Braunton Burrows

The Burrows

Braunton Burrows is owned and managed by Christie Devon Estates. The Burrows is at the core of the UNESCO North Devon Biosphere Reserve and is the second largest sand dune system in the UK. It is home to an abundance of flowers, plants and wildlife. A PDF version of the Braunton Burrows Guide and Map  is avaialable for download.

It is a place where a variety of interests coexist, from land management through livestock grazing to use for MOD training exercises. It is also a popular destination for recreational users such as hikers, dog walkers and nature lovers (a dog walkers’ guide to Braunton Burrows can be found here).

While part of the working estate, the Burrows has always been open to the public who have unrestricted access to the 1800 acre space. However, the Estate does have some guidelines for use – such as having dogs on leads in livestock zones – and asks the public to respect these. Please note vehicle accesss is not permitted without permission and metal detecting on the Burrows is strictly prohibited without a licence from the estate office.


The Burrows landscape is separated between dunes and slacks (dips) – from the imposing peaks of the Great Dune and Grand Canyon to the quiet tranquility of Bee Slack and Partridge Slack – and contains ponds and plains that bristle with coarse grass.

There are more than 470 species of flowering plants, comprising 11 species of orchids alone within the Burrows, while the prolific insect population includes crickets, dragonflies and 33 species of butterfly. The best time to visit is between May and July when the Burrows are carpeted in wild flowers. Visitors are advised to drop in on the Braunton Countryside Centre to learn more about the Burrows.

Braunton Burrows needs to careful management to allow its abundant flora and fauna to flourish and the estate works in conjunction with Natural England to achieve this. This includes a range of techniques including grazing by traditional cattle breeds and mechanised scrub clearance.

As well as its wealth of natural history, the Burrows also has an interesting military history. It was used as a training camp by over 10,000 American GIs preparing for the Normandy Landings. This aspect of the Burrows past is preserved by the Friends of the Assault Training Center historical group.

Relics from that period can still be seen, including the remnants of a bazooka firing range and concrete landing craft used to practice for the invasion. Since the Second World War the Burrows have been used by the Ministry of Defence for training purposes.


Braunton Burrows holds a Special Area of Conservation status and the special importance of this site has been recognised at national and international level with UNESCO, SSSI and AONB designations. Here is a short summary of what these designations mean:

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

Braunton Burrows is at the heart of the Unesco Biosphere Reserve which has been designated by

Unesco (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). As a World Biosphere Reserve, the Burrows is recognised as having one of the best quality dune systems – in terms of its flourishing flora and fauna – in the northern hemisphere.

The Biosphere Reserve classification covers the northern part of the county of Devon. It recognizes areas of the world where the local community shows willingness to develop a harmonious relationship with a high quality environment.

Christie Devon Estates takes this responsibility very seriously in its management of the Burrows. The estate joins community representatives such as Devon County Council, Torridge District Council and North Devon District Council in supporting the Biosphere.


Reflecting its importance as a nature conservation area, Braunton Burrows is a protected area under the designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The classification is a reflection of the importance of the Burrows as a place of natural heritage, a place where plant and wildlife can flourish.


Braunton Burrows exists within the North Devon coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The exceptional beauty of this part of southwest England was designated AONB status in 1959 and the North Devon Coast AONB covers 66 square miles that extends from Exmoor to Cornwall. More details about North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty can be found here.

Natural England

This is a government advisory body, set up look after the country’s natural environment and protect natural landscapes. Natural England advises Christie Devon Estate on maintaining the Burrows environment, promoting land management techniques, such as cattle grazing to keep scrub levels down and promote new flower and plant growth.  More information about what Natural England does can be found here.


Sitting at the heart of the North Devon Biosphere, and a conservation site of worldwide importance, Braunton Burrows offers many opportunities for educational groups from Key Stage 2 and 3 to A-level and degree students.

The Burrows has a designated Education Officer who can accompany field study groups visiting the Burrows. On guided walks, groups can find out how the Christie Estate works with conservation partners to manage the Burrows and support the diverse range of flora and fauna that flourishes in this unique environment. These partners include including Natural England, Plantlife, North Devon Coast AONB, and North Devon Biosphere.

During the summer the Braunton Countryside Centre hosts free weekly educational walks for the general public with guides John and Mary Breeds, renowned naturalists who have been studying the Burrows for many years. These take place every Friday evening during June, July and August, 6.30pm meet at Sandy Lane car park.

As well as natural history educational visits, the Burrows’ there are also guided historical walks that focus on the Burrows’ use by American troops to train for the Normandy landings.

If you would like to find out more about educational visits to the Burrows, please contact Rupert Hawley via


Aerial footage of Braunton Burrows. This footage was taken in January 2017 and highlights the scale and current condition of Braunton Burrows. This footage will provide a reference platform for future management of the Burrows.


May 2019: Cattle in Zone 2.

Visitors may have noticed an increased number of calves accompanying the Burrows herd at the moment. This year there is more of a mix of colours too.

As well as pure bred Devons, there are a number of Charolais and Aberdeen Angus cross calves, which have been fathered by the Devon Red bull. This mix of breeds is the reason for the assortment of colours on show in the Spring sunshine.

Please keep dogs on leads when around livestock and under close control. This is particularly important during nesting season, when dogs bounding around in the undergrowth (however friendly!) can disturb native birds.

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2 weeks ago

Braunton Burrows Public Information

We often receive messages from people telling us how much the Burrows has changed in recent years. It's natural that, when we talk about these changes, we see them in terms of our own lifetimes

But now and again we get a sense of perspective that reminds us that we exist on a timeline as old as time itself! These fabulous photos from the archive of long term Saunton visitors, the Miln family illustrate how the beach and the dunes are the same, but always changing too.

Have you got any old photos of Saunton or the Burrows? We'd love to hear from you if you have. Email of Joanna Miln and family.

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Livestock update: 02/05/2019

Please note that the cattle are now in ZONE 2.


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Cattle update: 17/04/2019

Please note that from today (Wednesday) cattle will be moving from ZONE 3 to ZONE 2 and for the neext couple of days there may be cows in both zones.

Once the move has been made, signage will be changed to reflect the changed situation.

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*Cattle in Zone 3 this month*

On the Burrows nature is stirring as Spring gets under way. What can you expect to find this month? We consulted local naturalist, Mary Breeds, author of Wild Flowers of Braunton Burrows (an invaluable guide to Burrows blooms and available to buy from the Braunton Countryside Centre).

This month, the Burrows ponds in the slacks will start to see new life as tadpoles emerge. Meanwhile, bird activity will be stepping up. We should see the first Swallows, returning for the summer, feeding on insects. The distinctive 'scratchy' song of White Throats can be heard in the scrub and in the trees near Sandy Lane car park, Chiff Chaffs & Willow Warblers should be singing.

The Burrows is showing less spring flower activity than more sheltered areas inland, but this will quickly change in the coming weeks. In the dry dune turf there is Rue Leaved Saxifrage and early Forget Me Not in places Coltsfoot in disturbed sand around Partridge Slack. The creeping willow in the slacks should be in flower (pussy willow).

The first adders of the year have been spotted so keep an eye peeled. It's early in the year so they may be slow to move. Please do keep dogs on leads around livestock and under close control at all tiomes.

Thanks and enjoy the Burrows this Easter!

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The latest information regarding cattle grazing can be found on ‘Braunton Burrows Public Information’ Facebook page. For general enquiries or more information about educational opportunities, please email