It’s that time of year when they start to spring up, all around various woods and places. I know little about bluebells but what I do know is they’re pretty, especially in a good wood. As luck would have it, I have a handy guide to some good bluebell woods from the National Trust – though no mention of the fabulous Hatchlands Park which is famous for their wood (and where we almost always end up – if you’re nearby then definitely go!) – the bluebells go on for ever, and it’s a good long walk there and back too (which can take even longer if your child goes on strike and refuses to walk like H did last year). But still, bluebells! Pretty! They say the best time to catch them is around now, and particularly in May, so why not try one of the following?
“Make no mistake, spring is going to happen and it may be all the better for the wait” Matthew Oates, naturalist for the National Trust
Following the coldest March for 50 years, spring may still be someway off, with bluebell flowering predicted to be 3-4 weeks away and peak flowering possibly delayed until mid May or later.
However, when the warmer months do arrive, brighten up your day by dropping in to see the bluebells across many National Trust places.
Get the family together and discover the delights of these delicate flowers that transform Britain’s wonderful woodlands.
Here’s a selection of the top National Trust places and events that are perfect to enjoy bluebells in all their glory:
Ashridge Estate, Buckinghamshire
“I once watched the sun set through the bluebells at Ashridge; it was unforgettable and remains forever in my memory” –Lawrence Trowbridge, lead ranger
Enjoy carpets of bluebells this spring in this vast wooded landscape, filled with breathtaking scenery, amazing wildlife and a fascinating history.
Bluebell walk, 8 May, 7pm-9pm
Join a ranger-led walk at dusk and enjoy the best of Ashridge’s bluebells this year with all of the family.
Ticket charge £7 per adult and £5 per child.
Please park at the visitor centre.
Booking is essential, please call 01442 851227.
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
“Bluebells are so special to me and those who visit Blickling as they give a great understanding of the history of the woodland and a sense of spiritual connection to the whole estate”-Dave Brady, head ranger
Visit Blickling in April through to May and discover one of the best places to see bluebells in the country. Follow the winding paths through the great wood, and pass through swathes of dainty English bluebells.
Make a weekend of it: There are seven holiday cottages on the estate, including the magnificent ‘Tower’ converted from the second Earl of Buckinghamshire’s race stand. The ‘Tower’ sleeps four.
Chirk Castle, Wrexham
Immerse yourself in a medieval world at this impressive castle, then escape to the gardens and woodland and find Berkshire pigs, ancient trees and wonderful bluebell woods during the spring months.
Spring flowers garden walk, 15 May, 7pm-8pm
Join head gardener David Lock for a gentle stroll around the castle’s award-winning garden. Discover the amazing variety of spring-flowering trees, shrubs and plants, and how they grow and care for them.
All tickets £7.
Booking is essential, please call 01691 777701
Make a weekend of it: Take your pick from two cottages situated within the castle grounds. There’s the House by the Dyke, a 1930’s villa, sleeping five located at the top of Offa’s Dyke, or, Chirk Home Farm Cottage, a traditional stone cottage that sleeps four and is a few hundred metres from the castle.
Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
“For me the word ‘bluebell’ signals that spring is underway with a shimmering blue carpet overhung with fresh green foliage. At Clumber, they usually look perfect for St. George’s Day”-Christopher Margrave, head gardener
With 1,537 hectares of parkland, gardens, peaceful woodlands and a magnificent lake, there is plenty of space to explore and relax at Clumber, including the bluebell woodlands throughout the spring months.
Blue is the colour, 9 May, 1.30pm-3.30pm
Join Clumber for a gentle walk to discover a few of the bluebell woodlands that are around the estate.
All tickets £4.20.
Booking is advisable, please call 01909 476592.
Downhill Demesne and Hezlett House, County Londonderry
The striking 18th century mansion at Downhill now lies in ruin, but the offering of beautiful gardens and stunning cliff top walks makes this is a fantastic place for all the family to visit – especially during bluebell season.
Bluebell walk, 4-6 May, 2pm-4pm
Go along for an afternoon stroll around the Bishop’s Gate gardens and see the bluebells in full bloom at Downhill. The estate warden will highlight the hidden gems.
Normal admission charges apply.
Booking is not required. For more information, please call 02870 848728.
Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire
“Bluebells are the undisputed spring highlight at Hardcastle. At their peak, they form an almost unearthly blue haze through the woodlands and fill air with their sweet perfume. It’s my favourite time of the year, bursting with life”- Nabil Abbas, countryside manager
This wooded landscape is often known as ‘Little Switzerland’ because of the valley sides, pathways and river flowing through. In spring, the woodland is awash with carpets of bluebells.
Wildflower folklore walk, 12 May, 10am-1pm
Learn about the ecology and folklore of the eye-catching local flora. Find out how forebears used bluebells, learn to tell your ramsons from your woodruff and discover how to protect yourself from evil sprits on this slow-paced walk of 2-3 miles.
No additional charges.
Booking is not required. For more information, please call 01422 844518.
Make a weekend of it: Stay at the converted barn which overlooks the wooded valley that comes complete with original cow stalls or the Victorian Lodge at the pillared entrance. Both cottages sleep four.
This fascinating country estate has gorgeous gardens, including a brilliant collection of spring-flowering magnolias and woodland areas blooming with waves of daffodils and bluebells.
Bluebells at their best, 4 May, 10am-12pm
Join the head ranger for a stroll through the bluebell woods, followed by lunch in the restaurant.
All tickets £15 (50p booking fee for cards).
Booking is essential, please call 01208 265950.
Make a weekend of it: Stay in the only cottage on the estate, a 1920s villa-style cottage with stunning views over Lanhydrock’s historic parkland. Sleeps six.
Nymans, West Sussex
Inspired by the setting and the soil, the Messel family created one of the country’s great gardens in the late 19th-century. The garden and nearby woods are perfect for walking, picnicking and spotting bluebells.
Woodland walks: bluebells & wild flowers, 27 April-3 May, 11am-12:30pm
Join the woods team for a walk through Nymans woodlands, taking in the splendid displays of bluebells and other spring wild flowers.
Normal admission charges apply.
Booking is essential, please call 01444 405250.
Make a weekend of it: Stay at Woodlands Cottage, previously home to the estate game keeper, with walks and lakes on your doorstep. Sleeps four.
Sissinghurst Castle, Kent
A ruin of an Elizabethan manor house, Sissinghurst Castle and estate is a great place to see bluebells and wildflowers of the season.
Bluebell and wildflower walk, 26-28 April and 3-5 May, 2pm-4pm
Join Sissinghurst for a four mile walk with a ranger, discovering the wildflowers and bluebells on the estate. After, enjoy a cream tea in the restaurant.
£12.50 per person (including cream tea).
Booking is essential, please call 01580 710700.
Make a weekend of it: Sleeping six Priest’s House is a beautiful detached brick building which is believed to be the former Elizabethan garden banqueting house and is an absolute must-stay for garden lovers.
Speke Hall, Garden and Estate, Liverpool
“One of my favourite experiences in spring is walking through a carpet of bluebells. From the amazing blue flowers dancing in the breeze filling the air with heady scent, to the buzz of bees feeding on the nectar inside, it’s a magical scene at Speke Hall and one that always remains forever in my memory” –Ian Ford, estate warden
A perfect oasis of peace and quiet within easy reach of Liverpool, Speke Hall provides stunning views of the surrounding area and wonderful woodland walks through carpets of bluebells.
‘A living work of art’ is how a magazine described Stourhead when it first opened in the 1740s. The garden and house are at the heart of a 1,072-hectare estate, where ancient woods are a perfect place to spot the glorious bluebells flowering in spring.
Bluebell walk, 12 May 10.30am–12.30pm
Join the head ranger at Stourhead to experience wonderful bluebell displays on a woodland walk and discover how the estate looks after the woods and wildlife.
Ticket charge £10 per adult and £5 per child.
Booking is essential, please call 0844 249 1895.
Make a weekend of it: Set at the entrance to Stourhead 89 Church Lawn is the perfect country cottage, especially as guests can enjoy bracing walks around the ornamental lake before the crowds. Sleeps seven.
To find out more about National Trust holiday cottages visit www.nationaltrustcottages.co.