If you’ve been paying attention, you will have noticed little green stalks sprouting out of the ground on roadsides and in forests everywhere. You will have clocked that the evenings are getting lighter and the birds are singing earlier with each new day. Spring is coming, and for the first time in two years, we’re free to celebrate it wherever we choose.
This year we can roam as far and free as we like to see this bright, breezy, endlessly optimistic season come to life – and where better to do that than Britain’s brilliant country house hotels? There are vast estates with bluebell woodlands and daffodil gardens to stroll, and proper country walks that begin and end at plush hotels where hot tubs and massage treatments await to soothe aching feet.
Food is another highlight in spring, so bring your appetite ready for fresh, seasonal produce and a spot of foraging if you prefer to source ingredients yourself. Here are 20 hotels where you can make the most of this time of year, whatever springtime pleasure you seek.
For spring sunshine
Spring signals the start of warmer weather and nowhere is quite as balmy as Cornwall, which sees toastier temperatures than the rest of the country for most of the year. And what better place to spend these sunnier days than at a hotel on the shimmering south Cornwall coast, where beaches beckon.
The Nare, Cornwall
On a sunny afternoon there is no lovelier spot than the south-facing terrace of the Nare Hotel, overlooking the soft sweep of sand that is Carne Beach, during cream tea hour. For mesmerising views over the Atlantic, book one of the ocean-facing rooms or, even better, the glorious Whittington Suites, which have private balconies with sun loungers for those warm spring days.
Fowey Hall Hotel, Cornwall
For families seeking sunshine on the Cornish coast, Fowey Hall Hotel has it all. There are manicured lawns for lazing in the sun and outdoor play areas for the little ones. Kids will love the pool and adults will love the Ofsted-registered crèche, which leaves you free to make the most of the sea-view hot tub.
Is there a happier sight than a carpet of daffodils sprouting in spring? The bright yellow flowers that bloom annually from their buried bulbs can lift almost any mood, whether plucked and popped in a vase at home or, even better, grown in the grounds of a spectacular country house hotel – like these.
Palé Hall Hotel, Snowdonia
This grand Victorian mansion set on the eastern edge of Snowdonia National Park is a fabulous independent hotel where you can dine on three-AA-Rosette cuisine in its ornate dining room, sip cocktails by the grand piano in the reception hall, and – in spring – stroll amid clusters of bright yellow daffodils within its 50 acres of grounds.
Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Cumbria
Wordsworth made famous the daffodils that dance on the shores of Ullswater, but hidden away in Brigsteer Park, six miles from the shores of Windermere, a crowd of nodding yellow flowers cloaks the floor, making for a gorgeous stroll. Nearby, the Gilpin offers sublime accommodation in its classic country house hotel or its glassy modern lodges.
Come mid-April, many of the UK’s forests and woodland areas take on a magical quality as bluebells reach through the soil and open their delicate, droopy little flowers. Here’s where to see them.
Cliveden House, Berkshire
If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise, and it’s got nothing to do with the infamous Profumo scandal that took place at regal Cliveden House. Part private hotel, part National Trust property, Cliveden has a vast ancient woodland area that glows in purple throughout April; leaflets for a bluebell walk can be picked up at reception. Back in the Grade I-listed house, traditionally styled bedrooms and a modern spa will delight you.
Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire
You don’t have to go far from your bedroom to spot bluebells at Glenapp Castle, a magnificent 19th-century private home with turrets and towers and terrific views of the Ayrshire countryside. The tiny purple flowers are littered across the lush green floor of the estate’s woodland, alongside daffodils, tulips and blooming magnolia trees.
For blooming gardens
Crocuses signal the start of spring, their chalice-like heads poking up through the ground in yellows, purples, whites and pinks. But by mid May there is a riot of colour in Britain’s gardens, with tulips, hyacinths, pansies, violas and rhododendrons joining the fray, opening up in their full, technicolour glory. The likes of Kew and RHS Wisley are go-to flower-seeking spots, but there are hotels around Britain with equally enviable gardens.
The Newt in Somerset
This vast, working estate takes country living to the extreme in some of its rooms, where you might find your king-sized bed set within the confines of an old mare’s stable – wooden barriers and all – or could hunker down inside an 18th-century hayloft. It’s all still very luxe, though, and if you can tear yourself away from the soft robes and claw-foot bathtubs you’ll find a 200-year-old garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse that absolutely glows in spring.
Barnsley House, Cotswolds
If you are a gardener at heart, you won’t want to stay anywhere other than the former home of Rosemary Verey, esteemed garden designer and writer. Barnsley House, where she lived and planted avidly during the mid-1900s, is now a country house hotel, aged and handsome on the outside but smart and sleek inside. The gardens, of course, are the highlight, with daffodils, tulips and a huge display of pussywillow in springtime, and there are tours with afternoon tea to help round off the day.
For seasonal produce
Along with spring comes a glut of gorgeous produce to pick and plate up. They include purple-sprouting broccoli, asparagus, artichokes and all manner of edible flowers that sit delicately on top of fresh, zingy salads or alongside fish just plucked from the water. Mushrooms, too, make an appearance in April and, of course, spring greens are a pleasure to savour when they are cooked just right – and just right they will certainly be at one of these food-centric hotels.
Gravetye Manor, Sussex
More Michelin goodness can be found at Gravetye Manor, a 16th-century mansion where executive chef George Blogg creates exquisite dishes from the hotel’s own gardens. Victorian greenhouses and 1.5 acres of vegetable gardens yield fine, fresh fruit, herbs and veg, while local producers provide succulent beef or fresh fish from British waters. This year, don’t miss the green asparagus, morel mushroom and pheasant egg with wild garlic – a true spring champion with almost zero food miles.
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire
The clue is in the name at Raymond Blanc’s exquisite manor in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, where Michelin-starred cuisine is the highlight. With its seasonal tasting menus, you can expect to enjoy the likes of classic French onion soup, spring vegetable risottos and garden beetroots sourced from the hotel’s very own planters – all delivered with the flair and flavour that comes with having a world-renowned chef at the helm. Afterwards, you can relish everything else that Le Manoir has to offer: retire to your room to soak in twin bathtubs, or walk it off among the flowers in the resplendent gardens.
For puffin spotting
Thousands of birds pass through Britain’s skies during their great migrations in spring, but none are quite so cute or enchanting as the tiny, orange-beaked puffin. These little birds come to our coastline to nest and hatch their young from April until late July, and watching them brings genuine delight as they waddle about on grass cliff tops or launch, wings furiously flapping, out on to the ocean to hunt fish.
The Grove of Narberth, Pembrokeshire
Deep in the Pembrokeshire countryside surrounded by the Preseli Hills, you might find it difficult to leave the Grove’s beautiful gardens, where afternoon tea is served in the sun and two restaurants promise the best of Welsh produce. But leave you must to find puffins on the coast: departing from St Justinians Lifeboat Station near St Bride’s Bay, Voyages of Discovery (01437 721911; ramseyisland.co.uk) will speed you out to Skomer Island by RIB to see them nesting in their thousands.
Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa, Northumberland
The remote and rugged Farne Islands are equally exciting for seabird activity, and here you’ll spot not just puffins, but also raucous guillemots, cormorants and Arctic terns on the rocks, as well as grey seals. Head out by boat from Seahouses with Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours (01665 721667; farneislandstours.co.uk), then plant yourself on terra firma at Doxford Hall, a 200-year-old estate with a Georgian country house built by renowned architect John Dobson at its heart. It’s all regal antiques and four-poster beds inside, with a vegan spa using Ytsara products and a two-AA-Rosette restaurant.
For fair-weather walking
Unless you are an incredibly keen rambler with all the gear to survive winter’s inclement weather on the trails, you will likely be pleased to get back out on the footpaths this spring. While you will still need to pack a waterproof – April showers and all that – warmer days and the prospect of sunshine make Britain’s myriad byways a real pleasure to hike across.
Chewton Glen Hotel, Hampshire
The New Forest is one of the country’s finest national parks for walkers, with trails crossing heathland, pasture and ancient woodland for hundreds of miles. Get your OS map out and hide your snacks from the free-roaming ponies, then relax at Chewton Glen where you have another 130 acres to explore. Book one of their spectacular treehouses, which offer outdoor hot tubs with forest canopy views, to keep your commune with nature going. You can soothe aching legs in the hotel’s huge hydrotherapy pool or book a massage for ultimate relaxation.
The Gleneagles Hotel, Perth & Kinross
Scotland has epic walking country and the Perthshire landscape around Gleneagles is spectacular, with its ancient oaks and meandering rivers. Get some wellies on at the hotel’s boot room and head out for rambles around the grounds, or beyond to the likes of Hermitage Wood where you’ll find waterfalls. Feeling more energetic? Tackle Ben Ledi, a 2,884ft high munro on the edge of the Trossachs. Weary walkers will be restored at one of the hotel’s many handsome bars and restaurants.
For wild garlic foraging
The warmer days coax one of Britain’s most fragrant plants from the ground, and you’ll certainly smell it before you see wild garlic growing within the forest. This pungent plant, with its pretty white flowers and long, broad leaves, is a favourite for foragers in the UK and finds its way into salads, on steaks, grilled fish or into piquant pestos.
Ellenborough Park, Gloucestershire
Get your gear on at the regal Ellenborough Park, where you can borrow Dubarry boots and jackets for your foraging expedition, then head out to the National Trust’s Lodge Park and Sherborne Estate to fill your pockets with wild garlic. Back at the hotel, swim in an outdoor heated pool or indulge in a massage at the serene spa before refuelling on fine dining in the main restaurant.
Gisborough Hall Hotel, North Yorkshire
At the northern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, the woodland around Roseberry Topping is famous for its haul of wild garlic. Climb the hill for spectacular views, then head into the forest to pick your own (but leave some for the wildlife) before checking into Gisborough Hall. This family-owned country house is still occupied by Lord Gisborough, but there are 70-odd rooms for guests to enjoy, some with four-poster beds.
For cherry blossom
Sakura season isn’t just for Japan. While you don’t have to go all-out with picnics and parties beneath the trees, as is Tokyo, you will have to be quick off the mark to witness this springtime spectacular, as the pink and white blossom that unfurls itself on the buds of cherry trees lasts only a week – so base yourself nearby.
Calcot Hotel & Spa, Gloucestershire
For prime cherry blossom spotting opportunities it hardly gets better than at Westonbirt Arboretum, where a collection of cherry plums burst into colour come spring, alongside 2,500 other species of trees. Once you have explored its miles of trails and tree-top walkways, check into Calcot Hotel & Spa nearby, a 16th-century manor house where understated elegance is the modus operandi and a long soak in the outdoor fireside hot tub is the perfect way to end the day.
The Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa, Bolton Abbey
A cherry tree-lined avenue on the Stray, a 200-acre park right in the middle of the handsome Yorkshire town of Harrogate, is a springtime highlight on the edge of the Dales. Come here to see the spectacular cherry blossom and eat cake in a local tearoom before bedding down at the Devonshire Arms in nearby Bolton Abbey. This 17th-century property is all bold prints and cosy country style, with a spa that offers private relaxation in bell tents and a brasserie that champions delicious local produce.
For badger watching
Of all the spring wildlife that comes out to play in warmer weather, few animals are so elusive as the badger, but find yourself in the right place at the right time and you might just get lucky. These shy, black-and-white creatures tend to be most active in March, and by April you might even get to see their tiny, fluffy cubs above ground. The nocturnal animals are best seen at night around their setts (underground nests), so hole up in a comfortable hide nearby and wait for the action to begin.
Hambleton Hall, Rutland
Wildlife abounds around Rutland Water, so you don’t have to go far from the gorgeously gabled Hambleton Hall to see something. Badgers, though, are best seen at the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre nearby, where you can hole up in the hide at dusk to wait for the creatures to appear from their sett. By day, you will also spot ospreys, herons, egrets and more out by the water – so bring your binoculars and sit out on the hotel’s terrace with a glass of wine for the best experience.
Isle of Eriska Hotel, Scotland
For the best chance of seeing badgers you have to go to Scotland’s Isle of Eriska, a tidal isle connected to the mainland by a short bridge. The island’s only hotel is a perfect bolthole for badger watchers, and within its grounds there are setts to watch. There are also otters and, if you’re lucky, golden eagles. Dinner comes with a Michelin star for £80 a head.