Best in the Wild
The very best place to see red squirrels up close on the Isle of Wight is the hide on Alverstone Mead nature trail. Take hazelnuts with you and place them on the feeding platform and before long, you will hear them scurrying across the roof and then down the sides of the hide. The squirrels come very close to you and they are particularly tame because of the frequent visitors. Please do not feed them Brazil nuts under any circumstances as they are poisonous to squirrels and too many peanuts will thin their bones – find hazelnuts to feed them if you can. There are also hosts of wild birds on the feeders that hang from the trees who will take nuts left out on the hide shelf – on the day we visited there were blue and great tits, hedge and house sparrows, chaffinches and robins. Ducks, pheasants and moorhens were ground feeding around the hide.
Parkhurst Forest also has a dedicated red squirrel trail and walkway from the car park off Parkhurst Road. It’s a ten-minute uphill walk through the trees to the hide, which is marked from the car park. Large squirrel sculptures will show you that you’re on the right track, but the real squirrels are harder to spot.
Centurion Copse on the edge of the RSPB reserve at Brading Marshes has red squirrels amongst its old oaks. You can walk here from Bembridge or across the old sea wall from Brading Station. Behind the Griffin pub in Godshill is a tree-lined walk to Beech Copse which is one of the best places to see red squirrels, and they are also prolific in the ancient Borthwood Copse near Winford and America Woods just outside Shanklin.
Best at the Attractions
Robin Hill must be the best family-style attraction for seeing red squirrels on the Isle of Wight, as they not only have a special hide in the woods but Helen Butler from the Wight Squirrel Project holds a Red Squirrel Safari; walk and talk, every Friday during the summer season at 3.30pm. You will also see red squirrels scampering across the lawns of Osborne House if you keep your eyes peeled – look to the left as you drive in and up in the big trees between the house and the walled garden or in the trees around the Swiss Cottage.
Best on the Farm
The Garlic Farm has loads of red squirrels in the trees above the farm and they breed here too. They will venture down to the area outside the café and you can watch them scampering down the wall and along a rope to pick up food that has been left for them.
Best at Tea Gardens
Shanklin Old Village has the largest number of tea gardens with visiting squirrels in one area. Pencil Cottage and The Old Thatch down in the village both boast of their garden visitors and if you take a walk down past the top of Shanklin Chine to Rylstone Gardens the tearooms up there have squirrel feeders and frequent furry visitors – they also have a brightly coloured pitch and putt in the middle of the tea gardens that is quaint and vintage and there are hundreds of planters full of flowers. If you pay to walk down through Shanklin Chine from here, you may see more red squirrels.
Best by the Sea
At Fort Victoria in Yarmouth behind the model railway exhibition is a great place to see squirrels as there is a feeding post that they frequently use. The woods of the country park behind this attraction are also a good place to spot red squirrels.
Best on a Bike
Ride or walk the Freshwater to Yarmouth cycle track along the old railway line, which is wooded for most of its length and red squirrels can be seen in the trees. Similarly, the Cowes-Newport cycle track following the old railway line is also a good place to spot red squirrels on the Island, but if you are on a bike please be aware that they may run across the pathway.