The Braunton Burrows is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the UK and definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Right in the heart of the North Devon AONB (Area of outstanding natural beauty) The Braunton Burrows is a vast and complex dune system that sits between Saunton Sands beach and the rural farmland surrounding Braunton. The whole area is protected by being a UNESCO Designated Biosphere Reserve due to the rarity of the plant and insect life that inhabits it.

Braunton Burrows dunes

Braunton Burrows Map

If you are looking for a Braunton Burrows Map then we have a page containing a map with some information on using the map. The map is part of a guide book leaflet containing some walks and additional information on the Braunton Burrows

Braunton Burrows map

The Burrows as it is locally known gets its name from the hundreds of rabbit warrens dug into the dunes, although rabbit numbers have dropped significantly in recent years due to a spread of Myxomatosis.

The area is a mixture of dunes (the high parts) and slacks (the low parts). Many of the slacks are below the level of the water table and much of the area was once wetland attracting many wetland birds. Though many areas do remain damp and boggy, climate change has meant many areas have now dried out.

Braunton Burrows wetlands

Rare plants

In the summer months, the Braunton Burrows is carpeted with a sea of colour from 470 species of rare plants and flowers making Braunton the most biodiverse parish in England.

So much can be found, from common species such as yellow iris to rare species such as sea stock, sand toadflax and water germander – the latter being so rare that it is only found at one other site in England. The carpets of flowers encourage butterflies and 33 species have been identified here.

Plants on Braunton Burrows

To prevent these rare plants from being overtaken by scrub, grasses and weeds, a novel solution is used by allowing the MoD to train there with tracked and off-road vehicles. While this may seem counter intuitive, the turnover of the soil actually promotes the growth of the plants with the whole operation being carefully managed by Natural England.

Birds and animals

The Braunton Burrows is rich in wildlife though you may need patience to witness some it’s inhabitants. The most obvious animals are the Devon Ruby Red cows that have been introduced as part of a land management system.

The cattle are very distinctive as they are a deep rust colour known as Devon Ruby Red’s though some are pure black and some pure white! These are very much a local breed and are sought after throughout the world.

Devon Ruby Red Cows on the Braunton Burrows

The second most common animals are the rabbits from which the Burrows gets it’s name. If you wander into some of the quieter areas of the Burrows you are likely to see foxes, badgers and deer.

The rabbits attract birds of prey such as common buzzards, kestrels and hawks which can be seen hovering in search of prey. It’s not only rabbits these birds prey on, but other smaller birds which are resident at the Burrows such a robins, blackbirds, dunnocks, song thrushes and wrens.

In the spring and summer they are joined by good numbers of migrants such as chiffchaff, willow warbler, blackcap and common and lesser whitethroat.

Where the vegetation is low there are typical ground nesting birds, such as meadow pipit and skylark. Pairs of stonechat occupy territories across the dunes. Disturbance, particularly from dogs, can be a problem and has contributed to a decline in the number of breeding species.

The fresh water ponds provide a drink and a source of insects for birds, attracting swallows, house martins and swifts. Water birds are more likely to be seen on the estuary, or along the shore.

Land management

The military have used the Braunton Burrows for training since the Second World War when American troops were based in Braunton and prepared for the D-Day landings. Many relics from those days still exist. We have a D-Day Military History walk in our walks around Braunton page.

Other land management techniques include the grazing of cattle which are allowed to roam freely throughout the Burrows.

military vehicles on the braunton burrows

Zones

The Braunton Burrows are split into three zones with Zone 1 in the north, accessible via Saunton Sands beach car park, Zone 2 in the middle accessible from Sandy Lane Car Park and Zone 3 in the south connecting to Crow Point and accessible from Crow Point car park. Gateposts have signs on letting visitors know which zones cattle are grazing should they wish to avoid them.

In the height of summer, many people park at Sandy Lane car park in Zone 2 if Saunton Sands beach car park is full, but if you are planning a day on the beach with your BBQ, wind-breaks, surfboard and beach towels, please be aware that it’s a good 45 minute walk through Zone 2 from the car park to Saunton Sands beach.

Points of interest

The vast majority of visitors to the Braunton Burrows park at Sandy Lane car park at Zone 2 and follow the main path (Dog Lane) into the Burrows. This path is actually part of The South West Coast Path, which turns right at the main gate and runs around the outskirts of the Burrows.

Entering the Burrows through the gate, the first sight you are met with is Flagpole Dune. This was once the highest dune in the area and was marked with a concrete summit marker. Due to increased winds and erosion, this dune appears to have been scooped out and the marker now rests on the floor of a steep valley created by the erosion.

Climbing the dunes can be hard work as the sand is soft, but the views from the top are really worth the effort. To the north you can see the distinctive pure white, Art Deco style Saunton Sands hotel. To the east you can see Horsey Island and the Taw estuary winding it’s way into Barnstaple. To the south you can see Crow Point and over to the fishing villages of instow and Appledore and to the west, looking out to see, you an see the island of Lundy.

view of braunton from braunton burrows

Dogs

The Braunton Burrows has welcomed dogs for generations. It is a fantastic place to safely let you dog off the lead and let them sniff around the bushes, run over the grass and splash in the ponds. However, the introduction of cattle several years ago was the cause of some tensions which resulted in dog owners being asked to put their dog on a lead whenever they are in the vicinity of cattle.

It is also worth noting that the cattle do not group together in herds, so you never know whether a cow may be over the next rise or round the next corner, so if you are unsure how your dog will react, then please keep it on a lead to be sure.

Dogs on Braunton Burrows

Other potential hazards to be aware of are snakes and the military.

Adders are native to the Braunton Burrows are strikingly obvious as they are black with yellow diamonds on their back. During the summer months, the Adders are energised by the sun, so are pretty good at getting out the way and avoiding humans and animals, but during the spring, they can be sluggish after waking from hibernation and this is the most common time for them to be caught out and bite. The most common scenario is dogs rummaging about in bushes and catching an Adder unawares. (Many Adder bites are to dogs’ noses!)

Adder bites for humans usually causes sickness, pain and swelling but is rarely ever fatal unless there is an allergic reaction. For dogs the bites can be more serious and may be fatal depending on the size of the Adder, the size of your dog and the severity of the bite.

Symptoms in dogs will be obvious pain, swelling and bruising and lethargy. If you suspect your dog has been bitten, please get them to a vet asap who will administer anti-venom and steroids.

The other potential hazard is the military. They carry out mock battles as part of their training which can include the use of blank shots being fired, or smoke grenades being exploded. If your dog is frightened by loud noises, then you may be best to head into another zone or try to visit on another day.

The military also train with vehicles. Personal carriers, Landrovers, quad bikes and off-road motorbikes are all used. They mostly keep to the wide vehicle tracks, so if you are off the main track you should be fine, but they can appear quite quickly and do occasionally come off the tracks, so please be vigilant and if possible stay out in the open where you have a good view of what’s coming.

One last point on dogs – please pick up their mess. Dog mess on the burrows promotes the growth of unwanted vegetation that threatens the endangered plants. It is a health risk to the cattle and of course, highly unpleasant to visitors.

The American Road Braunton Burrows

Do’s and Dont’s

The Braunton Burrows is privately owned by Christie Estates. While the Christie Estate welcomes public access, it does request that users respect that right by following a few simple guidelines.

• Do keep your dog under control! The Burrows is divided into 3 zones (1,2 and 3),
and at various times livestock will be grazing in one or two of these zones.
Dog owners are requested to keep their dogs under close control at all times and
on a lead around livestock. Follow guidelines set out on signs and on the dedicated
Facebook page.

• Do pick up your waste! Litter, especially plastics, poses a danger to livestock and
native wildlife. Dog waste spreads disease that can affect humans and livestock.

• Don’t pick flowers! Remember the Burrows is a UNESCO biosphere. Flowers and
plants look most beautiful where you find them growing naturally.

• Do shut gates! Livestock can escape and cause injury to themselves or pose a risk
to the public.

• Don’t touch military debris! The Burrows is used as a military training area
(including the use of vehicles and pyrotechnics). Use caution and don’t touch or
remove debris.