfly’ and especially attracted to red and orange clothing. Ashclyst is also popular with the bramble-loving white admiral.

Purple emperor butterfly
Walking trail

Bookham Commons, Surrey 

Enter one of the best woods in England for the rare and elusive purple emperor butterfly. Each afternoon in July and August at Bookham Commons, the males gather at two special clumps of trees and put on amazing territorial displays. You’ll also be able to see plenty of other butterflies with 29 British species found here, as well as many birds.

Adonis blue and Chalkhill blue butterflies
Walking trail

Compton Down, Isle of Wight 

Being slightly warmer than the mainland, the Isle of Wight is great place to spot butterflies, with 43 out of the UK’s 61 butterfly species in residence. This walk takes you along the chalk ridge that runs through the middle of the Isle of Wight, where you'll find lots of lovely flora and insect life. Species you might see include the Adonis blue, chalkhill blue, brown argus, dark-green fritillary and glanville fritillary. In late summer you can often catch a glimpse of the clouded yellow butterfly.

Common blue butterfly on common fleabane
Walking trail

Cwm Tydu to Cwm Soden, Ceredigon 

A steep combe running down to the sea leads to a small stony bay, through oak woodland and gorse and bracken glades. This is one of the last places in Wales where the pearl-bordered fritillary, small pearl-bordered, dark green and silver-washed fritillaries can be seen. We carry out extensive work here each year to help ensure the survival of the pearl-bordered fritillary, which flies from late April to the end of May.

Dark green fritillary male on thistle Heddon Valley
Walking trail

Heddon Valley, Devon 

This short but challenging walk takes you along some of the highest and most spectacular sea cliffs in England and is a must-do for butterfly lovers and photographers. Parts of this walk go through the habitat of the rare high brown fritillary, as well as the more common dark green and silver-washed fritillaries.

Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire
Walking trail

Ivinghoe Hills, part of the Ashridge Estate 

The Ivinghoe Hills are rich in archaeological remains with an impressive Bronze Age hill-fort on the top of the Beacon. The slopes hold one of the strongest colonies of the tiny Duke of Burgundy, the dark green fritillary, chalkhill blue, and marbled white as well as many other scarce downland insects and a range of downland flowers. Also look out for the following, less scarce species of butterfly: dingy and grizzled skippers, brown Argus and green hairstreak.

A marsh fritillary butterfly close up
Walking trail

Welshmoor, North Gower, Wales 

Take a relaxing walk around Welshmoor to enjoy the home of marsh fritillaries and narrow-bordered bee hawk-moths and look out for the 25 different species of butterflies in this hidden paradise for wildlife.

Matthew Oates' butterfly diaries

Matthew Oates' butterfly diaries - The beginning

Matthew dips into his nature diaries going back to 1963 to share some of his favorite places with us. In this film, he explores the woodlands in East Sussex where he first discovered a passion for butterflies including white admirals, Duke of Burgundys and Purple Emperors.


Matthew Oates' butterfly diaries - Selbourne and Noar Hill

Matthew discusses his career as a nature conservationist, which began at Noar Hill near Selborne in Hampshire: one of the richest butterfly sites in the country. It's home to Duke of Burgundy as well as other chalk grassland butterflies and a host of wild flowers including at least 11 species of orchid.


Matthew Oates' butterfly diaries - Watlington Hill

Matthew explores Watlington Hill, maintained by the National Trust, one of the richest wildlife sites in Oxfordshire. The hill is one of the last sanctuaries of the extremely rare silver spotted skipper butterfly.

How you can help butterflies
A Peacock butterfly resting on a plant

Help protect pollinators 

Butterflies play a vital role in the natural world around us. By donating to support nature and wildlife at the places in our care, you'll be helping to protect these pollinators and the green spaces they call home. Now more than ever, we need your help to look after the nature and wildlife we all find comfort in.