It is sometimes debated, but for many of us, spring is one of the best times of the year. Winter is behind us, the sun shining and the flowers blooming, and with all those changes, wildlife and landscapes come to life. So there is no better time to get out and explore when the countryside is at its best this season.
Discover perfect stately gardens blossoming back to life after the winter or get stuck in during a farm’s busiest season. Here are some ideas for the best spring days out in the UK.
Georgian Spring Gardens at Stowe, Buckinghamshire
The National Trust calls it Europe's finest landscaped garden, and Stowe certainly puts on a fine display for springtime. From cheerful daffodils and crocuses to the gorgeous graphic prints of imperial fritillaries, Stowe's paths reveal stunning spring flowers.
There are 250 acres of Georgian-style gardens to explore, along with beautiful Greek-inspired temples and monuments dotted across the estate. Created by 18th-century aristocrat Lord Cobham and in part designed by Capability Brown, the gardens are a botanical interpretation of Lord Cobham's views on morality and politics. So, don't be surprised when you find yourself walking down garden paths named after vice, virtue, and liberty, each with temples and monuments representing these themes.
Top Tip: Don't miss the Grecian Valley for a lovely circular walk that affords the best views of seasonal flowers. There are also pre-booked golf carts available if you don't fancy walking the entire distance.
Getting there: From Oxford or Cambridge train stations, you can jump on a bus to Buckingham town, which is 1.5 miles from the gardens. Take a stroll up Stowe Avenue for spectacular views to arrive at The New Inn visitor centre.
Spring Walk to St Catherine’s Hill, Winchester
Pretty spring flower meadows, limestone hills, and lambs skipping across the countryside are just some highlights of this five-mile spring walk from the historic cathedral city of Winchester. Winchester's multi-layered history stretches back to the Iron Age when the Belgae tribe built a fort on what is now St Catherine's Hill overlooking the Itchen Valley.
Your walk will begin outside the west door of the cathedral, before passing through the tranquil water meadows and along the River Itchen. The route then climbs St Catherine's Hill, a 58-hectare flower-rich chalk grassland with an abundance of wild spring flowers and butterflies. Your climb will be rewarded with stunning views across the city, the Itchen Valley and the surrounding countryside.
As well as beautiful countryside, you can see many ancient monuments. Look out for the ramparts of an Iron Age hill fort cut into the 70m high mound and buried ruins of the Norman chapel that gives the site its name.
There are over 25 different butterfly species that breed on the site, so take the time to watch them flutter around you.
Top Tip: Shetland sheep eat the grass all year round, and keeping it short prevents the flowers from being shaded by taller grasses. See if you can spot the sheep browsing the hawthorn and bramble, reducing their spread over the open down!
Getting there: Hop on a train to Winchester, and the route begins from the west door of Winchester Cathedral, just 10 minutes away from Winchester Station.
Spring Blooms at Castle Howard, North Yorkshire
The 18th-century historic house and estate at Castle Howard is a stunning setting for the emergence of the first spring blossoms. Watch the delicate pink-white cherry, and crabapple blooms start to unfurl as spring arrives in this picturesque 1000-acre landscape.
Explore the vast woodland and take in the sights of the surrounding Howardian Hills – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the North Yorkshire countryside. The estate's daffodils are also not to be missed around Easter time, and the walled kitchen garden is home to primulas and snowdrops that are at their best at this time of year.
And if all this wasn't enough, there's also the 120-acre Yorkshire Arboretum on the Castle Howard Estate. Here you'll find 6,000 trees from every temperate corner of the globe. Highlights in spring include the fluffy white flowers of the Chinese Mountain Ash, the original seed collected on a plant-hunting expedition to a remote mountain in China.
Top tip: Grow your own plant or tree by getting a sapling from the Castle Howard tree nursery or garden centre, where they sell a range of varieties all grown from seeds at the estate.
Getting there: Hop on the train to York station, and it's a 4-minute walk to the bus stop on Station Avenue, where you can take the 181 bus directly to Castle Howard. Show your bus ticket for discounted entry!
Birdwatching at RSPB Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire
Watch this wonderful wetland come alive in spring with the arrival of willow warblers, little grebes, and turtle doves. Historically used for farming watercress, a network of fresh chalk springs runs through Fowlmere – and the surrounding landscape of reed beds forms a perfect home for marsh harriers, kingfishers and greylag geese. The clear chalk streams are also a great place to spot trout and crayfish.
The entire reserve can be covered in a circular walk of about 3 km. Families with buggies will find the boardwalks and bridges handy, and the helpful local volunteers are full of information about the resident wildlife to keep youngsters entertained.
Top tip: Be sure to visit at least one of the three hides, and you may be lucky enough to get up close to kingfishers and barn owls.
Getting there: Once arriving at Cambridge train station, you should walk to the Botanical Gardens, just 5 minutes away. From here, you can jump on the number 31 bus and ask the driver to let you off at the Dunsbridge Turnpike (outside Country Homes & Gardens). This is the closest bus stop to the reserve, a pleasant 1 mile walk away.
If you’re planning a trip to one of the best spring days out around the UK, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our Train Tickets app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.
The UK is bursting with fun activities. Whether you’re visiting one of the best historical places in the UK, the best forests in the UK, or the best cinemas in the UK, you can always travel by train. CrossCountry has services running up and down the country to ensure you can get to the places you need to be.
Written by Julia