Last Updated on November 3, 2022 by Suzy McCullough

Three years in a row now we have been going to see the grey seals and their pups at Donna Nook Nature Reserve in Lincolnshire. There aren’t many places in the UK where the seals go in such great numbers. Donna Nook is one of only 10 places and is a seal-watching paradise. Most years there are around 3,000+ seals on the beach which includes bulls, cows and pups. Last year nearly 2,000 pups were born at Donna Nook.

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Seals at Donna Nook

 Up to Date Information – When to go to see the Seals

If you want to visit and are looking for up-to-date information this is a great Facebook group to join. They do a seal count every weekend and post it on the page. Plus lots of group members share their photos, videos and advice.

The cows visit the beach in winter to give birth to their pups and the bulls go there to try their luck again. The seal population is at its peak around the last week in November. This is when we have visited for the past two years. This year, however, we went a bit earlier and there didn’t seem any less in numbers to me than before. You can visit Donna Nook at any time of the day…and night!

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Cows, Pups and Bulls all together on the beach
Seals at Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Tips & When to Visit
Many of the seals are quite far out

Where to park at Donna Nook Nature Reserve

They do have a car park with disability access via a well-surfaced path. There is, however, a limited amount of disabled parking spaces. Parking is free and there are toilets and a catering van during the season.

For everyone else parking is a right turn to the overflow car park, you can’t miss the signs. You have to pay £5 to park here but the parking area is big, there are some port-a-loo toilets and another catering van. Plus I quite like the walk up the sand dunes to get to the seals from here. This has no disabled access.

What can you expect from a trip to Donna Nook?

The one thing that will strike you when you arrive is the noise. The sound of seals is quite haunting. almost like a spooky ghostly noise. Sometimes they are very noisy, especially when the bulls are fighting. My trouble is I can’t tell the difference between a cow and a bull. Yes, the bulls are a lot bigger but the cows can look rather big themselves when still pregnant.

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Making themselves known to each other!

You may witness a live birth or at least a lot of placentas. Yes, it’s true, that’s what they are here for after all. This year was the first time Jamie noticed it and I then had to give him a little, not too graphic, biology lesson.

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Gorgeous fluffy pup only just born

Is there a quiet time to visit Donna Nook?

Possibly not. The seals attract people young and old so weekdays can be just as busy as weekends. We arrived early at 10 am and it was already getting quite busy but no way near as busy as at 11:30 am when we left. The cars were literally flooding in by then. The pathway alongside the seals had also started to clog up considerably.

If you go early in the season, say early November, it will be a lot quieter. However, there won’t be anywhere near as many seals as there are come late November. The same goes for late December as some of the seals have headed back to sea by then.

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Touching moments between cows and pups
Seals at Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Tips & When to Visit

How close will the seals be?

Most of the seals are a few feet away. However, some Mums give birth very close to the fence and then their pups often lie alongside the fence. The pups are very inquisitive and watch and sometimes respond to the sounds of humans. The cows often don’t like this and the wardens are usually somewhere nearby to make sure they don’t get too upset by our presence.

You can see my son in this photo where he is taking a photo of a pup that was literally right in front of him.

Seals at Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Tips & When to Visit

Tips for Visiting Donna Nook

If you want it as quiet as you can but still with lots of seals then visit around 9 am or 4 pm.

Stay behind the fence at all times and whatever you do don’t touch any seals. The parents are aggressive as they are being protective and the baby pups must never be touched by humans or else their mum may reject them. The same applies to food, never feed them.

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This seal charged up the beach to ‘protect’ its baby

No dogs are allowed.

Don’t be alarmed if you hear loud noises other than the seals. The military of defence uses the area nearby as a bombing range. So please don’t stray away from the areas near the two car parks. Observe the areas marked by red flags, don’t venture past them.

Don’t forget your camera. Donna Nook is one of the main reasons that I invested in a good zoom lens. They make such great photographs. One minute you’re looking at cute seals, the next loving moments between cow and pup and the next two males fighting.

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As cute as they are please don’t touch

Other Things to Note

They have quite a few interesting signs to read dotted along the path. Some have flaps to lift for the kids and there are a few photo opportunities as well. We moved a lot slower this year than last so there was a chance to read some of them. Did you know that pups only suckle from their mum for 3 weeks? After that, they’re on their own.

The whole time we were there we didn’t spot one single pup having some milk. Once they have given birth the bulls mate with the cows again and they then have an incredible 11.5 months gestation. This does include a 3-month delay in the implantation of a fertilised egg, but even so!

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My son loved the lift-the-flap quizzes along the path
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There’s plenty to read
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Photo opportunity
Seals at Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Tips & When to Visit
Search, compare and book hotels near Donna Nook

We have other ideas for days out in Lincolnshire with a handy map to find days out near a location.


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