Where to see bluebells this spring

Bluebells in Blickling Great Wood May
Bluebells in Blickling Great Wood - Alamy Stock Photo

Every spring, nature performs a makeover on dark, forgotten woodland, rolling out delicate carpets of blue. Bluebells remind us that undisturbed land can possess a fleeting beauty.

Drifts of the wildflowers create an age-old scene, covering the forest floor while ancient trees grow above them. And according to Forestry England, the mild winter and spring so far this year could bring an early, bumper display.

The UK countryside is reportedly home to around half of the world's bluebells
The UK countryside is reportedly home to around half of the world's bluebells - Johnny Hathaway

English bluebells frequently grow in old woodland, and often show where woodlands used to be,” said Ian Ford, a National Trust ranger from Speke Hall, in Liverpool. Don’t mistake English natives for the Spanish bluebell, however.

“Native bluebells have a deeper violet blue colour and a drooping stem, with flowers all on one side,” explained Helen Chick, a spokesperson for Westonbirt Arboretum. “It also has white pollen and a sweet scent, which you can detect if you get close.”

The Spanish bluebell is larger, with a straight stem and paler blue conical flowers. “Native bluebells are actually protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,” Helen added, “so you could be fined for digging them up.”

Spanish bluebells can cross-pollinate and take over whole woodlands, according to Steve Kirkpatrick, countryside manager at the Lanhydrock estate in Cornwall. “They also don’t produce as much pollen for bees and insects.”

The UK countryside is reportedly home to around half of the world’s bluebells, though try not to stray from paths while admiring them. “Trample on a bluebell and it can take up to five years for it to flower again, if ever,” warned Steve. “The next person might try and avoid your crushed flowers, so will step further from the path and you end up with patches of bluebells rather than a carpet that’s there forever.”

Here are some of the best places to wander, carefully, around bluebells this spring.

Lanhydrock, Cornwall

After a mild winter, gardener Steve thinks the bluebells at Lanhydrock, a late Victorian house in Bodmin, may appear before the end of the month. Their green leaves are already out in force. “They are so dark and fresh, they are different to what has been around all winter,” said Steve. “They predict the display ahead and it looks like an absolute bumper year.” See them in the Great Wood.

Adult £20 (child £10), nationaltrust.org.uk

Bluebell spectacular, Kent

Hole Park Gardens, near Rolvenden, celebrates bluebell season every year by updating an online barometer showing the bluebells’ development. The 16 acres of family-owned gardens open on April 1 and once the bluebells have unfurled visitors can admire them on a circular walk that passes a renovated ice house. At this time of year, the woodland floor should also be coated with the white stars of wild garlic.

Adult from £11 (child from £2.50), holepark.com

Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Silk Wood contains huge swathes of ancient woodland and there are lovely views from a treetop walkway during bluebell season. At ground level, woodchip paths also wind between huge drifts of bluebells. Families will enjoy the playground here, and the Gruffalo trail. The arboretum’s bluebells are usually best from late April to mid-May.

Adult £12 (child £4), forestryengland.uk

Speke Hall, Liverpool

The woods at Speke’s Tudor house date back to at least the 11th century, featuring in the Domesday Book, with bluebells from the same period. The flowers are accessible to all and reached by a hard path, which is roped off to prevent them being crushed and unable to supply food to the bulb. These bluebells flood the floor of Stockton’s Wood and The Clough, behind the house. There is also a wildflower meadow to explore.

Adult £12 (child £6), nationaltrust.org.uk

Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire

Bluebells at Rufford Hall
Bluebells at Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire

Enjoying bluebells in spring is such a ritual for some that, during lockdown, David Roberts, the senior gardener at Rufford Old Hall, was asked to send a video of the display to a couple who were sad to miss it. “One of the perks of the job is being able to walk through a sea of English bluebells as they perfume the air,” he said. “We don’t have vast woodlands but we have nice pockets of bluebells,” he said. The house in Ormskirk keeps its own bees, who appreciate the pollen.

Adult £11 (child £5.50), nationaltrust.org.uk

Lea Paget’s Wood, Herefordshire

For lesser-visited woodland, try Lea Paget’s Wood, which produces fine sweeps of bluebells in springtime that are ideal for quiet contemplation. Set in the Wye Valley, you will also see wood anemone, ramsons and early purple orchids in this nature reserve, alongside groups of fallow deer.

Free, wildlifetrusts.org

Hinton Ampner, Hampshire

For intense colour, the grounds at Hinton Ampner are a good bet. Visitors can admire tightly packed bluebells in beech woods that can be found with a map of the Dutton Estate trail. Reaching them takes a walk of under half-an-hour. This country manor house and its manicured gardens also offer views across to the South Downs.

Adult £9.50 (child £4.75), nationaltrust.org.uk

Blickling Estate, Norfolk

dog sitting in bluebells
Discover carpets of bluebells at Blickling Estate - Alamy

A violet glow appears at Blickling between April and May thanks to gardeners who manage the woods so that enough sunlight reaches the ground. Their success is measured by the carpet of bluebells in the Great Wood. Thousands of bluebell bulbs were also planted in this Jacobean mansion’s formal gardens in the 1930s – explore the Temple Walk.

Adult £15 (child £7.50), nationaltrust.org.uk

Kinclaven Bluebell Wood, Perthshire

Veteran beech trees, some more than 200-years-old, live alongside oaks in this wood in Stanley. The bluebells are an annual highlight and a circular trail takes visitors through swathes of purple come spring. Allow about an hour for the 2.5km loop. Keep an eye out for great spotted woodpeckers, pine martens and red squirrels along the way.

Free, woodlandtrust.org.uk

Bluebell dinners and Vivaldi, London

For something different, wild feasting company Nomadic organises long-table lunches and dinners among bluebells in a tucked-away woodland outside the capital. This March and April, it is also staging a performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons amid a violet haze. Nomadic is set in Chalfont St Peter, which is easily reached from Rickmansworth on the Metropolitan line. Alternatively, Londoners can stroll in ancient, bluebell-filled woodland in Highgate and at Chalet Wood in Wanstead Park.

Tickets from £48, experiencenomadic.com

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.