The clocks have gone forward, birds are singing their little hearts out and it’s finally starting to feel warmer. All around, tiny buds on the trees are getting ready to burst and tell-tale green shoots are pushing up through the earth. Here are 5 of our favourite places to get outdoors and experience nature at its most uplifting. Which will you choose for your boutique spring getaway?
Set around a lake dotted with ornate temples, follies and grottos, Stourhead’s colourful gardens are glorious all year round. Spring is a particularly special time to visit with purple rhododendrons, fragrant azaleas and ephemeral magnolias all in full bloom. Nearby, Nadder Valley Barn makes an ideal country bolthole for couples or small families: the beautifully converted barn is an Instagram heaven of boho-chic fabrics and antique furnishings, with a huge open-plan living space and 2 cosy bedrooms.
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
A place of quiet refuge since the 11th century, Blickling’s vast landscape of flower-filled meadows, historic woodland and gently undulating parkland has changed little over the years. Spring sees a riot of colour throughout the estate with 100,000 daffodils lining the stately avenues and a blanket of bluebells throughout the Great Wood. A great base for the region is The Gunton Arms – an outstanding rural pub with 12 characterful rooms, walls decked with modern art and a reputation for excellent seasonal food.
Long Wood, Somerset
A short hop from the i-escape offices, Long Wood – a picturesque valley in spectacular Cheddar Gorge – is one of our favourite springtime haunts. An easy trail through ancient woodland – home to creatures from badgers to buzzards, roe deer to dormice – reveals a carpet of colourful orchids, wood anemones and bluebells. Visit in late spring and the smell of wild garlic fills the air. We love staying at the White Hart Somerton nearby, for its relaxed atmosphere and quirky charm. Overlooking the market square, the 16th-century inn has 8 stylish rooms and an outstanding restaurant run by ex-River Cottage chef Tom Blake. Our top tip: climb up to Black Rock for stunning views across the Mendip Hills.
Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire
Tucked into a fold of the rugged South Pennine hills, the secluded valley of Hardcastle Crags is a beautiful place for a springtime wander. With 15 miles of footpaths through 400 acres of unspoilt woodland, you’ll pass babbling streams, deep rocky ravines, tumbling waterfalls and a former cotton mill. In late April, bluebells transform the woodland floor into a sea of blue while the sound of woodpeckers and skylarks fill the treetops. Within easy reach, The Assheton Arms offers rural rooms with period character and a rosetted restaurant. Bathrooms are a particular treat, featuring marble-clad rain showers and roll-top tubs.
Renowned for its Easter Daffodil Festival, the historic village of Mells is lined with cheerful yellow blooms from late March-early May, attracting large numbers of visitors. Close to the church, The Talbot is a cosy pub with a quaint cobbled courtyard and a handful of beamed rooms. Formerly a 15th-century coach house, it has character in abundance but it was the relaxed vibe and insanely comfortable beds that we fell in love with. Our top tip: walk along the banks of Mells Stream where wildflower meadows attract butterflies and bees, and stop off at the rambling Walled Garden for lunch.