Bluebells guide: where to see, best walks around the UK and how to grow

Strongly associated with our ancient woodlands, Britain's stunning spring flower - the bluebell - has bloomed, so now is the time to plan a woodland bluebell walk. Our expert guide to how to identify the native flower, best bluebell walks and how to grow your own. 

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Bluebell facts

Bluebells flower in April and May and in the UK, there are two types of bluebell which grow wild. These include the native bluebell, which is also known as the English or British bluebell, (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), which can now be found across much of Britain. The Spanish variety grows and faster than our native bluebell and is one of the major threats to our native species with cross breeding between the two a potential risk. Both varieties however attract butterflies, bees and insects which use the plants for nectar.

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How to identify British bluebells

Native British bluebell 

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Close-up of a Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in King’s Wood, a large area of ancient coppice woodland near Ashford in Kent/Credit: Getty
  • Flower petals a deep purple
  • The spike of the flower droops to one side 
  • Pollen has no colour
  • Flower petals curved and in a tube
  • A pungent scent of perfume 

Spanish bluebell

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Spanish Bluebells growing in England/Credit: Getty Images

Spanish bluebells – things to look out for

  • Pale coloured petals in a light blue but can also white or pink
  • Flower petals are erect and spiked
  • Pollen has a blue or green colour
  • No scent

Britain’s best bluebell walks

Here is a selection of the most beautiful bluebell woods and walks in Britain

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Walk among the bluebells this spring/Credit: Getty

1. Urquhart Bay, Great Glen

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Explore the wet woodlands of Urquhart Bay, Great Glen/Credit: Woodland Trust

This ancient wet woodland is close to Loch Ness and offers a unique bluebell experience, as the flowers have sprung amongst the ruins of a 16th century fortress. Also, see stunning wildlife and pay a visit to Urquhart Bay, which is easily accessible. For more information: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

2. Grizedale Forest, Lake District

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A woodland walk in the heart of the Lake District/Credit: Visit Cumbria

This woodland walk is nestled in the heart of the Lake District between Lakes Windemere and Coniston. This idyllic forest is painted in the beautiful purple hue of bluebells at this time of year.  For more information: www.forestry.gov.uk

3. Coed Tregib, Carmarthenshire

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Wander among oak and ash trees in Coed Tregib, Camarthenshire/Credit:Woodland Trust

Oak and Ash trees spread across miles of this ancient woodland creating a thick, tangled canopy for bluebells come April. While this might seem like a scene out of middle-earth, Coed Tregib is near the welcoming little town of Llandeilo with its two train stations and good road access. For more information: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

4. Burroughs Wood, near Leicester

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For accessible bluebell walks visit Burroughs Wood, near Leicester/Credit: Woodland Trust

Burroughs Wood is a brilliantly accessible site in the heart of England. Less than an hour’s drive from Birmingham, it welcomes visitors with wide pathways perfectly suitable for buggies and wheelchairs that snake through a combination of ancient and modern woodland. For more information: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

5. Killerton Estate, Devon

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A haven for wildlife, take a walk in Killerton Estate to enjoy a carpet of bluebells/Credit: Carys Matthews

Conifers make up much of this 300-hectare woodland that has become a haven for butterflies, birds and bluebells alike. Situated in the grounds of the Killerton Estate, which has good access via the M5, this woodland is one of the largest in mid Devon and is perfect for a springtime saunter.

6. Arlington Farm, East Sussex  

These eight east Sussex trails are all around a mile long and link together across three farms. The Beatons Wood trail is suitable for wheelchair users, and all the paths are signposted so you know what springtime delights you are looking at. From here you can hop next door to Parkwood Farm where you can see pigs, sheep and goats and even watch the dairy herd being milked. Visit: bluebellwalk.co.uk

7. Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

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The Elizabethan tower, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, 1930, designed by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, Kent, England/Credit: Getty

Could there be anything better than a scenic bluebell flooded walk? Improve perfection on a guided 4mile walk through Sissinghurst Castle followed by cream teas. All you have to do is decide which to put on first, cream or jam? Visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/sissinghurst-castle-garden

8. Muncaster Castle and Gardens, Cumbria

Dubbed by Ruskin as ‘The gateway to paradise’, the woodland above the castle is washed in sunlight dappled blue beauties. With views over to the only coastal village in the Lake District, Muncaster’s 18th century gardens also boast an impressively large Rhododendron and exotic tree collection. Visit: muncaster.co.uk/gardens

9. Hartland Abbey and Gardens, North Devon

As the setting of the BBCs Sense and Sensibility in 2007, walking in the grounds it is easy to be transported to a lost era. The gardens themselves were almost forgotten over the First World War, and the Summerhouse pathway, which reopened in 2010, had been lying hidden since 1945. Visit: hartlandabbey.co.uk

10. Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

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Quilted with banks of bluebells, sorrel and stitchwort, Yorkshire’s Matterhorn in the North York Moors National Park is a spring masterpiece

Walk and route

How to grow bluebells 

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Grow your own bluebells/Credit: Getty

Wild native bluebells can commonly be found growing in woodlands and grasslands, however with a little effort you can grow your own.  Successful growing will depend on your soil as British bluebells thrive best in slightly acidic and moist soil, which drains well. The best time to plant is in Autumn, but green bulbs can also be planted in spring. Being a woodland flower, bluebells prefer shady so around a tree or in a shady patch of the garden is the best place to plant. 

Prep your soil

Prior to planting bulbs, prepare your soil by adding manure or compost to enrich the soil quality.

Spring planting

Use green bulbs in spring and plant them at a depth of around 10cm, spacing them 10cm apart. 

Autumn planting 

Use dry bulbs and plant twice the depth of the bulb. Ideally, at least 14cm in depth, leaving a similar space between bulbs. If you can plant deeper it is worth the effort. 

How long do bluebells take to flower?

Bluebells may take a couple of years to flower but they are a self-sowing plant so with a bit of luck, over time will naturally populate your garden. 
 

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Main image: Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sunrise In Bluebell Woods/Credit: Getty