Our Favourite UK Spring Walks
Is there a more magical time to be outdoors than spring? Walking at this time of year is a welcome assault on the senses – warmth, light and colour replacing the damp greys and browns of winter, as unfurling flowers bring a carpet of colour to our meadows and grasslands, forests become greener and fragrant with the smell of wild garlic, and our hedgerows and coastlines teem with the sound of returning insects and birds.
To help you make the most of this invigorating time of year, we’ve pulled together some of our favourite spots from around the UK to bring a bit of springtime splendour to your walks this season.
The Daffodil Way, Gloucestershire
Between late February – March if you take a walk in the pastures, woodlands and orchards around Dymock and Kempley in the Windcross parishes of North-West Gloucestershire, you’ll find yourself in a spectacular sea of colour known as the Golden Triangle. This peaceful corner of the Welsh borders is wild daffodil country, and the Daffodil Way is a glorious 10-mile walking route that threads its way right through it along the Vale of Leadon. There really is no better place to be experience spring colour.
Not far from here is the easily spotted landmark of May Hill. Its crowning cluster of tall pines were planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1887. At almost 305m, it’s an amazing viewpoint and Newent Woods on its North-East side are a thick carpet of bluebells come late spring. Visit on May Day itself and you’ll find, by ancient custom, rival parties from nearby Newent ascend the hill to do friendly battle – summer’s supporters against winter’s – after which the always victorious summer party triumphantly take summer greenery back down to the village to celebrate. And if you like a spot of Morris dancing on the summit of your springtime walks, you’ve come to the right place.
Clun might be the smallest town in Shropshire but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm with some impressive castle ruins as well as many other hidden gems and hostelries. On the first bank holiday in May, the town hosts its own traditional springtime festival – The Green Man - the highlight of which is a conflict between the Green Man himself and the Ice Queen, known as the Battle of the Bridge. And the stakes are high: legend has it, if the Green Man doesn’t win, there will be no summer!
Clun lies on a quiet corner of the Shropshire Way, one of the UK’s finest longest distance walking routes, and the stage between the lovely town of Bishops Castle and Clun is one of its best. You’ll know why once you reach the wonderful ridge called the Cefns that runs from Three Gates down to Clun. From this bare, windswept ridge you’ll see Clun far down below you and some of the finest unspoilt views in every direction you could ever hope to come across. Once you’ve reached Clun, you’ll also find nearby fantastic walks to the famous Bury Ditches – one of the best-preserved hillforts in the country.
Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire
Known as Yorkshire’s Matterhorn, the iconic profile of Roseberry Topping in the North-West corner of the North York Moors is a special location to experience one the highlights of nature’s calendar – bluebell season. The spectacular purple haze and delicate scent that greet you as you wander through nearby Newton Wood is as sure a sign as any that spring has finally arrived. It’s not just bluebells either. By May these woods are awash with all kinds of wildflowers and the smell of wild garlic fills the air too. Add into the mix a birdsong chorus of warblers, chiff chaff and cuckoo as you approach the sorrel and stitchwort quilted banks of Roseberry Topping itself, and you’ve got a springtime masterpiece on your hands.
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower
Choose a sunny spring day with a blustery wind for walk along this dramatic stretch of the Gower Peninsula and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better place to blow away the last of those winter cobwebs. Regularly billed as ‘Britain’s Best Beach’ and designated the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956, the beach and signature limestone cliffs of Three Cliffs Bay are a springtime wonder to behold. If nothing else because it’s usually much quieter at this time of year.
Wander contentedly amongst horned cattle, acid yellow gorse and bluebells on the cliff-tops, listen to the deep sighing of the sea advancing on the rocks below, and look down upon that magnificent curve of creamy, pristine sand and you’ll soon feel the urge wash over you to scramble down to the shoreline for a bracing springtime dip. A truly special place.
One of the best things to do in spring is rise early and get outside to experience the sights and sounds of a dawn chorus. Between April-May the mixture of woodlands, wetlands and coastline that make up Suffolk’s iconic Minsmere reserve is one of the most magical places in the UK to enjoy this enchanting spectacle, as everything from bitterns to nightingales, cetti’s warblers to avocets, join in unison as the sun rises. If you’re really lucky, in spring you might also see shy otters pepper the reserve’s reedbed pools, or basking adders soaking up the sun close to the sand martins which are nesting in the banks. Also look out for the dramatic switchback display flights of marsh harriers above you as you wander alongside the reedbeds. Minsmere really is a wildlife bonanza at this time of year.
Seven Sisters, South Downs
With its chalk sea cliffs, windswept downland and sheltered valleys, the eastern South Downs are home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Britain. If you start from the Seven Sisters country park, you can head south along the Cuckmere River, which in spring teems with flowers and insect life – especially bees who love the clovers and vetches that grow along the river edge. After looking for fossils at the foot of the cliffs near the river’s mouth, climb steeply up to the clifftop and keep an eye out for nesting kittiwakes and fulmars. From this elevated vantage point, at low tide, you may also be able to see the wreck of Coonatto, a Barquentine clipper as you head east toward Birling Gap. The chalk grasslands here are rich with spring flowers such as milkwort and round-headed campion, and look out for butterflies investigating the cowslips too. Once at Birling Gap, you can head north into Friston Forest and enjoy the emerald light of late spring shimmering under its canopy on one of the numerous trails that head back westward to the start point. This walk has it all.
Alnwick Garden, Northumberland
Of all the signs that signal the arrival of spring, the sight of cherry blossom bursting into bloom is one of the prettiest. Whilst for many, cherry blossom conjures up images of Japan, you don’t have to travel halfway across the world to witness this colourful spectacle. The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland has the largest collection of Taihaku trees in the world and a visit to see them during blossom season is something special, as enormous blossoms cover over 300 trees, forming a pristine white canopy over thousands of daffodils. It’s a short window of opportunity though, with the bloom only lasting for up to two weeks from around the end of April/beginning of May. On the plus side, if you can’t get there in person, there’s a handy a livestream on their website.
The Speyside Way, Scotland
The Speyside Way is one of Scotland's great long-distance trails, running for 116km from Buckie on the shore of the Moray Firth coast in a south-westward direction to Aviemore on the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains. As well as great walking country, the regions of Speyside and Strathspey are home to almost half of Scotland’s 100 or so malt whisky distilleries, and if you’re a whisky fan, there’s no better time to visit than May - otherwise known as Whisky Month. If the combination of walking and whisky doesn’t currently shout ‘the arrival of spring’ in your mind, then this is a route to change your perceptions. With marked walking trails linking the distilleries, you’ll enjoy both a meandering walk through woodlands and heather rich glens, before stopping to sample the processes and products that have made the amber liquid of ‘Scotch’ world famous. A refreshing trip all round.
As winter approaches and the nights draw in, it can be tempting to hang up your waterproofs and put away your walking boots. But with frosty landscapes, the magic of low winter sunlight and the promise of a warming pub fire at the end of a walk, we think there are plenty of reasons to carry on getting out and about this winter.
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