Spring is a magical time of year to be out exploring Britain’s countryside. Unfurling flowers and wild garlic lace the forest floors, coastlines teem with returning seabirds and mammals and amphibians emerge from their winter slumber.
March, April and May are busy months for insects too, as butterflies, bees and ladybirds begin to appear in search of food, making Britain’s meadows and grasslands the perfect setting for a springtime walk.
Make the most of this bountiful time of year by discovering our pick of the best spring nature walks, hikes and trails near you, including spring days out in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Best spring walks in England
Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire
Distance: 8 miles | Duration: 4.5 hours
To wander through a blanket of bluebells in spring must rank as one of the highlights of nature’s calendar. Vast swathes of these intensely blue flowers carpet the landscape in late April and early May, bringing a true sense of enchantment to our native woodlands, fields and hedgerows. One such display can be found on the slopes of Rosebery Topping in Yorkshire.
Towering above Newton Wood is Roseberry Topping. Yorkshire’s Matterhorn, as it is also known, sits in the far north-west of the North York Moors National Park.
Rame Head, Cornwall
Distance: 6.8 miles (one way) | Duration: 4 hours
This stunning section of the South West Coast Path leaves Plymouth behind for the wilds of Rame Peninsula AONB. Stroll through woodlands budding with wildflowers and along sandy bays to historic Kingsand and Cawsand, before reaching spectacular Rame Head.
Park at the Strand Street Car Park, just a stone’s throw from Plymouth’s Barbican and city centre, and take the Cremyll Ferry to Rame Peninsula – Cornwall’s forgotten corner. The boat service, which dates back to at least the 11th century, costs £2 per foot passenger. Look out for lively cormorants diving as you cross.
Brigsteer Woods, Cumbria
Distance: 4 miles | Duration: 2 hours
Wordsworth’s famed daffodils nod their heads to countless Lake District visitors beside Ullswater. Far more secret are the woods above the tiny village of Brigsteer, nestled amid limestone hills above the Lyth Valley and Morecambe Bay. Here, wild Lenten lilies (an old English name for a native wild daffodil) stud the wooded slopes of Brigsteer Park, succeeded by wild garlic and bluebells in a profusion of spring colours.
This easy stroll passes Sizergh Castle before following woodland paths to tranquil Helsington Church, and one of the finest viewpoints in this corner of old Westmorland, an area earmarked for inclusion in an extended Lake District National Park.
Marshfield, South Gloucestershire
Distance: 7 miles | Duration: 4 hours
One of the most welcoming signs of spring, make the most of the bluebell season this with our bluebells guide – learn when bluebells flower, how to tell the difference between English and Spanish bluebells and the best places to see.
St Catherine’s Hill, Hampshire
Distance: 4 miles | Duration: 2.5 hours
Come April, the western boundary of the reserve transforms into a carpet of yellow cowslips. Later in the season, fragrant, pyramidal and bee orchids emerge – species that, along with rock rose, horseshoe vetch and salad burnet, enjoy the lack of competition from more vigorous plants. Shetland sheep roam the hill, keeping down taller, shade-casting grasses. Hardly surprising that St Caths is also a haven for butterflies: the Adonis and small blues and the brown argus are the spring-emerging species to spot.
Walk to the top of the tree-topped beacon of St Catherine’s Hill in historic Winchester with this easy four-mile stroll.
Loughrigg Fell, Cumbria
Distance: 2.5 miles | Duration: 1.5 hours
Amid the tall, craggy splendours of the Lake District, it’s from the lower hills that you can sometimes, with surprise, discover the finest views.
At 335m in height, Loughrigg Fell doesn’t qualify as a mountain, yet it provides, in miniature, much of what the high peaks offer.
The most convenient starting point for an ascent of this modest hill is from a small roadside car-parking space at the top of Red Bank. Alternative parking can be found beyond YHA Langdale, overlooking Langdale itself.
River Stour, Suffolk
Distance: 3 miles | Duration: 1.5 hours
The Stour in Suffolk could be the most celebrated river in the country after the Thames. Why? Because it features in one of Britain’s favourite artworks, The Hay Wain, painted by John Constable in 1821.
Remarkably, the same scene can be viewed today. Preserved (but not fossilised) by the National Trust, this is the apex of a much-loved river walk, perfect in spring.
The short walk takes you along the marshy banks of the River Stour, running from the Suffolk town of Dedham to Flatford Mill – once home to painter John Constable – and back again.
Valley of Rocks, Devon
Distance: 3.5 miles | Duration: 1.5 hours
Here, ancient fossil-rich fingers of Devonian stone form shadow puppets against the sky, framing one of south-west England’s most dramatic views, as Exmoor stampedes off the edge of towering cliffs and down to the churning sea.
Exult in these cliffs where feral goats clamber skilfully between Devonian crags on our short circular walk around the Valley of Rocks in Devon.
Settle, North Yorkshire
Distance: 8.5 miles | Duration: 6 hours
Settle Up’ and ‘Settle Down’ proclaim the platform benches as you step off the train at Settle’s lovingly restored station, gateway to the pretty little market town and a landscape rich in gleaming limestone scars, caves and potholes.
Look out for twisted hawthorns blooming among the limestone pavements, and riverside meadows dotted with cuckoo flowers, primroses, dog violets and lesser celandine.
Monsal Dale, Derbyshire
Distance: 4.5 miles | Duration: 2 hours
On a sunny spring day with a hint of breeze, the new season’s wildflowers assault the senses. Stand on Headstone Viaduct and breathe deeply; ramson’s garlicky smell drifts by, while hints of yellow, white, blue and purple ripple tantalisingly on the flanks and floor of Monsal Dale.
There’s a treat in store on this four-and-a-half mile ramble across, above and into the Wye’s twisting, wooded gorge deep in the White Peak.
Tegg’s Nose Country Park, Cheshire
Distance: 7.5 miles | Duration: 4 hours
Just 20 miles from Manchester city centre, the precipitous Tegg’s Nose Country Park represents an abrupt end to the Cheshire Plain, with flat fields replaced by a whole new, wild landscape of steep, craggy hills, open moors and dense, impenetrable forest.
As befits such a wild area, this route is steep in places, crossing a rich mix of habitats offering the chance to spot an equally diverse range of wildlife. Over the meadows, look for buzzards circling overhead, scanning the fields for carrion, and listen for the unmistakable cronking of garrulous ravens, as well as the piping trill of skylarks as they soar upwards.
Between May and August, the meadows are covered with a carpet of yellow mountain pansies, interspersed with common spotted orchids and yellowy green clusters of flowers atop lady’s mantle.
In the woods, you can spot crossbills flitting among the pine trees, along with pied flycatchers and redstarts, and you may even see one of the small herds of red deer that still roam among the trees.
Deacon Hill, Pegsdon and Barton Hills, Bedfordshire
Distance: 7.1 miles | Duration: 4 hours
Pegsdon Hills and Hoo Bit Nature Reserve sit above the village of Hexton in the Chiltern Hills AONB. The wildflower meadows that grow on these chalk hillsides are popular with brown argus, green hairstreak, dingy and grizzled butterflies. Wait until after dusk and you may even see glow worms. To the west are the steep, well-grazed slopes of Barton Hills National Nature Reserve.
In spring and summer, visitors can explore the downland and beech woodland, where dark green fritillary, marbled white and chalkhill blue butterflies dance among grazing Dartmoor ponies. The reserve is also Bedfordshire’s main site for the rare pasqueflower, which blooms between April and early June.
Best spring walks in Scotland
Rockcliffe to Kippford, Dumfries and Galloway
Distance: 4 miles | Duration: 2 hours
There are numerous viewpoints from which to survey this colourful landscape: The Muckle’s gorse-topped summit, 100m above sea level, is ideal for little legs; the small peak of Mote of Mark is the perfect prelude to a picnic in the flower meadow below; and then there’s Rough Island (accessed only at low tide and closed in May and June to protect ground-nesting ringed plovers and oystercatchers)
Coille Mhor, Balmacara, Highland
Distance: 5 miles | 3 hours
Coille Mhòr – the great wood – is a haven for beautiful flowers. Bluebells grow beneath the tree canopies, alongside the distinctive bluish-purple petals of common dog violet. Robert Herrick paid homage to the latter in his poem To Violets: “Welcome, maids of honour, You doe bring in the spring; And wait upon her.”
The zing of spring is powerful here. Pure air provides ideal conditions for an impressive range of lichens that grow en masse upon the old oaks of Coille Mhòr’s lower slopes. Higher up, birch, rowan, alder and ash thrive, and the forest is also home to mammals including badgers, pine martens and visiting otters.
A beautiful five-mile woodland walk on the north-west coast of Scotland comes alive with wildflowers, lichen, and trees in spring.
Handa Island, Sutherland
Distance: 4 miles | Duration: 3 hours
It’s spring, and the teetering cliff tops of Handa Island in Scotland’s remote north-west are a sanctuary for seabirds. Guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars and Arctic terns nest alongside the puffins and, by summer, the island reverberates with the sound of 100,000 breeding seabirds, one of north-west Europe’s largest colonies.
In the warmer months, a small passenger ferry (07780967800) runs daily from Tarbet on the mainland across the Sound of Handa to the ivory-white beaches of Port an Eilean and Traigh an Teampaill on the island’s eastern shores.
Not far from the landing site, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s visitor centre – a modest stone building, crammed with animal bones, old ID books and binoculars for hire – is the perfect starting point for a circular walk around the island.
Best spring walks in Wales
Cefn Bryn, Gower
Distance: 8 miles | Duration: 5 hours
From Gower’s coasts, Cefn Bryn is a gently swelling sandstone ridge that invites your eyes and eventually your legs along its length.
Scattered over it are prehistoric hut circles, burnt mounds and cairns, most notably the magnificent Maen Ceti (King Arthur’s Stone), a Neolithic cromlech that, built to shelter human bones, now harbours lichens and rain.
In spring, three-lobed water crowfoot flowers in summit ponds that eventually dry out in summer when the hill is a tapestry of Western gorse, heathers, cotton-grass, heath-rush and molinia.
Meanwhile, in deeper Broad Pool at the hill’s limestone foot, fringed waterlily, lesser marshwort and water-milfoil thrive. Herons, snipe, little grebes, water stick insects, water scorpions, 14 species of dragonflies and damselflies can also be found, as well as the occasional billowing bride (the pool is a popular wedding photo venue).
Cwm Idwal, Gwynedd
Distance: 2.5 miles | Duration: 1.5 hours
The jagged peaks that soar over Cwm Idwal dwarf the Arctic-alpine plants that grow on the slopes around its waters. To appreciate them fully, you have to crouch down or dangle over them to see their colourful petals hunkered on ledges or in crevices – it’s here that they thrive, feeding on minerals that leach through the rock.
These miniature Ice Age relics have outlived the mammoths, surviving in an environment that is neither far enough north to be considered Arctic nor high enough to be alpine. Accustomed elsewhere to cold snowy winters, here the climate is unpredictable and predominantly wet, with ill-defined seasons.
The months of March, April and May, like the rest, are often wind-whipped, veiled in cloud and doused in rain. It is the flowering of these special Arctic-alpines that distinguish spring from the rest of the year.
Clwydian Range, Denbighshire/Flintshire
Distance: 17.5 miles | Duration: 9 hours
The 11 Clwydians – a run of modest hills that you sink between and then promptly crest, with the breeze raking your hair and the sky scrubbing the heather – stretch south from Prestatyn for 20 miles between the Dee Estuary and Vale of Clwyd.
Navigating the hills and surrounding valleys, the Clwydian Way, a 122-mile circular route, takes in the towns of Prestatyn, Llangollen and Corwen, and explores Loggerheads Country Park, which has mixed ash woodland and limestone grassland, Llyn Brenig (a reservoir), and Coed Clocaenog, where red squirrels thrive.
The hills are a rippling riot of colour in both spring and summer, granting breathtaking views. Connecting the Irish Sea with mid-Wales, this 17.5-mile route follows the length of the ridgeline. It can be walked in one long day or two moderate days.
Llanthony and Hatterall Ridge, Monmouthshire
Distance: 4.6 miles | Duration: 3 hours
Running along the spine of England and Wales for 177 miles, this ancient path follows the eighth-century fortification built on the order of King Offa in an attempt to divide Mercia from rival kingdoms.
This energetic circular walk – ideal for a spring day out – meanders in and out of the Brecon Beacons National Park, negotiating the scenic Hatterall Ridge that separates England from Wales. Lying in the Vale of Ewyas, the evocative ruins of Llanthony Priory, a 12th-century Augustinian abbey, can also be enjoyed. However, to appreciate its full splendour, grit your teeth and prepare for a heart-pumping climb…
Cwm Nash and Traeth Mawr, Glamorgan
Distance: 4.5 miles | Duration: 3 hours
The cliffs at Traeth Mawr reach into the spring sky like the stepped, ivory walls of a Mayan temple. Peregrines nest upon the ledges of the tottering limestone bluffs, and choughs, the rarest members of the crow family, chee-ow and soar.
Greater knapweed, wild cabbage and knotted hedge-parsley gather in clumps on the grassy crests, while down in the valley, where the land meets the sea, common rockrose sings yellow alongside the occasional clustered bellflower or horseshoe vetch.
Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire
Distance: 3.5 miles | Duration: 1.5 hours
Caldey Island lies a few miles off the magnificent Pembrokeshire coast of west Wales. It is one of Britain’s Holy Islands and, today, the Cistercian order continues to observe traditions begun in the 6th century by Celtic monks.
The imposing 20th-century Arts and Craft-style white monastery, with its red-tiled roofs, perches above a village green and duck pond, surrounded by deciduous woods. Explore the trees, glades, fields and cliff tops of this peaceful island – past historic buildings and a small chocolate factory – on winding, flower-banked paths. A ferry runs daily (except Sundays and weather permitting) from Tenby harbour, Easter to October. Look out for seals as you cross the sea to Priory Bay.