The best places to see rutting red deer in the UK

For sheer drama and excitement, nothing beats the red deer rut. Here are several locations where you can see this autumnal spectacle.

Red deer stag bellowing. © Matt Gibson/Getty

For months leading up to October, sexually mature red deer stags have been preparing for the most important contest of their lives – access to a harem of fertile females. The fight starts vocally, and if this is not enough to ward off a competitor, rivals parallel-walk before locking antlers. Welcome to the red deer rut.

Advertisement

Rut activity peaks during the three hours after dawn and before dusk, so arrive early and be prepared to stay late. Approach downwind, use vegetation as cover, tread softly and avoid sudden movements. And always keep your distance – even in enclosed parks, these are large wild animals. As well as disturbing them and preventing them from exhibiting their natural predators, deer can be unpredictable and thus can pose a danger to humans.

Take a guided tour into the Braes of Glenlivet to watch rutting stags in a glen near Kymah Burn, as well as roe deer, red grouse and, possibly, golden eagles.

2

Isle of Arran, Ayrshire

The isle’s red deer number some 2,000, so you have a sound chance of a memorable encounter. Open moorland north of the String Road offers frequent sightings, and Lochranza Golf Course is good for close views.

3

Isle of Jura, Inner Hebrides

Red deer outnumber people on this isle by 30 to one, with roughly 6,000-7,000 deer. During the rutting season, the sounds of the roaring stags echoes between the hills.

A former Royal Forest, Exmoor National Park is known for its red deer, which have existed there since pre-historic times. There are currently about 3,000 red deer. Also look out for Exmoor ponies, a native British pony.

5

Westleton Heath, Suffolk

This National Nature Reserve is a large, open expanse with a range of species, including tree pipit and Dartford warbler.

6

Margam Country Park, Neath Port Talbot

Margam’s three species of deer roam the two square kilometres. Originally fallow deer, red deer were introduced alongside the non-native Père David deer. The latter is an endangered species native to China and are part of a joint breeding programme with ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. The Margam herd currently consists of 300 fallow, 64 red and 34 Père David deer.

7

Royal Parks, Greater London

Red deer photographed at sunrise in Richmond Park. © Dilshan Muthalib
Red deer photographed at sunrise in Richmond Park. © Dilshan Muthalib

Though unequivocally less wild than the options above, at a deer park such as Richmond or Bushy Parks it is easy to photograph stags at close range among bracken-strewn woodland scenery. There are 630 deer in Richmond, including both red and fallow deer.

8

Foulshaw Moss, Cumbria

A lowland raised peatbog that was turned into an experimental forestry plantation and is now being slowly restored to its natural state by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. Red deer stags rut out in the middle of the moss around mid-October.

9

RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk

Deer rut on the heath here, and have starred in BBC’s Autumnwatch. The RSPB run 4×4 safaris to see and photograph the deer.

Advertisement
10

Lyme Park, Cheshire

There have been deer at Lyme Park for over 600 years. During the rutting season, the rangers run an early morning walk to see the deer.