The 8 best places to see bluebells this spring, from Perthshire to Cornwall

We’ve picked our favourite places to find these late spring flowers.

There are few springtime activities as magical as wandering deep into the forest to be greeted with a carpet of bluebells.  

Bluebells are one of the last spring flowers to uncurl their heads, and are a signal that summer is well on its way. They are a beloved sight across the UK, with many people planning their walks around the best places to see bluebells – the Saga Exceptional team included.

Kinclavel bluebell wood with path cutting through blue flower displayCredit: Shutterstock / Dale Kelly
Kinclaven Bluebell Wood in Perthshire has a one-hour circular walk through the flowers

The UK is home to up to half of all common bluebells in the world, according to the National Trust. A trail of delicate bluebells along a front garden path may even have been the deciding factor in the house I chose to buy. (Let’s say I took it as a sign.)  

But in the wild, their presence can also mean the woodland you’re walking through is likely to be an ancient one – a habitat now rare in Britain. 

Whether you’re a keen photographer or simply love sharing a peaceful moment with these iconic flowers, we’ve found the best places to see bluebells.  

When do bluebells flower? 

The warmer southern areas of the UK might start seeing bluebells flower in mid-April, whereas if you’re further north you might need to wait until May.

According to the Woodland Trust, “They are one of the last spring flowers to bloom before the woodland canopy closes up and new leaves block out the sunlight.” Typically, the best time to see them is from later in April to early May, but it all depends on your location and how warm the weather has been. 

1. Blickling Estate, Norfolk

If you prefer exploring on two wheels

One of the best places to see bluebells in the east of England is at the National Trust’s Blickling Estate.

Two people cycling through woodland with bluebells either side of the pathCredit: National Trust Images / Antonia Gray
The paths at Blickling are wide enough to cycle through the bluebells

Its Great Wood is sprinkled with winding paths, blanketed on either side by these delicate blue flowers, making it easy to be among the bluebells without harming them.

Incidentally, Blickling Estate also made it onto our list of great places to catch the cherry blossom each spring. If it’s not already on your springtime walking list, it should be.

Take extra care not to trample bluebells on your walks. Bluebells are extremely delicate and often do not recover from being flattened underfoot. There have been reports of bluebell populations dwindling in areas where they once thrived due to people not sticking to woodland paths. 

2. Kew Gardens, London

If you need to escape the city

Queen Victoria donated a parcel of her own land to Kew, with the caveat that it must remain wild. This less-tamed conservation area is on the border where Kew Gardens meets the Thames.

Cottage surrounded by trees and bluebellsCredit: RBG, Kew
Bluebells envelop Queen Charlotte’s Cottage each spring

Its 300-year-old woodland is home to one of London’s most spellbinding bluebell woods. Head to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, which looks like it has been plucked straight from a fairy tale in spring, surrounded by bluebells and wild garlic.

You will need an entrance ticket for Kew Gardens. Or to see London bluebells without splashing out, Beckenham Place Park, in Beckenham, and Oxleas Woods, Eltham, have pockets of ancient woodland with beautiful bluebells in late April and early May.

Where can I find bluebells? 

“The best places to see them are in native woodlands, but you can also spot them in meadows, hedgerows or parkland,” says Saga Exceptional’s fitness channel editor – and bluebell fan – Phillipa Cherryson. 

“I absolutely adore bluebells. They are my favourite flower and during the season, I plan each walk carefully, to ensure I walk through those beautiful blue carpets of flowers. On a sunny day, there is no place I would rather be than in a bluebell meadow, taking in their intoxicating perfume.” 

3. Kinclaven Bluebell Wood, Perthshire

If you’re keen to spot forest critters

What could make walking through a forest’s bluebells even more ethereal? Spotting a red squirrel, that’s what.

Red squirrel sitting among bluebells in a woodlandCredit: Shutterstock / Karin Greevy
Red squirrels and pine martins are among the forest dwellers at Kinclaven

If you head to Kinclaven Bluebell Wood in Perthshire, you might just get lucky. You may also glimpse a pine martin, which also call this forest home. The wood, which is managed by the Woodland Trust, has a one-hour circular walk called Oakwood Loop, which takes in its marvellous floral display. 

4. Godolphin, Cornwall

If you’re a fan of Poldark

Imagine yourself walking among iconic 18th century figures at Godolphin in Cornwall. Parts of the BBC series Poldark were filmed at the estate’s main house, where you can book in for a tour.

close up shot of bluebellsCredit: Shutterstock / Paul Nash
The bluebells often flower earlier in Godolphin due to the climate

But to get there from the car park you stroll through woodland, which is where you’ll spot the bluebells. They bloom fairly early at this National Trust property due to Cornwall’s mild climate.

There’s a small entrance fee to pay, but there’s a café on site, so you can stop for nibbles before wandering through the 16th century garden.  

Is it illegal to pick bluebells?

Yes, it’s illegal to pick any part of bluebells you find growing wild. Bluebells are protected in a number of ways in the UK to stop the illegal sale of bulbs, which can take five years to develop from tiny black seeds into mature flowering bulbs. If you’ve grown your own bluebells on your property, however, you can legally pick those, if you want to display them in a vase, for example. 

“Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) it is an offence to uproot any wild plant without the landowner’s permission,” writes Hannah Vickers on the Woodland Trust blog. “Bluebells are offered additional protection, making it illegal to pick or uproot wild bluebells to sell, even from your own land.”

There’s another good reason not to pick bluebells. They’re actually poisonous to humans (as well as cattle, horses and dogs). The bulbs can be mistaken for garlic or spring onions and will cause a nasty stomach upset if eaten – so they should be kept apart if you’re growing them at home, and the same goes for daffodils. Their consumption can even be fatal in larger quantities.  

The sap from bluebells is also believed to cause skin irritation, according to Vickers. She says all varieties of bluebells contain glycosides, which are toxic, and therefore are poisonous. 

5. Skirrid (Ysgyryd Fawr), Abergavenny

If you’re ready to follow a mountain trail

Exceptional’s fitness channel editor Phillipa Cherryson, says: “I’m lucky enough to have a choice of places to see bluebells on my doorstep in Monmouthshire, but my favourite bluebell walk is at the Skirrid (Ysgyryd Fawr), near Abergavenny. 

Man walking through bluebellsCredit: Phillipa Cherryson
Walk through bluebells to reach the ridge on the Skirrid trail

“The hill is owned by the National Trust and although it’s a popular walk, you can always find peace and solitude. You head uphill through woodland and then around the side of the hill through bluebell woods and onto the ridge. There you will be greeted with views of the Black Mountains to the west, Abergavenny to your south and England to your east. 

“I make sure I do this walk every spring to see the bluebells and I haven’t missed it once yet in 26 years.” 

Do you know the difference between English and Spanish bluebells?

They might look quite similar at first, but you can tell these plants apart if you know how. You might also spot a hybrid, which is a mix between the two. 

Our guide to identifying bluebells

Spanish: grows upright 
English: gently droops in one direction 

Spanish: Odourless  
English: Sweet

Spanish: Pale greenyblue  
Native: Creamy white  

Spanish: Pale blue (pink and white are also common), flowering all round the stem 
English: Deeper blue, flowering on one side of the stem

Spanish: Broader (width up to 3cm/1.2in) 
English: Narrow (up to 1.5cm/0.6in) 

6. Muncaster Castle gardens, Cumbria

If you want to marvel at birds of prey

If you’re visiting the Lake District, stop off at Muncaster Castle, which inspired the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Woodland pathway leading through bluebellsCredit: Muncaster Castle
Muncaster’s woodland sits high above the castle

Wander through dappled sunlight (or seek cover from an April shower) and drink up the blue haze of its enchanting spread of bluebells in ancient, coppiced woodlands high above the castle. Bluebells here are in flower from mid-April to mid-May.

Just bear in mind that the steep pathways to and through the bluebell woods can be a little tricky for people who are less mobile. There is an entrance fee to pay, but your ticket also grants access to the property’s Hawk & Owl Centre. There you can see birds of prey up close, and take in one of the regular flying displays. 

7. Tollymore Forest Park, County Down

If you watched Game of Thrones

Eagle-eyed Game of Thrones fans might recognise the landscape at Tollymore Forest Park, as it was the setting of some early Winterfell scenes.

Bluebells in woodlandCredit: Shutterstock / Sara Winter
Huge swathes of bluebells grow in Tollymore Forest Park

The woodland sits at the foot of the Mourne mountains and offers panoramic views out to sea from the Slieve Croob Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

There are huge areas of bluebells growing in the forest, though some visitors have noted the majority of plants tend to bloom on the upper slopes, rather than down by the river in the past. An abundance of follies populate the park, which charges an admission fee and is open until sunset each day.

8. Ashenbank Wood, Kent

If you seek an ancient woodland

This Site of Special Scientific Interest is located just north of Cobham village in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The ancient woodland has abundant wildlife so you won’t be far from dormice, rare bat species and, of course, the bluebells as you wander amid its venerable knotted trees. If you’re a fan of circular routes, the woodland is bordered by other green spaces that are linked by the 10km (6 mile) Darnley Trail.

Bee feeding from bluebellsCredit: Shutterstock / Violaman
Bluebells in your garden will provide an early source of food for bees and other insects

Benefits of growing bluebells at home 

You don’t need to find a forest to enjoy the bluebells each spring. You can grow this flower from bulbs at home, but make sure the ones you buy are licensed and native. This means they won’t have been harvested from the wild, which is illegal, or be from a non-native and more invasive species (like Spanish bluebells). 

Gardening charity Thrive has shared the benefits of growing your very own bluebells at home: 

  • They’re a good plant for shady spots in the garden  
  • They’re rarely troubled by pests or diseases   
  • Nectar-seeking insects like bees will love the early food source   
  • They’re quick to spread (note: bluebells grow so readily and spread so quickly they can become too widespread if left to self-seed)   
Buy 50 bulbs from Thompson & Morgan for £24.99
Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her

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Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

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