Advertisement Brittany Ferries

Top 10 wildflower spotting holidays

Posted by Philippa Jacks at 01:28 on Monday 28 March 2011

Bluebells in West Wood, near Marlborough. Photo: Visit WiltshireBluebells in West Wood, near Marlborough. Photo: Visit Wiltshire
Just when you think the sun may never shine again, Mother Nature hits back with serious flower-power: spring is officially here! To see Britain in bloom, or to spot the best wildflowers in Europe, try one of these eco-friendly floral-themed breaks.

Bluebells in Wiltshire
This national treasure blooms between late April and June and is common in woodland across the UK and Ireland, but don’t go helping yourself to a bunch - it’s a criminal offence to pick them. West Woods near Marlborough in Wiltshire is particularly renowned for its display: “When the bluebells are out, it’s a glorious carpet of colour,” says Juliette, owner of quirky B&B The Wagon, in nearby Puckshipton. A two-night stay in this handcrafted wooden hut in May costs £180. See the full listing for The Wagon.

Daffodils in the Lake District
It might be the national flower of Wales, but since Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud beside Ullswater, the Lake District has been just as closely associated with this cheery yellow flower. Follow GoLakes’s Ullswater cycle guide to take in Aira Force waterfall, Gowbarrow Park, and the very lakeside shores that Wordsworth trod. Stay in a cosy, eco-friendly shepherd’s hut at Scales Plantation in Blencathra: a two-night stay in April (the best time for daffs) costs £250. See the full listing for Scales Plantation.

The Hebridean Machair
Machair is one of the rarest habitat types in Europe, found close to the coast where sand dunes turn into fertile pastures. The west coast of the Scottish Hebrides is the best place to see it, particularly Uists, Barra and South Harris. Professor Bill Lawson takes guided walks of Harris. “In the winter, the machair is a sparse covering of green over the sand, but in the summer it explodes into a riot of colour, from whites and yellows in springtime to reds and blues in autumn,” he says. Look out for daisies, buttercup, eyebright, iris, primrose and bog pimpernel. Stay at eco-friendly Shalom Cottage in Leverburgh on Harris, at £850 for a week. See the full listing for Shalom Cottage.

Monkey Orchid, Park Gate Down. Photo: David NichollsMonkey Orchid, Park Gate Down. Photo: David NichollsMonkey orchids in Kent
Only 50-odd species of orchid grow here in the UK, but they’re as weird and wonderful as their tropical counterparts. At Park Gate Down near Elham in Kent, species include the bee orchid, which tricks male bees with flowers shaped like female bees, and the rare monkey orchid, with legs, arms and tail. Stay at Twitham Court Farm in Wingham, with rooms from £40 per person for two sharing. Even closer to Twitham Court Farm is Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust, also home to several rare flowers. On June 12, there is an orchid workshop, costing £16. See the full listing for Twitham Court Farm


Flowers of the Yorkshire Dales
With habitats ranging from woodland and grassland to marsh and meadow, the Yorkshire Dales are a botanical marvel, and home to the only wild-growing lady’s slipper orchid in the country – closely-guarded by wardens. A Flowers of the Dales festival runs from March to October, featuring guided walks, photography courses, and craft activities. Stay at a Cottage In The Dales in Wensleydale, and use the Dalesbus to explore Swaledale or Upper Wharfdale – two of the best areas for wildflowers. Craggley Cottage has four nights in May at £309; Inglenook has a week in April for £675. See the full listing for Cottage In The Dales.

Mountain avens in the Irish Burren
Mountain avens Photo: BurrenbeoMountain avens Photo: Burrenbeo
The Burren spans more than 270 square kilometres of County Clare and County Galway, and three-quarters of all Ireland’s plant species can be found here. May is best to see the distinctive creamy-coloured mountain avens in bloom, while April is best for vibrant blue spring gentian. Brendan Dunford of the Burrenbeo Trust recommends June for bee orchids and fly orchids: “These tiny flowers are miniature miracles of nature”. A Burren in Bloom festival takes place throughout May, with talks, walks and family activities. Stay at Gregans Castle Hotel, which has a special two-night package in May with breakfasts, one six-course dinner and a half-day guided botanical walk with a local guide at E295 per person. See the full listing for Gregans Castle.

Alpine flowers of the Bernese Oberland
Once the snow melts from the lower slopes of the Bernese mountains, the meadows turn into a technicolour carpet of wildlflowers including alpenrose and moss campion. Wildlife-specialist Naturetrek bases its eight-day exploration of the Bernese Oberland in the village of Wengen, walking to different altitudes to find St. Bruno’s lily and black vanilla orchid on the limestone Schynige Platte, and alpine buttercup and roundleaved pennycress in the scree at the foot of Eiger Glacier. Join the June 19 or June 26 departure, priced from £1275 including rail travel from Zurich to Wengen. See the full listing for the trip.

Serapia orchid in the Picos de Europa, Spain. Photo: Posada de ValleSerapia orchid in the Picos de Europa, Spain. Photo: Posada de ValleSerapia and saxifrage in the Picos de Europa, Spain
This mountainous national park in Asturias is home to more than 1,400 different species of wildflower, from deep-blue gentians and 30 species of orchid to a little yellow, sub-alpine saxifrage found nowhere else in the world. Stay at Posada del Valle where owner Nigel, a horticultural graduate, has put together a month-by-month illustrated guide to what can be seen nearby. “Serapias are a very common genus of orchid here, and can fill the fields with a deep red tinge in May and June,” he says. “I also love the different types of narcissus and the fritillaries.” A double-room costs from E64-E77 for two people per night. See the full listing for Posada del Valle.

Anemones in the Lower Engadine, Switzerland
‘Engadine’ translates as 'garden of the Inn river' which is a good reflection of the floral diversity of this valley in the Swiss Alps. Experienced hiker Ernst Vogel is a walk guide: “There are few areas in the Swiss mountains which can match the beauty of the spring meadows in lower Engadine. My personal favourites are the anemone, gentian, and Pyrenean Snakeshead. Photo: HeadwaterPyrenean Snakeshead. Photo: Headwatervarious orchids, like spotted and broad-leaved.” Join Ernst on Inntravel’s Walking & Wildflowers In The Engadine trip in June or September, priced from £1,050 including rail travel from London to Guarda. See the full listing for the trip

Pyrenean snakeshead in the French Pyrenees
Hike the Hautes-Pyrénées from July to September and you’ll find colourful meadows strewn with yellow globeflowers, purple monkshood, Welsh poppies and the purpley-blue English iris (not found in England!). Headwater runs a seven-night Heart of the Pyrenees walking holiday from June to September, passing through the Neouvielle National Park and the Bastan and Bolou valleys. Headwater’s Charlotte McCutcheon says, “June is possibly the best time as the meadows are alive with wildflowers, including my favourite - the delicate Pyrenean snakeshead.” The trip costs from £818 for the tour only; see the full listing.

Comments

Blue Bells

Mazzard Farm in Devon (www.mazzardfarm.com) is also great for blue bells, and for wildlife spotting in general.

Green Travel Blog

Read our latest blog posts in the categories below or go to blog home

Our expert contributors

Follow us on twitter