The most beautiful gardens to see Bluebell displays in Britain this spring
A deciduous woodland floor, with all its bouncy richness of leaf mould, is fascinating year-round, although especially so in spring. First, there were the pristine sheets of snowdrops, then the warm-white carpets of wood anemone, a feature of ancient, coppiced woods. Now, it’s the time of the bluebell, presently creating indigo lakes around the feet of trees whose leaves are just beginning to unfurl.
It’s impossible to confuse the true, native bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta with foreign interlopers once you know the code. British bluebells hang demurely, in a single direction on the stem, leaning over like a shepherd’s crook on elegant, slender stems.
The paler, alien bluebells—escapees from gardens—bear flowers all around an upright stem, which is stouter. As both types are enjoyed by bees and butterflies, they will hybridise, creating the confusion. Both kinds occasionally produce pink- or white-flowered plants. Kathryn Bradley Hole.
Where to see bluebells this spring
Arlington Bluebell Walk & Farm Trail
Open from Saturday 2 April until Sunday 8 May, the Arlington Bluebell Walk and Farm Trail offers eight different walks over three working farms. Perfect for families, there are pens of sheep, pigs and angora goats to admire alongside a tranquil woodland stroll perfect for admiring the idyllic bluebells.
(01323 485151; www.bluebellwalk.co.uk)
Ashridge Estate, Buckinghamshire
Enjoy the 1.5mile woodland trail that displays stunning clusters of bluebells as well as being home to a huge variety of wildlife. You can take advantage of a ranger-led walk to enjoy the bluebells and discover the fascinating history. Their bluebell walk is at its best from mid April until Mid May – a guided walk will be held on May 7.
(01442 851227; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashbridge-estate)
Renowned as one of the best places to see bluebells in England, Blickling offers winding paths through woodland and swathes of magnificent bluebells. There are also seven holiday cottages on the estate should you want to make a weekend of it.
(01263 738030; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling-estate)
Bunny Old Wood, Nottinghamshire
This woodland was mentioned in the Domesday Book and is home to an abundance of bluebells and huge variety of flora that visitors are free to admire. There have been 50 bird species recorded in Bunny Old Wood and over 20 species of butterfly.
Carnmoney Hill, Newtownabbey
One of several hills that overlook Belfast, Carnmoney Hill is a great landmark steeped in folklore and offering great views of the city. Walkers can enjoy a range of flowers as well as the striking bluebell displays. Interestingly, two underground tunnels have been found on the hill that are believed to be escape routes built under the threat of Vikings and other raiders.
Chirk Castle, Wrexham
Step back in time to this impressive medieval fortress and enjoy tranquil gardens, ancient trees and beautiful bluebell woods alongside the historical dungeons, Long Gallery and servants’ hall. Two cottages are situated within the castle, perfect for a weekend getaway.
(01691 777701; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chirk-castle)
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle, Clumber Park is ideal for an escape with its magnificent lake, tranquil gardens and the lovely woodlands that come spring are covered in breathtaking bluebells. The Gothic-style chapel is also available to explore.
(01909 544917; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park)
Coed Cefn, Abergavenny
Set on a hilltop, this woodland dominated by bluebells in the spring has a circular footpath that is enjoyed by plenty of visitors and popular with dog-walkers. Coed Cefn consists of oak, beech, fir and sycamore and is surrounded by agricultural grazing.
Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House, County Londonderry
Despite the 18th Century mansion of the Earl Bishop lying in ruin, the beautiful gardens are full of life especially in spring when the bluebell carpets provide a contrast to the magnificent cliff top walks. Visit on May 7 to enjoy an afternoon bluebell stroll with the estate warden who will point out the hidden gems of the garden.
(028 7084 8728; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/downhill-demesne-and-hezlett-house)
Glen Finglas, Trossachs
The beauty of Glen Finglas has been admired for centuries and garnered fans that included Pre-Raphaelite painters and writers. With a huge range of walks to suit any desire, Glen Finglas attracts visitors with its enchanting bluebells and spectacular views.
Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire
With more than 400 acres of unspoilt woodland, this beauty spot is home to tumbling streams, waterfalls and a spring spell of bluebells. Stay in the converted barn for a weekend experience.
(01422 844518; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardcastle-crags)
This magnificent country house is accompanied by a wooded estate and elegant gardens that are awash with daffodils and bluebells. The gardens are beautiful too and well worth a visit.
(01208 265950; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lanhydrock)
Nymans, West Sussex
These gardens provide the perfect spot for an afternoon walk and picnic with several varieties of flowers, some filling the rather romantic Gothic mansion ruins left from a fire. Displays of bluebells can be greadly admired on the guided woodland walks. The Woodlands Cottage is also available and sleeps four.
(01444 405250; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nymans)
Sissinghurst Castle, Kent
Made famous in the 1930s when Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson created a magically colourful garden, Sissinghurst Castle is a great spot for enjoying wildflowers of the season and wildlife spotting. A Bluebell and Wildflower Walk is led by Rangers, to call for dates see their website. A splendid detached building believed to be the former Elizabethan garden banqueting house sleeps six.
(01580 710700; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle)
Speke Hall is a Tudor timber-framed manor house set on the River Mersey that was restored in the 19th century and now offers delightful gardens as well as the incredible views. The woodland walks ensure idyllic carpets of bluebells.
(0151 427 7231; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/speke-hall)
Explore the 2,650 acres of the Stourhead estate which, when first opened in the 1740s, was described by one magazine as ‘a living work of art’. Plenty of wildlife roam the ancient woods and glorious bluebells steal the show come spring. A country cottage on the estate sleeps seven.
(01747 841152; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead)
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
The hillside arboretum includes more than 1,000 different shrubs and trees and, although delightful for a stroll at any time of the year, has a pleasant array of bluebells, magnolias and azaleas in spring.
(01483 208477; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winkworth-arboretum)
Wood of Cree, Newton Stewart
This woodland is full of life in spring with vast scattering of bluebells and a perfect place to spot barn and tawny owls, garden warblers and willow tits. Well worth a visit as the largest ancient wood in southern Scotland, the Wood of Cree even has an otter platform that looks out onto the river.
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