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The best gardens to visit in spring

Seven of the best gardens to visit in Spring

Spring is a showpiece season for Britain’s gardens, and anyone looking for inspiration is really spoilt for choice. Formal or informal, classical or directional, it’s easy to get ideas or just a great day out, but what are the best gardens to visit in spring?

The main thing worth highlighting here – and we’re sorry if we’re pointing out the obvious – is that ‘spring’ arrives at different times depending on where you are in the UK. The gardens of the mild Cornish and Devon coast could be in their full spring glory weeks earlier than those in the North and East. So plan your visit accordingly.

Below we give you seven of the best gardens to visit in spring; there are dozens of other contenders across the UK too.

Cambo Estate, Fife

Think of this Scottish estate as the snowdrop mecca of the North. Cambo is famous for its 350 snowdrop varieties (also for sale on its website), and it runs a snowdrop festival starting at the beginning of February. Snowdrop collection tours are included free with the £5.50 ticket price.

There’s also a quaint walled garden and – thanks to its 70 acres of woodland and 2 miles of coastal trails – plenty of dog (or child!) walking territory. As well as this, there is B&B at Cambo House, glamping, a golf course, cafes and, for when the fresh air is getting a bit much, a distillery! If you love snowdrops then this is definitely one of the best gardens to visit in spring.

Cragside, Northumberland

Visit Cragside in the spring and you’ll find out why it won an award for Britain’s best garden for 2016. Contained in its 1000 acres are, among other things, a Victorian formal garden, a vast and rugged rockery, an orchard house (ie a greenhouse used for growing fruit), and a labyrinth cut into a rhododendron wood.

For horticulture aficionados, the inspiring thing about Cragside is it’s proof you don’t have to live in a mild climate to garden on a grand scale or plant an Italian-inspired terrace. For younger visitors, the play parks and statue-filled labyrinth should do nicely.

The house is interesting too – Lord Armstrong who designed the garden was also an inventor, so it’s crammed with gadgets he designed and it was the first house in the world to be powered by hydroelectricity.

Tickets are not cheap – £19 for an adult for the house, gardens and woodland – but entry is free if you’re a National Trust member.

Pashley Manor, Sussex-Kent border

If it’s tulip fever you’re after, look no further than Pashley Manor. In fact, visit during the Tulip Festival which runs from Easter Monday until May and you’ll find 35,000 of them, beautifully arranged into different ‘rooms’ according to colour and species. In case of showers or tulip fatigue, there’s a nice café and gift shop.

In addition to the tulips, spring highlights at Pashley include a very pretty ‘Bluebell walk’ – all very ‘English’. You will have to leave the dogs at home though, and adult tickets cost from £11. The gardens close during winter, opening from the start of April. Definitely up there as one of the best gardens to visit in spring for admirers of bluebells and tulips.

West Dean Gardens, Surrey

Not too far from Pashley is West Dean, near Chichester – with attractions ranging from the 13 Victorian glasshouses to a sunken garden to a 300-ft long Edwardian pergola.

Particularly nice at this time of the year are the spring gardens and pond, with hidden walkways and benches and some good ideas for water features. Check out the restored Victorian summer house too – if you leave wanting your own garden retreat check out our summer house designs (a little smaller in scale and price).

And if you’re more interested in growing food than flowers, the walled kitchen garden is a place of joy. It’s planted on a four-course rotation of potatoes, brassicas, legumes and salads and root crops. If you want inspiration for an allotment, this alone could be worth the £9.50 ticket price. Children under 16 enter for free.

Caerhays Estate, Cornwall

While all the gardens we’ve mentioned are certainly impressive during the springtime, they’re not exclusively spring-focussed (apart from Pashley’s Tulip Festival).

Caerhays, and its 140 acres of castle and gardens, is the exception: it is only open from February until June, by which time the 600-odd species of magnolias it’s known for are in their full majesty. Be warned that these gardens are not particularly manicured or landscaped, but that’s one reason for liking them – you could imagine doing some of this on a smaller scale in your own garden, if you have lots of space and a long timeframe.

Tickets are £9 for adults for the gardens (unguided, but you can arrange guided tours too), or £15 if you want to visit the castle as well. Children go half-price.

Caerhays Estate is not a stereotypical garden, but definitely on of the best gardens to visit in spring.

Killerton, Devon

‘Spectacular’ and ‘stunning’ are over-used words, but if anywhere deserves them, it’s Killerton, both the house and the 6400 acres of gardens. By the start of spring, expect blankets of daffodils, bluebells and cyclamen. on the website telling you the best places to find them.

There’s also an action-packed events calendar, photogenic grazing cattle in many of the fields, a good café and, if you’ve indulged inside said café a little too much, a grand chapel where you can seek absolution!

Adult tickets are £12, though family tickets are available for £18 – there’s plenty to do for kids and dogs, including a forest school for the former.

Brockhampton Estate, Herefordshire

As much as we like them, there’s a chance you’ve had enough of massive country houses with grand old gardens like some of the ones we’ve talked about. If you have, then you’re in luck with Brockhampton.

This medieval manor is both wildflower and wildlife focussed; there are dormice, frogspawn and ducklings in plentiful supply during the spring, and fields full of snowdrops and wild garlic instead of pristine flowerbeds. The six waymarked paths are great for dogs and kids, both of which the Estate welcomes, and access to all of this along with the orchards are included in the £9 adult ticket price.

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