With a nation desperate to get out of doors this summer and finding somewhere for a memorable short break this spring is now proving something of a challenge. So, while beach holiday cottages with availability may be hard to find, how about a great little weekend break in the UK countryside centred around walks through bluebell woods. After such a long period of pandemic confinement, there's likely to be nowt so good for the soul as a stroll through woodlands carpeted with the gentle hues of a million softly shimmering bluebells.
We've put together a 'Six of the Best' list of lovely bluebell woods for anyone planning a last-minute break in late April and early May, together with suggestions for nearby holiday cottages in which to stay.
Harford Wood near Landkey in North Devon
Grid Ref: SS612322
This is a good two-hour scenic circular walk-through green lanes, fields and ancient woods. To save the best bit until last, finish off by entering Harford Wood from the North along the MacMillan Way West trail. Visit at the right time in late April, and this becomes a delightful primrose as well as a bluebell walk.
· Parking: Landkey village public carpark. It's very close to the Castle Inn (nearest toilets) – so plan to finish your walk with a refreshing pint and a bowl of chips – or something else from their excellent menu.
· Toilets: Also at the pub and the nearby Willows Tearooms in Landkey. The village tearooms are very environmentally friendly and also welcome pets.
Recommended Place to Stay: The Old Stables at Mornacott Farm (click to view)The Old Stables at Mornacott is a delightful rural Devon barn conversion with the use of an indoor swimming pool and games room on the edge of Exmoor near South Molton . Sleeps 6.
Duncliffe Wood near Shaftesbury in Dorset
Grid Ref: ST82622
A very old and large hilltop wood in North Dorset that first drew attention to itself in the Domesday Book and is now a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (something that probably never occurred to the Domesday authors). Stroll through its many woodland rides and tarry a while in its glades on sunny days. It's crammed with wildflowers of all kinds, but in spring its swathes of bluebells are quite something else to behold. If you miss the bluebells, you may still be in time for its bountiful floral displays of wild garlic.
· Parking: Duncliffe Wood Car Park on New Lane (2m height barrier).
· Waymarked walks.
· Toilets: Bell Street Car park in Shaftesbury (approx. 4 miles).
Recommended Place to Stay: Magna Cottage.A large Dorset rural retreat near Shaftesbury sleeping 8 – perfect for weekends away with friends or two families.
Old Wood in Sherringham, Norfolk
Grid Ref: TG159412
Old Wood is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the North Norfolk coast. It contains a mix of conifer and broadleaf trees such as oak, sweet chestnut and beech – many hundreds of years old. It also includes a delightful sculpture trail to add variety to your walk beneath the boughs. The best access point is on Pretty Corner Lane.
Photo credit: https://www.visitnorthnorfolk.com/
· Parking: Pretty Corner Lane. It's free but small! There's another on Holway Road.
· Waymarked walks
· Toilets: You'll have to head to Sherringham for the nearest public conveniences in the Bell Street car park.
Recommended Place to Stay: Luxury Stable Cottage in CromerA Gold-Award winning, pet-friendly seaside cottage sleeping 2-6.
Hackfall Wood in Nidderdale, North Yorkshire
Grid Ref: SE236771
Hackfall Woods dominate the landscape between Masham and Grewelthorpe, a few miles northwest of Ripon in North Yorkshire. This is an award-winning wood that is thriving, thanks to the care and attention of The Woodland Trust. They have restored features such as grottos, glades, waterfalls and even a rustic temple or two to provide a perfect complement to its bluebell carpets in late spring. Note: a walk through the wood contains some steep slopes and steps.
Photo credit: The British Blanket Company
· Parking on-site and nearby
· Toilets: Choose from conveniences at The Bruce Arms in Masham, 2 miles away (if you're happy to stay for a drink or better still, some tasty pub grub) or Grewelthorpe's village hall facilities.
Recommended Place to stay: Blacksmith Cottage in Grassington.
A luxury Yorkshire Dales holiday cottage for couples in the heart of this picturesque village.
Credenhill Park Wood near Hereford in Herefordshire
Grid Ref: SO450446photo credit: The Modern Antiquarian
Credenhillk Park Wood has something of a historical past. Buried within its 224-acres lies evidence of an Iron Age tribal centre and, a good few years later, as a Roman army depot. In Mediaeval times it thrived as a deer park (of which some still exist). It offers a myriad of paths and a host of woodland flowers in addition to its sleepy drifts of bluebells and fine views of the Black Mountains.
· Parking: Free parking at the Woodland Trust car park at the main entrance
· Toilets: You'll need to be a customer to use the toilets at the Bell Inn just north of Credenhill Park.
Recommended Place to Stay: Little Owls BarnA luxuriously furnished rural retreat for two amidst idyllic Herefordshire countryside.
Gaer-Fawr Woods near Welshpool in Powys
Grid Ref: SJ 2229 1284
Gaer-Fawr Wood occupies 74-acres of countryside a few miles north of Welshpool, in Powys. It's mainly an oak wood, but in spring, bluebells definitely call the shots. Explore a myriad of paths that slope up to the remains of an Iron Age hill fort that has five lines of ramparts (if you're counting). If you need to rest tired legs – many of the benches within the woods have been made by local artists. See how many you can find! One was inspired by a bronze boar-headed helmet discovered in the woods during a dig. If you can't visit in spring, it's a good wood for autumn colours in October.
· Parking: On-site
· Toilets: There are two pubs in the nearby village of Guilsfield (but you'll need to stay for a drink which would be no real hardship after your walk).
Recommended Place To Stay Brook Cottage
A charming family-friendly 3-bedroom cottage sleeping 6 with stunning rural views near Welshpool in Powys.
Enjoy your bluebell walks – and accommodation, whether it be for a weekend break or a longer holiday. Please treat the woods with respect and remember the Scout maxim: Leave nothing behind but your thanks and take home only your memories (and maybe your photos).
Can we also put in a hat-tip to the wonderful Woodland Trust, whose tireless work has ensured the survival and, indeed, flourishing of so many bluebell woods in the UK. For further information about the Trust, click here: The Woodland Trust. They are worth supporting.