6 spring walks that make the most of the season
Perfect walks for the brighter springtime weather
1. St Martins, Isles of Scilly - Best for… the earliest spring blooms
Spring arrives early on England’s south-westernmost archipelago. While winter keeps its grip on the mainland, bulbs burst into flower on the Isles of Scilly. Famed for early-blooming narcissi (including daffodils), these lovely little islands are floral wonderlands in spring. Pretty much car-free, they’re ideal for family rambles. Stroll along empty beaches, past prehistoric sites and around coasts speckled with bright pink sea thrift. With puffins, kittiwakes and Manx shearwaters returning to breed here, the isles bustle with birds now, too. All five inhabited isles of St Mary’s, St Agnes, St Martin’s, Bryher and Tresco have wonderful walking.
Our pick is dinky, unspoilt St Martins (shown above), a mere 2 miles long but packed with colours, flavours and history. An easy 5-mile circuit of the entire island passes the almost Caribbean white-sand Par Beach, flower fields and even a winery. But it also climbs past ancient cairns to the Daymark on St Martin’s Head, around rugged headlands and along granite cliffs. Though these timeless islands seem a world away, they lie just 28 miles from Cornwall. Arrive on St Mary’s via a short flight from Lands End, Penzance, Newquay or Exeter. Or sail aboard the Scillonian ferry from Penzance. Local boats hop regularly between the five inhabited islands.
2. Pollok Country Park, Glasgow - Best for… cute Highland calves
Take a deep dive into spring without even leaving Glasgow. Simply head for historic 146-hectare Pollok Country Park, a green haven just south-west of the centre. Encompassing woodland, meadows, beautiful gardens and the meandering West Cart Water, it’s at its best this season. Dippers and blackcaps fill the air with their rippling, fluting, warbling songs, and flowers carpet the rolling landscape. Pink purslane and bluebells purple the woodland floor, wild garlic scents the air, and pretty toothwort unfurls pale pink petals. An easy 3-mile loop around the park takes in all of these natural wonders. Make time, too, for the Impressionist masterpieces, stained glass and Chinese vases in the Burrell Collection. Children delight in the outdoor play area and fluffy Highland cattle calves, with their shaggy russet fur and huge horns. As well as handy toilets, there’s a great café, the Edwardian Kitchen, at Pollok House itself. Accessible by train or bus from the city, a free electric shuttle bus runs within the park itself.
3. Brigsteer Park, Cumbria - Best for… poetically lonely wandering
Romantic poet William Wordsworth was wandering lonely as a cloud alongside Ullswater when he spotted a ‘host of golden daffodils’. More than two centuries later, walkers are still enchanted by butter-yellow blooms at Glencoyne Bay, in the north-east Lake District. But ‘Lenten lilies’ (wild daffodils) are just some of the early spring flowers of this beautiful region. For more lonely wandering, locals in the know head to Brigsteer Park, near Kendal. Once its golden blooms have faded, bluebells and wild garlic add colour and scent to the woods. You might also spot green-yellow brimstone butterflies pausing to sip nectar from the flowers. Roam this magical little spot on a moderate 4-mile loop from Sizergh. That village’s namesake medieval house has wonderful gardens plus a café and toilets.
4. Gower Peninsula, Wales - Best for… mad March hares
After the long, dark days of winter, we can all go a little crazy. That goes for animals, too, most famously ‘mad March’ hares ‘boxing’ in open fields. What you’re seeing is actually a female fending off a male’s unwanted approaches. And one of the best places to witness this curious spectacle is the Gower Peninsula, west of Swansea. The ancient farmland here hosts these lively mammals, and a spring walk around the village of Rhossili also delights with wildflowers. Admire pink sea thrift and blue spring squill on a clifftop stroll to the rocky outcrop known as the Worms Head. (Check tides if you plan to cross the causeway.) You’ll pass the remains of an Iron Age fort, with fabulous views across Rhossili Bay’s 3-mile sweep of golden sand. Return to the village through the fields to spot those long-eared loons on a fairly gentle 2-mile amble. You’ll find toilets, a café and a large car park at Rhossili, which is also accessible by regular bus from Swansea.
5. Sheepleas, Surrey - Best for… fluttering butterflies
The clue’s in the name: this lovely spot in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was for centuries grazed by sheep. Today, though, it’s a precious nature reserve. Its mix of coppiced woodland and chalk grassland is speckled with wildflowers in spring and summer. Primroses and violets bloom around the trees in March, followed by cowslips and bluebells, then a dozen orchid species. Where there are flowers, of course, butterflies abound: more than 30 species flit and flutter here. Walk on a sunny late-spring day and you’ll likely be surrounded by brown argus, common blue, brimstone and grizzled skipper butterflies. Later in the year, you might even spot a magnificent purple emperor. The reserve is criss-crossed with walking trails. A full circuit covers less than three miles, ideal for young legs ready to climb a few hills. And you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with far-reaching views towards London. Easily accessible from both West and East Horsley, Sheepleas has three free car parks and plenty of picnic areas.
6. Dymock Woods, Herefordshire/Gloucestershire - Best for… daffodils
This sleepy rural corner of north-west Gloucestershire is famously at its best in spring. Long known as the ‘Golden Triangle’, it’s blanketed by little wild daffodils in February and March. Their vivid-yellow bells burst from the earth in dazzling swathes across churchyards, orchards, road verges, riverbanks and forests. In bygone years, people travelled from far away to admire and collect them. Today, the 9-mile Daffodil Way walking trail celebrates the spring blooms. Looping through the rolling countryside between Dymock and Kempsley Green, it skirts orchards and meadows where newborn lambs gambol. Treat your family to a taste of gold on a gentle wander through the Forestry Commission’s Dymock Woods. Pick one of several short, colour-coded trails to enjoy strolls among bluebells and butterflies. The best spot for little legs and daffodil displays is Shaw Common, a compact wonderland with a handy car park.
We’ve got ideas for hundreds of wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website. Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.
All images © Getty
Roam the banks of the capital’s waterways on seven glorious walks along the Thames and other London rivers.
Enjoy some of Britain’s most spectacular shoreline trails on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and surrounding national park.