England's most glorious places to visit on April 12

Telegraph Travel
·6-min read
Hever Castle - John Glover
Hever Castle - John Glover

If the roadmap stays on track, April 12 will herald some joyous 'firsts' in England. The first outdoor meet-up in your 'Rule of Six' social circle (or between your household and another); the first pint or pub lunch (strictly outdoors, of course); the first overnight in a self-catering UK holiday rental.

But where to head first? Depending on your interests and intentions, our experts suggest...

For wild splendour (with handy facilities)

You'll want to meet somewhere lovely, of course – but also somewhere with good facilities, parking, food options and plenty of space. The following places all fit the bill.

The vast grounds of picture-perfect Hever Castle are already alive with snowdrops and early daffodils – and as spring warms the rich soil, more bulbs will flourish.

Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire - Getty
Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire - Getty

Tens of thousands of tulips will greet you at the gate and beckon you to Two Sisters’ Lawn and Pergola Walk; while in the rockery behind the Rose Garden, scilla, grape hyacinth and the ‘King of the Blues’ hyacinth will be blooming. Grab a bite to eat from the Moat Restaurant and picnic on Horseshoe Lawn, with a castle view that Anne Boleyn would recognise.

RHS Wisley, the historic home of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) heralds the arrival of spring and better times with its welcome avenue of cherry trees and drifts of snowdrops.

You and your green-fingered loved ones can learn and be inspired here, as there’s everything from a cottage garden and an exotic garden, to an arboretum and the oakwood – Wisley’s first garden, once known as the wild garden. The garden centre here is outstanding.

RHS Wisley - Getty
RHS Wisley - Getty

Or, try Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, in Yorkshire. This glorious North Yorkshire landscape was the vision of William Aislabie, who inherited Studley and bought the nearby ruins of Fountains Abbey to complete his Studley Royal Water Garden.

A riverside walk links the lofty ruins with the lawns, lakes and water gardens at Studley and in spring the woodlands are a kaleidoscope of primroses, daffodils, wood anemones, wild garlic and bluebells.

For a more wild day out

Swap your walk in the park for a far wilder, more rewarding ramble. All over the country, bluebell woods will be bursting into life. Incredibly, the British Isles has around 40 per cent of the world’s bluebells, which transform great swathes of the country to deep blue in spring.

It's a fine time for a walk in the woods - Getty
It's a fine time for a walk in the woods - Getty

While there are many bluebell woods throughout the country, Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire, Blickling Hall in Norfolk and Buckland Abbey in Devon have some of the most spectacular displays. For more hidden spots, there's an enchanting bluebell forest near the village of Angmering in West Sussex.

Meanwhile in Oxford, Iffley Meadows is one of the few places left in the UK to see snake's head fritillary – a pretty little purple flower, endangered throughout Europe. They bloom in April, so your timing is perfect: from Oxford city centre, take a stroll along the Thames Path on the bank of the river, and you’ll encounter a field full of delicate rosy blooms.

Cherry blossom season also begins in April. A symbol of rejuvenation throughout Asia, these rosé petals also signal that spring has finally sprung on our shores – a time for celebration, or at least a picturesque stroll beneath the boughs.

Cherry blossom in Greenwich Park - Getty
Cherry blossom in Greenwich Park - Getty

In West Sussex, Nymans' tennis lawn and inside its Wall Garden, pink-petalled cherry trees join the colourful ranks of rhododendrons and camellias. The grounds, created by Ludwig Messel in the late 19th century, feature rare plant specimens from all over the world – including a Chilean collection that also flowers at this time of year.

The orchards at Hinton Ampner, Hampshire, are full of frothy cherry blossom at this time of year. First to appear are the soft pink flowers of variety 'Kanzan', followed by the paler petals of 'Mount Fuji', among others. Meanwhile, the magnolia walk is spectacular in spring, as the pink-and-white boughs come into full bloom.

For an al fresco pub lunch

Some spectacular spots for that first pub lunch or pint...

The Turf

Exminster, Devon

Sitting on a spit of land where the Exeter Ship Canal vanishes into the tidal depths of the Exe Estuary, the Turf was built in the early 19th century for the canal’s lock-keepers. Now it’s a popular pub, whose large garden has a fantastic prospect of both the estuary and verdant Devon countryside. Do note: the nearest car park is more than half a mile away, but a walk through desolate wetlands will sharpen the thirst and appetite even more.

Exminster, Devon EX6 8EE; 01392 833128; turfpub.net

The Castle at Edgehill - The Castle at Edgehill
The Castle at Edgehill - The Castle at Edgehill

The Castle at Edgehill

Banbury, Oxfordshire

Here’s a large pub garden with views to die for, which would have been literally true in 1642 when the battle of Edgehill took place in the fields below. The Castle is a historical show-stopper too, an 18th-century folly built where Charles I apparently unfurled his standard before fighting took place. Now, the scenes of sylvan views are more tranquil, and a pint of Old Hooky from pub owners Hook Norton Brewery will be an excellent idea.

Edge Hill, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX15 6DJ; 01295 670255; castleatedgehill.co.uk

Botley Hill Farmhouse - Botley Hill Farmhouse
Botley Hill Farmhouse - Botley Hill Farmhouse

Botley Hill Farmhouse

Warlingham, Surrey

Part paved and part grassed, the expansive beer garden at this listed 16th-century farmhouse has views over the lush Surrey Hills, where sheep safely graze. Returning to more earthly pleasures, the farmhouse is also home to Titsey Brewing, which is based in a former military bunker built in its grounds. Try a pint of the 3.7 per cent Gresham Hopper pale ale, an ideal thirst-quencher after a rural ramble.

Limpsfield Road, Warlingham, Surrey CR6 9QH; 01959 577154; botleyhill-farmhouse.co.uk

Kirkstall Bridge Inn

Kirkstall, Leeds

Yes, it’s next to a picturesque bridge (Grade II listed actually), which crosses the River Aire, plus this popular community pub has an expansive beer garden that stretches down to the river (and has been known to get flooded in the past). The inn is owned by the highly regarded Kirkstall Brewery, whose Dissolution IPA is an ideal drop with which to celebrate your return to the pub beer garden.

12 Bridge Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, LS5 3BW; 0113 2784044; kirkstallbridge.co.uk