By Rose Shepherd
Fluttering, dancing, golden daffodils. Woodland glades a mist of bluebells. Riots of blush-pink cherry blossom… Spring flowers gladden the heart and make time away extra special, so here is our pick of a few of the best hotels for flower fanciers as we look forward to Easter.
Proudly old-fashioned and welcoming to walkers, this hotel, in long-time family ownership, sits above the shores of Ullswater, where William Wordsworth and his poet and diarist sister, Dorothy, were enraptured by a vision of daffodils, immortalised in verse. You can wander lonely as a cloud, along the lake shore, or hop in the car and drive to Dora’s Field, by St Mary’s Church, Rydal, where William and his wife, Mary, planted hundreds of daffodils to commemorate their beloved daughter Dora, a site maintained today by the National Trust.
‘This is a very pretty place,’ observed Lady Mary Wortley Montagu of this handsome William and Mary mansion, her home from 1713 to 1715, now a hotel run by the National Trust. You’ll find white wisteria and agapanthus in the walled White Garden, a Spring Garden, lake and arboretum. Then it’s a half-hour drive to palatial Castle Howard, where the daffodils enrich the drama, or 50 minutes to the spa town of Harrogate, where crocuses in their millions paint The Stray in shades of purple, white and saffron, and, in cherry blossom time, trees froth pink like candyfloss.
Each bedroom is named after one of Norfolk’s great houses, at Galton and Tracy Blackiston’s flint former farmhouse, a hotel with fine-dining restaurant, in well-tended gardens. Take a short run out to one of these, the National Trust’s Felbrigg Hall (weekends, only), where cattle graze on a front lawn gilded with daffodils, then on to another, Jacobean Blickling Hall, where more than 100,000 of the blooms perform a veritable floral trumpet voluntary.
On its own 800-acre estate, Palladian Hadspen House sits amid gardens created over two centuries by successive generations, including garden writer and designer Penelope Hobhouse. Here you will find ornamental plantings, diverse woodland and a walled garden, while, in the classical landscape of the National Trust’s Stourhead, 15 minutes away, the lakeside and forest should be ablaze with daffodils.
Gardens atwitter with birds surround this 15th-century manor house hung with curtains of wisteria, in the heart of Constable country. Daffodils emblazon the turf around the pond. Magnolia and forsythia bloom. The quintessential English landscape of Dedham Vale AONB and the Stour Valley has a network of nature reserves, wildlife sites and ancient woodlands, such as magical Arger Fen, a haze of bluebells beyond number from April into May. The hotel offers art classes, and you’ll be inspired to paint.
Mature, leafy grounds surround this Cotswold stone country house hotel, while just down the road, Westonbirt Arboretum will be putting on a show with its displays of camellias and magnolias, including the champion goddess magnolia ‘Diva’, planted in 1960 and now standing 24 metres tall. The ornamental rhododendron collection dates from the 1860s. Other showstoppers, in due season, include the Handkerchief or Dove Tree with its papery white bracts, anemones, flowering cherries, and bluebells in Silk Wood.
The gardens are a bog part of the considerable attraction at this Georgian manor house, run as a B&B by Sarah Burgoyne. Tulips and daffodils, rhododendrons and azaleas provide splashes of colour. Wisteria drapes walls and pergola. Guests can explore a neighbouring private estate, spangled with rare orchids, those wildflower superstars, or visit Sheffield Park, with its lakes, bluebell woodland, camellias, myriad daffodils, and, from late April, rhododendrons in full cry.
You can’t get much closer to nature than a lovingly restored 1950s Pilot Panther showman’s wagon, for a sleepover at this remote farmhouse restaurant-with-rooms at the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossacks national park. Wildlife abounds on the very doorstep, but to see bluebells – aka cuckoo’s boots, or witches’ thimbles – in breath-taking profusion, enjoy a scenic half-hour drive to Woodland Trust Scotland’s Glen Finglas, home to red squirrel and kite, pine marten and wood warbler.
Surrounded by a garden for all seasons, with a wildlife pond, this fine, fun, free-and-easy B&B is a haven of peace. Walkers venture on the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path, past verges and meadows a brilliant tapestry of wildflowers – primroses, daffodils, cowslips, sea pinks, bluebells, harebells, campions, mauve-blue spring squill and coconut-scented gorse. For drivers it’s a 40-minute trip to Colby Woodland Garden, in a hidden valley, to see daffodils, emblematic of Wales, crocuses, bluebells, camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons in their pomp.