Helen Moat breaks down some of the very best springtime walks in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, from the idyllic coast of Scotland to the dramatic hills of Yorkshire...
From the wild north coast of Northern Ireland to the sheltered rivers and estuaries of south-west England, walk away from winter’s cold into some of Britain’s best springtime rambles. Enjoy wildflower meadows and woodlands as well as the planted daffodils, azaleas and rhododendrons of country estates.
One of Scotland’s most enchanting corners, the coastal walk from Rockcliffe to Kippford and back is an easy two-mile walk, with a couple of optional climbs and an island visit. In spring, the woodlands are carpeted with bluebells and wood anemones.
When the tides allow (and outside the breeding season for birds) you can detour across the mudflats to Rough Island from Rockcliffe, or along the causeway south of Kippford. On the island, bluebells cascade to the sea. Stop at The Anchor for pub grub or The Ark cafe in Kippford for refreshments before returning to Rockcliffe.
From the car park at Rockcliffe, walk down to the sea. Follow the coastal road beside the beach. Turn right then left to follow a country lane. At the disused quarry, take the path into the forest, keeping left. Drop down to the lovely estuary village of Kippford, which is reminiscent of villages in Devon and Cornwall.
From Kippford, follow the village coastal road towards Rockcliffe, taking the opportunity to detour to Muckle Hill with stunning views over the estuary, and the Mote of Mark. Drop down off the fort and turn left to follow the lane back to Rockcliffe.
Flowers burst into life towards the end of winter at Downhill Demesne on the north coast of Northern Ireland, and continue through spring. In the estate’s woodlands and gardens, daffodils follow hot on the heels of snowdrops,and in turn are replaced by bluebells. This eight-mile walk through parkland, along cliff edge and windswept beach is simply superb.
Park at the Tunnel Brae Car Park in Castlerock and turn left up the road away from the coast, past Apostle Cottage (12 attractive terraced houses) and caravans to the entrance of Downhill Demesne (National Trust). Head north to explore Black Glen, a small arboretum with a dammed fishing pond and gardens splashed with spring colour. Continue to the ruined house before walking down to the spectacular Italianate Mussenden Temple that teeters on the cliff edge.
Enjoy the views of Benone Beach. If you time it right, you’ll see the Coleraine to Derry/Londonderry train shoot out of the tunnel to snake along the coast. Head for the Lion’s Gate (where you can stop for a hot drink at Al’s Coffee) and drop down to the beach, where the Atlantic breakers crash on the shore. Finish your walk at the hipster Sea Shed Coffee & Surf. Return to Downhill Demesne estate, following the coastal path this time back to Castlerock.
Roseberry Topping rises out of North Yorkshire in splendid isolation. At just over 1,000ft, it’s not very high, but with its distinctive half-conical, jagged summit it seems higher and has been coined the ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’.
This short ramble is less than two miles, although the steep ascent requires a basic level of fitness. Take a picnic and enjoy the far-reaching views from the top. It’s a lovely walk at any time of year, but is particularly resplendent in spring when the surrounding hillsides and woodlands are awash with bluebells.
Park at Roseberry Topping Car Park, just south of Newton under Roseberry. Head up the rough track beside the car park. Keep left to continue through Newton Wood and follow the Brant Gate Path. Watch out for a right turn and the path that climbs to the summit. Continue south from the top to descend the hill back to Newton Wood. Cut through the woodland to join Roseberry Lane again and retrace your steps to the car park.
Just outside Cromford, Bow Wood is one of Derbyshire’s best-kept secrets. This is a delightful springtime walk, filled with birdsong, fresh green leaves, pretty bluebells and wood anemones. Make your way through quiet woodland, across meadows and along a ridge. Enjoy the expansive views of the surrounding Derbyshire countryside and its villages. This three-mile walk has some steep ascents and descents.
Park on Lea Road (at the John Smedley factory end) and head through the gap beside a wooden gate into the woods (at the beginning of the lane that climbs behind the factory buildings). Follow the woodland path that runs parallel to the road below. Take the path to the right that ascends steeply through woodland, then cross the meadow. Continue west along the narrow ridge path that runs between a dry-stone wall and the plunging wooded drop.
Pause to enjoy the far-reaching views to Cromford and its surroundings before following the steep path down (not for the faint-hearted) to another area of open land. At the bottom, the broad path sweeps right through more woodland. When you emerge from the trees, the open meadow is thick with bluebells in spring. Stop for a picnic and enjoy the views of Holloway, then continue down the path. Turn right into the lane that leads past the John Smedley factory buildings and drop down to Lea Road again.
This easy one-mile walk takes the rambler on a circular walk around the imposing country house of Penrhyn Castle, through woodlands and gardens, particularly lovely in late spring when the grounds are splashed with the bold colours of azaleas and rhododendrons and the air is filled with the scent of their blossoms.
From the car park head through the oaks surrounded by spring flowers and follow the path through Lime Grove. Continue along Broad Walk, with fine views to the Castle Keep and Library Carrel. Head for the Heather Slope next and on into the Bog Garden. Take time to visit the Walled Garden before continuing through the Rhododendron Walk.
Visit the atmospheric ruined chapel, then take the path downhill, continuing between the stables and disabled parking. A wide grassy path leads to Fox Hollow and along the boundary with superb views to the hills and sea. Eventually, you will arrive back at the car park. Reward yourself with a bowl of warming soup or hot chocolate at the castle tearoom.
This four-mile walk along the East Lyn River to Watersmeet House and back to Lynmouth is a delightful one, year round, but it’s particularly beautiful in spring when the river is full, tumbling through woodland to coast. Bluebells abound and, if lucky, you may catch a glimpse of deer.
From Lynmouth Car Park, follow the Coleridge Way through woodland to Watersmeet House, keeping the river on your right. Watch out for dippers searching for food in the rapids. Where the path forks, keep right and follow the Watersmeet House signs. The path leads to a river bridge. Cross over and turn left, the river on your left side now.
Soon you will arrive at Watersmeet House, where the East Lyn River and Hoar Oak Water meet. Enjoy a break on the lawned gardens of the National Trust property, the romantic cottage surrounded by woodland. Cross the bridge and follow the path that climbs to the Two Moors Way and Tarka Trail back to Lynmouth, the undulating path between woodland and meadow following the top of the gorge, high above the river.
This is a challenging four-mile walk with steep ups-and-downs, but it’s a lovely springtime tour that loops around the creek of Pont Pill, starting and finishing with a ferry ride across Fowey River.
Along the way, the roadsides are scattered with primroses - while the wild, pale-pink ‘rhubarb and custard’ variant can be spotted in the surrounding countryside. Yet more wildflowers splash hedgerow and woodland throughout the spring, and birdsong fills the air. There are delightful pubs close to both ferry quays, too.
Take the Fowey to Bodinnick ferry and walk up Hall Terrace, lined with quaint Cornish cottages. Pass the Old Ferry Inn to reach the signpost for ‘Hall Walk’. Follow the path south above the River Fowey, then east above the tidal river of Pont Pill.
Cross the footbridge and follow the country lane until you reach a footpath on the right that leads through woodland to Polruan, the creek on your right now. Look out for herons on the shoreline. Continue to the harbour, past Russell Inn and take the ferry back to Fowey. Follow the Esplanade back to your starting point.
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