Donna Nook National Nature Reserve
Donna Nook covers more than 10km (6.25 miles) of coastline between Grainthorpe Haven in the north and Saltfleet in the south where it borders the Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe National Nature Reserve. Every November and December, grey seals come to the Donna Nook coastline to give birth to their pups near the sand dunes; a wildlife spectacle which attracts visitors from across the UK.
Visitors should be aware that the Ministry of Defence still maintains part of the area as a bombing target range and under no circumstances should anyone enter the bombing area when red flags are flying. However, most of the dune area is accessible at all times.
For our weekly seal count, please click the button below.
Know before you go
Seal Season - October to December
- For parking charges, see car park tab below
- Temporary information hut and interpretation boards
- Private catering in both car parks (depending on visitor numbers)
- Stonebridge car park with limited disabled parking and ramp access, blue badge holders only on busy weekends (see car park tab below)
- Nearest accessible toilets in North Somercotes (see map)
Rest of the year - January to October
- Free Stonebridge car park with limited disabled parking bays
- Nearest toilets in North Somercotes (see map)
Dogs are not permitted on the seal viewing area.
Seals can carry infectious diseases like Leptospirosis and Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) which are harmful to dogs.
There is easy access to the viewing area from the Stonebridge car park which is signposted as blue badge holders only during busy weekends over seal season (see car park tab for details).
We'd recommend visiting the accessible public toilets in North Somercotes village on your way to Donna Nook. Portaloos are provided in the main car park which are provided by a local landowner, so may not be available at the time of your visit.
Reserve open all year. Seal viewing area and facilities are seasonal, open from late October to mid December (depending on seal numbers), dawn til dusk.
The viewing area is open every day over Christmas.
For your own safety and to reduce disturbance to the seals, please follow these guidelines:
- Stay within the viewing area behind the fence
- Strictly observe all red flag and other bombing range warnings
- Never feed or pet the seals
- No unaccompanied children
- No dogs
- No flash photography
- Please be considerate when visiting, park only in designated areas
- During seal season, if possible, visit during the week. At weekends, the narrow lanes, car park and viewing area get very congested. Please note, traffic management will be in operation on busy weekends.
Any organised groups wishing to visit a reserve must fill in a Group Visit Form at least one month in advance of their visit. You can find the form on our group visit page.
Alternatively if you are looking to bring a school group, please contact email@example.com.
Groups arriving by coach during October to December will need to park in the main car park which is privately owned and charges £10 per coach for all day parking. 20% of the parking fee is kindly donated by the farmer to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
The main car park (orange) is privately operated and charges £4 per car on weekdays and £5 per car on weekends. They offer catering facilities and portaloos (open depending on visitor numbers) but there is no disabled access. This car park only opens during seal season - late October through to the end of December, depending on visitor numbers. 20% of the car parking fee is kindly donated to the Trust to help with the upkeep of the nature reserve and protection of the seals.
Stonebridge car park (green) has limited parking and is maintained by the Environment Agency. From here there is easy access to the viewing area and privately owned catering facilities.
The Seal Viewing Area (marked in red) can be accessed from either car park.
Formal traffic management will be in place on the four busiest weekends (9-10 Nov, 16-17 Nov, 23-24 Nov, 30 Nov - 1 Dec) with official traffic personnel on site. They will enforce:
- A one-way system
- No stopping
- Speed restriction
- Blue Badge holders in the designated (Stonebridge) car park
Location and contact details
Donna Nook National Nature Reserve
Please note, this postcode is for the nearest registered address as we are unable to get postcodes for nature reserves.
OS Map Reference: TF 422 998
Contact number: 01507 526667
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Viewing seals at Donna Nook
The viewing area is open from late October to December (depending on seal numbers) and is at the foot of the sand dunes which acts to reduce disturbance to the seals and ensures the safety of visitors.
Seals are large predators and are very powerful. They can move surprisingly quickly and, having teeth similar to a dog, can inflict a nasty bite – including the pups.
Mothers with pups can be very protective and male bulls can be aggressive. A mother seal may abandon her pup if it smells of humans or dogs.
Habitats and species
The reserve is made up of sand dunes, slacks and inter-tidal areas. Deposition of material from the River Humber has resulted in mudflats and saltings, and dunes bordering saltmarshes allowing interesting plant communities to flourish. Plant life includes sea-buckthorn whose berries attract large numbers of fieldfare, redwing and starling in the winter.
Probably most famously, Donna Nook is home to a colony of grey seals during the winter months where they come onto the Lincolnshire beaches to breed. Britain has about 40% of the world population of grey seals and it's becoming an increasingly important habitat.
It's not all about the seals at Donna Nook! The reserve is also known for it's array of bird life.
The area is famous for more uncommon passage migrants and rarities with over 250 species recorded in total including snow bunting, redshank, lapwing and large colonies of tern during the summer months.
Keep in touch
Follow our Donna Nook Warden on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, events and seal records, or search for a nearby event.