As the delicate tips of crocus petals herald the awakening of Spring, our attentions turn to country walks and escaping the cooped up feeling that winter generally brings. Britain has long been known as the 'Garden of Europe' - and with good reason. From the ancient piles of rural Sussex, to the sprawling woodlands of Norfolk, our quaint English gardens have been inspired by some of the most beautiful natural environs in the country. Scotland thrills with its secret gardens beset within the grounds of crumbling clan castles; Wales with it's windswept mountainside plantations and even Northern Ireland, with bracing heathland plantations nestled beside isolated caramel beaches. Immerse yourself in the rebirth of nature; enjoy the exquisite preservation of old country estates and discover spring like you've never seen it, with a visit to our pick of Britain's best spring gardens!
Colby Woodland, Pembrokeshire
Home to the UK's tallest Japanese Red Cedar (128 feet), Colby Woodland is a riot of colour during the early spring months, particularly the Spring Magnolias, which comprise just a small area of this vast eight acre former estate. Dramatic rhododendrons create a rich carpet of mauve and white, interspersed with japonica, camellias and 'underplanted' bluebells along the secluded valley paths. Blending 17th Century landscaping with gorgeous species of azaleas and hollyhock, the Walled Garden is a tranquil space within which you'll find the Bothy Tearoom, serving delicious cream cakes and teas throughout the summer months. Be sure to stop off at the Gazebo too for a tantalising glimpse of Colby's very own tromp l'oeil, created by American muralist Lincoln Tabor. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/colby-woodland-garden/ Pembrokeshire cottages.
Clan Donald, Armadale, Isle of Sky
Two hundred year old trees tower above the 40-acre estate of Clan Donald, creating a leafy arboretum within which many species of rhodendron now flourish. The magnificent gardens of Clan Donald surround the ancient fortress of Armadale; a splendid backdrop against which many exotic South American plants (such as the Chilean Fire Bush and Lantern Tree) now thrive. Distinctly wild in its makeup, Clan Donald benefits from a mild to temperate climate influenced by the Gulf Stream, lending to bright springtime days of almost constant sunshine. With around twenty trails, woodland paths and wandering routes, one could quite happily become lost in this efflorescent paradise. www.clandonald.com/ Cottages on the Isle of Sky.
Bodnant Gardens, Conwy
Perched high above the River Conwy, with acclaimed panoramic vistas across Snowdonia National Park, Bodnant Gardens really is a multi-sensory pleasure. Best known for its magnificent 55 metre Laburnam arch, the eighty acre estate cultivates an astounding array of rhododendron species, along with azaleas and the magical 'Dell', where 200-year old frees yield a secret woodland carpeted by free roaming wildflowers and camellia. Developed over a century ago by Lord Aberconway's immediate relatives, Bodnant Gardens impresses with beautiful Romanesque terraces, Renaissance sculptures and exotic cuttings of many Mediterranean plants - the perfect place to relax and enjoy all that spring has to offer. www.bodnantgarden.co.uk/ Conwy holiday cottages.
Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire
With its dramatic annual themes, extravagant greenhouses and lively 18th Century aviary bursting with exotic species, the 165-acre gardens at Waddesdon Manor really do have it all. Commissioned by the wealthy Baron Rothschild, sometime around the late 18th Century, Waddesdon Manor was designed to impress at every level. Grand terraces lined by wallflowers and polyanthus lead to perma-planted kitchen gardens, secluded woodland walks and huge lawns dominated by vast ornamental lakes. Decorated with cavernous grottos and winding streams, the Water Gardens are a joy to visit in springtime, since the entire woodland floor is blanketed by tulips and daffodils. Treat yourself; spend the day here! www.waddesdon.org.uk/ Buckinghamshire holiday homes.
Which are your favourite Spring Gardens?