Best of British - Spring Gardens

20th March 2014

With the equinox marking the official first day of spring on March 20th, now is the perfect time to step outside into the early season sunshine and watch the world waking up after a long and dreary winter. From the bright bursts of blossom at Sizergh Castle in Cumbria to magnificent magnolias at Stourhead in Wiltshire, Britain boasts a colourful collection of spring gardens that promise to leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.

Whether we're blessed with some early season sunshine or those famous April showers, pull on your waterproof jacket and take your pick from our top 10 British gardens that every enthusiast should experience at least once:

1. Hidcote, Gloucestershire

Created by American horticulturalist and sitting pretty in the north Cotswolds, Hidcote is an absolute must-see. Thousands of flowers push through the ground - from swathes of snowdrops to drifts of daffodils - in celebration of British springtime. Discover its themed outdoor 'rooms', secret gardens, narrow little pathways and breathtaking vistas - you're bound to leave feeling inspired.

2. Stourhead, Wiltshire

Once described as 'a living work of art', the world-famous Stourhead gardens have been landscaped around a picture-perfect Palladian mansion, all set in a 2650 acre estate near Salisbury. Visit to explore its mystical temples, magnificent lake and exotic tree and plant life.

3. Sissinghurst, Kent

The grounds of a castle that, in its time, has served as a prison, home to the women's land army and family home; Sissinghurst captured the hearts of poet and writer, Vita Sackville-West and her husband, diplomat and author Harold Nicolson. You'll find it bursting with history, poetry and beauty. Enjoy some early season sunshine with an afternoon taking in the gardens, orchard and wider 450 acre estate.

4. Bodnant, Conwy

Set in the depths of the Conwy valley, blessed with fresh mountain air and stunning views across Snowdonia National Park, Bodnant is perhaps one of the most spectacularly located public gardens in Britain. With vast lawns, romantic terraces, steep woodlands and quiet, concealed corners; a slow walk through its 80 acres is the perfect way to blow away those winter cobwebs.

5. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire

The gardens at this former priory, located in the Cambridgeshire village of Lode, were designed to delight its visitors all year round. As early as January, you'll find the garden floor covered in a carpet of snowdrops, whilst, in February and March over 4000 sweet smelling hyacinths burst into bloom in the Formal Garden and the stunning tree-lined avenues become dotted with daffodils, making it the perfect spot for a springtime stroll.

6. Studley Royal Water Garden & Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

A World Heritage Site set in 800 acres of stunning Yorkshire countryside, Studley Royal Water Garden was the result of John Aislablie's grand plans to wow visitors to his Yorkshire estate in the 18th century. Enjoy the beautifully landscaped Georgian water gardens along with the 12th century abbey ruins, Cistercian corn mills, Elizabethan 'Fountains Hall' and extensive deer park.

7. Rowallane, Co. Down

A pretty garden known for its spectacular colours all year round, with spring bringing with it a spectacular display of vibrant azaleas and rhododendrons. Created by the Reverend John Moore in the 1860s, the gardens celebrate the natural beauty of the surrounding area as well as a wealth of exotic speeches from all four corners of the globe. The gardens are also home to 2 colonies of hardworking honeybees that have a 7 acre haven of wildflower meadows to enjoy.

8. Threave Estate, Dumfries & Galloway

Covering over 1600 acres, the Threave estate has become one of the National Trust for Scotland's most visited attractions. Threave House overlooks the main gardens, a stunning sculpture garden and the vast woods and wetlands of the nature reserve, providing the whole family with an exciting day out. Keep your eye out for glasshouses, the walled garden and secret gardens full of magic and mystery.

9. Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

For vibrancy and variety, the gardens of Sizergh castle - standing proud at the edge of the Lake District - reign supreme. Over 300 years old with 7 hectares of ground, it includes a beautiful pond, lake, limestone rock garden, enchanting wildflower gardens and a national collection of ferns. Still lived in and enjoyed by the Strickland family, the imposing medieval castle gives the garden a romantic feel perfectly suited to the Cumbrian countryside.

10. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

In a lush valley on the Cornish coast sit the once-lost gardens of Heligan. Over 400 years old and once home to the Tremayne family, with the outbreak of WWI the flawless gardens succumbed to the mercies of Mother Nature as its staff were sent to fight on the front line. Following the war, the magnificent Manor house was eventually converted into flats and the gardens remained quietly hidden behind their thick cloak of ivy and brambles. Come 1990, with a stroke of pure luck, the garden wall was finally rediscovered and work began to bring the gardens back to their former glory, making them one of the most beautiful spots in Cornwall today.

If you're thinking of venturing out, don't forget that the British weather is notoriously unpredictable at this time of year - going from bright sunshine to heavy downpours in a matter of minutes. Remember to pack warm layers, a waterproof coat and sturdy footwear to keep you cosy and comfortable as you explore. Browse our 'Rainy v Sunny' collection for everything you need should the weather turn.

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