The renewal of spring returns each year to banish the dark days of winter and tantalise with the promise of summer. And as warmer, lighter evenings emerge, so does the urge to travel. These hotels are just right for a spring break or an Easter holiday (where you might find some of the year's earliest sunny days). They have been chosen because they all make the most of the season of flowers, whether because of their own exceptional gardens or the countryside that surrounds them, and they all serve seasonal produce, much of it locally sourced, and all have a freshness, lightness of touch and sense of happiness that perfectly complements the time of year.
Glazebrook House, Dartmoor, Devon
With its beautiful and secluded landscaped grounds on the edge of Dartmoor, a stay at South African-owned Glazebrook House will surely put a spring in your step, not least because of its amazing collection of more than 900 imaginatively mounted vintage pieces. The theme – 19th century collector’s home meets Alice in Wonderland – is as wacky as it sounds and a brave and refreshing change to the identikit country-house found in these parts.
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The Master Builder's, New Forest
Its setting in the 18th century hamlet where several of Nelson’s warships were built, including Agamemnon, is one of the loveliest in southern England. Wake on a sunny morning in a quirkily luxurious main house bedroom and watch the river slowly coming to life. Then take the gentle riverside walk to Beaulieu or strike out into the New Forest, especially picturesque in spring when the foals of free-ranging forest ponies and donkeys appear. Dogs are warmly welcomed, with a cosy bed in front of the fire and a canine rooms service menu.
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Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, Wiltshire
Set on one of the finest championship all-weather courses in the South West, this elegant country house hotel, a careful blend of traditional and contemporary with its own spa, offers so much more than golf. Bowood House, home to the Lansdowne family since 1754, is yours to visit as well as it beautiful grounds, whose true glory is reserved for springtime: the spectacular Rhododendron Walks (free for hotel guests), which on certain days can be toured in the company of an expert. Not to be missed.
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Park House Hotel & Spa, Midhurst, West Sussex
The sophisticated bedrooms of this family-owned country house look down on an almost Edwardian scene in glorious Sussex countryside, with the clink of china tea cups and the murmur of conversation in the air. There’s a flower-covered pergola, two lawn tennis courts, croquet lawn, testing six-hole golf course and emerald putting green, all perfectly maintained. Beyond are long views onto a lovely wooded section of the South Downs.
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The Goring, Belgravia, London
Run by the same family for more than 100 years, the Goring harbours a terrific secret: its huge, tranquil garden, an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of central London, carpeted with lawn, surrounded by borders and shrubbery and never lovelier than in spring. Both the garden and the splendid hotel, a bastion of Britishness, have had something of a spring clean themselves, with a top-to-toe designer renovation, including a glamourous new lobby. From May onwards, the lawn becomes a croquet pitch and guests taking Afternoon Tea often play.
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Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire
Late spring brings a special reason for visiting this spoiling contemporary country house hotel, part of the Dorchester Collection: its spectacular wildflower meadow, a sea of traditional English flowers. Take the Meadow Tea in the Drawing Room overlooking it, or a tour with head gardener Terri Crow, or simply wander through on paths. The Polo season starts in April, and at Coworth Park’s own Guards polo ground, you can watch matches or even learn how to play.
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Barnsley House, Cirencester, Cotswolds
The four-acre garden that Rosemary Verey created at Barnsley House, then her home, now a stylish hotel, is at its best in late spring. There are knot gardens, an ornamental fruit and vegetable garden and much more, all melting into the surrounding Cotswold landscape. The all-white Potager restaurant takes in the view, and a winding pathway through the garden leads to a hidden spa and outdoor hydroptherapy pool.
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The Milk House, Sissinghurst, Kent
Vita Sackville-West’s Spring Garden at Sissinghurst Castle is one of the great pleasures of the season, a result of the creative tension between the formal design of her husband Harold Nicholson and the exuberant planting of Vita. She described the Lime Walk, a carpet of flower from March to May, as suggesting the foreground of Botticelli’s Primavera. Stay at the delightful Milk House in Sissinghurst village, where you’ll find stylish bedrooms and excellent food in a buzzing, countrified, open-plan setting.
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Congham Hall, Norfolk
Spring sees the annual resurgence of this gracious hotel’s renowned Herb Garden, which contains a collection of almost 400 varieties, including rare medicinal ones and many culinary ones used by the hotel’s chefs. Stroll around the Herb Garden (open to the public during the day) at dusk, when the heady aromas scent the air. The hotel itself is a calm Georgian house with stylish interiors; Sandringham House, open to the public from April to October, is just down the road.
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Fawsley Hall Hotel & Spa, Northamptonshire
The folk here reckon they enjoy a mini microclimate, with more clement weather than the rest of the county. Take a stroll around some of the 2,000 acres of formal gardens and extensive parkland, landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, and you’ll see what a magical place this is, walking to the starkly isolated church, passing two of three lakes, then turning towards the historic Tudor house itself, admiring its harmonious mix of architectural styles. Inside, the stupendous Great Hall impresses at any time of year.
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Millgate House, Richmond, North Yorkshire
"Guests," say Tim Culkin and Austin Lynch, proprietors of this exceptional guesthouse “are like cushions. They arrive a bit pummeled but we try to send them off plumped up again." They also leave delighted by the beauty of the small but sensational garden, which recently featured on Alan Tichmarsh’s Britain’s Best Gardens. In spring, many species of hellebore, snowdrop, aconite, crocus and narcissus carpet the ground and the garden’s all-important structure, including topiary holly and box, is plain to see. Inside the house, all is cosy, polished, welcoming. A gem.
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The Nare, Carne Bay, Cornwall
Few people realise how early spring starts in Cornwall, but The Nare is only too aware and each year celebrates the true beginning of the season by monitoring eight Cornish Magnolias to find the true first day of spring. Stay at this beautifully sited, traditional, kindly and warmly welcoming seaside hotel on the lovely Roseland Peninsula and visit some of Cornwall’s magnificent gardens to watch spring unfold.
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Howard's House Hotel, Teffont Evias, Wiltshire
What better than to hunker down than in a charming house, surrounded by the prettiest of gardens set in the heart of an idyllic but little known village far from main roads? Sitting on the lovely wide terrace at Howard’s House, in a garden protected by an undulating topiary hedge, the only sounds you are likely to hear are of birdsong and the knock of croquet mallet on ball. Stay in April and enjoy the magnificent ornamental crabapple that flowers then. Bedrooms are comfortable and the food is excellent.
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Northcote, Langho, Lancashire
What better than to explore Lancashire’s beautiful Forest of Bowland and Ribble Valley, perhaps following the Ribble Valley food trail, visiting local producers such as cheese and ice cream makers and organic farmers. Back at Northcote, an impressively well run Relais & Châteaux hotel set in a solid Victorian house that glows with good living, local produce makes a commanding appearance in Nigel Haworth’s Michelin-starred cooking and on his seasonal Spring Menu, while his kitchen garden is full of interest at this time of year.
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Star Castle Hotel, Isles of Scilly
Every March, the Isles of Scilly community gathers together to clean the beaches before the season starts in earnest. Now is the time to visit, when skies are blue and the clear light make both land and water sparkle. Stay at the Star Castle, fashioned from a perfect, star-shaped 16th-century castle on a headland above Hugh Town, a delightful family run-hotel, with charming bedrooms, three in former guardrooms embedded in the castle wall.
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The Mill at Gordleton, New Forest
Just the ticket: a ‘secret garden’ that rambles around a river well stocked with salmon, trout and perch and visited by ducks, heron and sometimes kingfisher. And the gardens at this creeper-covered restaurant with eight fresh bedrooms are stocked with something else besides: sculptures and artworks, some surprisingly large. Five minutes’ drive away is the Georgian sailing town of Lymington with its Saturday market and cobbled alleys down to the quay.
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The Pheasant Hotel, Harome, North Yorkshire
Want to stroll along the Farndale Daffodil Walk? Then stay at the Pheasant Hotel in nearby Harome, overlooking the picturesque village duck pond… a perfect pairing. The full walk, much of it alongside the River Dove, is three-and-a-half miles in length and takes about 90 minutes. Afterwards, sink into a comfy armchair at The Pheasant and prepare for superb seasonal and local cooking from co-owner Peter Neville.
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Tyddyn Llan, Denbighshire
With views across meadows in the Vale of Edeyrnion to the slopes of the Berwyn Mountains, this tranquil Georgian house, once a shooting lodge belonging to the Dukes of Westminster, offers three acres of lawns and flowerbeds, with swathes of snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells in spring and a huge kitchen garden where the produce for Bryan Webb’s Michelin-starred cooking is grown. Bryan cooks your delicious Welsh breakfast too – how many top chefs do that?
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Bodysgallen Hall and Spa, Llandudno
It’s a privilege to stay in this fine 16th-century mansion graced by remarkable gardens and a medieval tower at its core which gives a thrilling encircling view: as you turn Conwy Castle, Snowdonia, Anglesey, Great Orme and lastly Llandudno, with the promise of its marvellous 19th-century promenade, come into view. Take one of head gardener Robert Owen’s garden tours; the 'Spring has Sprung' tour takes place on April 24.
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Plas Bodegroes, Gwynedd
With its heart-shaped swathe of lawn leading to a 200-year-old avenue of beach trees, carpeted in daffodils, followed by bluebells, and leading nowhere but fields, Rosehip Hall (to give its English translation) is a truly romantic springtime destination. Inside the pretty Georgian house: a lovely duck egg blue dining room where very possibly the best breakfast in Wales is served, cosy sitting room and 10 attractive bedrooms.
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The Felin Fach Griffin, Brecon Beacons
Walking around the Griffin, between the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, with daffodils blooming and lambs gamboling, is never more rewarding than at this time of year, while the nearby Golden Valley is carpeted in bluebells. The cosy, delightfully unpretentious yet quietly stylish Griffin, noted for its excellent food and drink, makes the perfect base.
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Isle of Eriska Hotel, Argyll
Cross the wonderfully rumbly bridge that connects the mainland and you are on a private island where peace wraps around like a warm tartan blanket. April heralds the opening of The Deck, Eriska’s second restaurant, part of its refurbished Stables Spa, wonderfully set overlooking the golf course and Loch Linnhe. Spa treatments make use of seaweed, salt and clay harvested on the island. In the Scottish baronial Big House, you’ll find roaring fires, malt whiskies, and Michelin-starred cooking. The magical island is all yours, with its seals and otters and dreamlike views.
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Killiecrankie Hotel, Perthshire
“The best thing about spring”, says owner Henrietta Fergusson “is the astonishing green of the larches along the Pass of Killiecrankie”. Her whitewashed house dating from the 1840s gives direct access to the beautiful Pass, and her garden is filled with great swathes of daffodils, and later rhododendrons. Killiecrankie, warmly welcoming and comfortable, with excellent food and 10 elegant bedrooms, always with fresh flowers, is also perfectly placed for visiting three superb Scottish spring gardens: Cluny House, Bolfracks and Blair Castle.
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