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Things to see at Dunwich Heath

Dartford warbler (Sylvia undata) on yellow gorse with Heath moth in its beak at Ibsley Common, New Forest, Hampshire
The Dartford warbler is among many heathland bird species that can be found here | © National Trust Images/Martin Bennett

Dunwich Heath, along with its nearby beach and woodland, is ideal for people who want to stretch their legs while enjoying the best that nature has to offer. The area has a remarkably diverse range of wildlife, and is famous for the nationally rare Dartford warbler. Nature lovers will be spoiled for choice here; just make sure to bring your binoculars and a camera!

Where to walk at Dunwich Heath

The pink walk covers most of the heathland and offers plenty of chances to see the variety of heathland birds, such as the stonechat, the skylark and the Dartford warbler.

Head down to the beach and spend some time sitting on the shingle, or walk along the clifftop path for the best chance of spotting seabirds.

Follow the grey walk if you're a reedbird and wader enthusiast. The more southerly section along Docwra’s Ditch is perfect, and there are benches dotted along its length to stop and search with your binoculars.

If you want to see woodland birds, either the orange or the pink walk is your best bet, as both travel past or through good patches of trees.

Family walking on a footpath through the heather on Dunwich Heath, Suffolk
There's so much to explore at Dunwich Heath | © National Trust Images/James Fletcher

Birdwatching at Dunwich Heath

Dunwich Heath is famous for its bird life. There are a number of resident species, while others migrate here for the summer or winter. Of those that live here permanently, there are a number of very rare species that it's illegal to disturb. The most famous is the Dartford warbler, alongside the now red-listed skylark.

Summer Visitors

As Spring starts in Britain, flowers bloom and nature wakes from its slumber. Then from March and April the Schedule One summer migrants arrive to add their rare numbers to the locals, accompanied by other less rare but truly spectacular species.


  • Hobbys are about the size of a Kestrel, and reminiscent of a giant swift with its long, pointed wings.
  • They hunt insects and small birds, chasing them and catching them in its talons then transferring the catch to its beak in flight.
  • Hobby’s arrive from April, and leave in September to October, and are best seen on warm days over heathland or woodland where there are plenty of dragonflies and other prey.

Stone Curlew:

  • Stone Curlew’s are both strange and rare, crow sized with a large head and eyes, and long yellow legs.
  • They are found from March to October on dry open landscapes with bare, stony ground or very short vegetation, but are most active at night where their large eyes help them find food.
  • Despite the name, Stone Curlew’s are not actually related to Curlew’s. They get their name from the similarity between their call and that of the wading species.

Sand Martin:

  • Unlike the former bird species, Sand Martins are plentiful despite two population crashes in the last fifty years because of droughts in Africa.
  • They arrive in March, then stay until October, nesting in sandy cliffs and along or around waterways.
  • Sand Martins are the smallest European Martin, making them agile flyers, feeding mainly over water then perching on overhead wires or branches.


  • Nightjars arrive in the UK from April and stay until August but being nocturnal birds, they are most often seen at dusk and dawn.
  • They live on heathland, moorland and in open woodland, and are of a similar shape to a Kestrel or a Cuckoo, with pointed wings and a long tail.
  • Nightjars are almost impossible to spot during the day because of their excellent camouflage and are still difficult to find at dusk. They fly silently, so the first indication of their presence is usually the males churring song, rising and falling.
Birds in flight at Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in winter
Birds in flight at Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in winter | © National Trust Images/Justin Minns

Deer spotting

Winter time is the best for spotting deer, and if you're looking for where, head up the diagonal orange path through the heath, turn left and then follow the pink walk back to the car park.

Keep your eyes peeled as the deer are surprisingly hard to spot. As for when to spot them, the hinds occasionally appear with their calves in the summer, but for glimpses of the magnificent stags the colder months are best, especially the autumn when the ‘rut’ happens. This is the ritual where males proclaim their territory and fight for females.

Red doe deer
Keep an eye out for deer while you're in the area | © National Trust Images/John Malley

Visiting with the family

If you're visiting with the family there are a whole host of things you can do with your little ones:

  • Trails - We have two trails running, the Dunwich Discovery trail and Tree Trek. You can pick up a trail map from the Visitor Welcome hut, when open, and when you've completed your trail collect your prize from the same place. Alternatively, download the trails below and print them at home or keep them on your phone, but you'll still have to check your answers in the hut!

Download the Dunwich Discovery trail here

Download the Tree Trek here

  • Den building - Head to our den building area and have a go at creating your own shelter or fortress! Can you make it comfortable and watertight?
  • Geo-caching - Get stuck into a treasure hunt! There are 13 geo-caches hidden around the heath, so if you download the geo-caching app before you visit you can try and find them all...
  • Tracker packs - Discover all sorts of nature with our tracker packs! Jam-packed full of spotter guides, tools, binoculars and more besides to study every kind of species you might find on the heath.
  • Heath barn - Learn about the history of the site, have a go at some crafts, play some games, or peer into the cabinet of curiosities filled with natural wonders.
Children playing outside coastguard cottages at Dunwich Heath and Beach in Suffolk

Find out more about Dunwich Heath

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