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Home Travel ‘The perfect antidote to winter’: readers’ favourite spring breaks in the UK and Europe | Parks and green spaces

‘The perfect antidote to winter’: readers’ favourite spring breaks in the UK and Europe | Parks and green spaces

by Staff

Winning tip: Yorkshire’s magical ‘Little Switzerland’

The area around Hardcastle in West Yorkshire springs into life in mid-March. The woodland floor transforms as if by magic into a soft carpet of wildflowers with bluebells appearing later in the season. The area was once called Little Switzerland because of its steep lush valleys bisected by rushing rivers, silver streams and footpaths. We found it to be the perfect antidote to winter, with shafts of golden sunlight casting their magic rays on all the lovely foliage. Head for a nice pub lunch at the Old Gate in Hebden after a morning walk.

Pints and pizza in St Agnes, Cornwall

Chapel Porth beach, near St Agnes. Photograph: Paul Martin/Alamy

We have been walking the South West Coast Path for the past few years, taking long weekends when we can. The best trips have been during spring, where you get isolated beaches, sunshine, coconut-scented gorse, delicious food and great walks without the summer crowds. St Agnes was a particular favourite, with nice restaurants and pubs, a good range of Airbnbs and its very own brewery, Driftwood Spars. There is also a very good takeaway pizza place, the Cornish Pizza Company, which has a great range of veggie and vegan options – perfect after a windy, coastal hike.

Wander around Brussels’ art nouveau greenhouses

Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA

A few years ago we happened to be in Brussels around Easter and discovered the wonderful Royal greenhouses in Laeken. They are a series of impressive interconnecting greenhouses built in art nouveau style in the grounds of the royal palace, and are filled to overflowing with beautiful plants and flowers. The greenhouses are open for just three weeks each year (this year from 26 April until 20 May) and receive lots of visitors, so make sure you get there early. We paid just €2.50 to get in. We loved it so much we went back again the next day.


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A paradise for nature lovers in the French Alps

Walkers taking a break near La Plagne. Photograph: Jenny

Sunny Champagny-en-Vanoise on the southern slopes of La Plagne, in the French Alps, blooms in spring. It is a paradise for nature lovers and hikers. Follow walking trails (graded like ski pistes) through the majestic pine forests, picnic on freshly made Emmental and ham baguettes from the local boulangerie and soak up epic views of the snow-capped mountains. The village gondola takes you higher into the mountains where you can feast on Savoyard specialities (such as tartiflette and raclette) in the friendly La Rossa restaurant. Light and airy apartments at Les Balcons Etoilés all with spacious balconies perfect for enjoying an aperitif.

See Dracula’s castle and brown bears in Romania

Brown bears playing at Libearty Zarnesti sanctuary. Photograph: Petrut Calinescu/Alamy

The cobbled old town of Brasov, with its colourful baroque buildings and Carpathian mountain views, was home for a few days exploring Transylvania in late April. Driving through green countryside dotted with spring flowers we stopped at the infamous 14th-century Dracula’s castle at Bran, followed by Peles Castle, the former residence of King Carol I. Next up, Zarnesti Libearty Bear Sanctuary – 69 hectares of woodland housing brown bears rescued from captivity. Evenings were spent sampling local food – a favourite was sarmale, cabbage leaves stuffed with mince and served with polenta and sour cream. Glasses of pálinca (fruit brandy) helped stave off the spring evening chill.

Mountain biking and fish’n’chips in north Wales

Cadair Idris, a short drive from Dolgellau. Photograph: Jason Hornblow/Alamy

Wanting to emerge from winter hibernation and experience the best of north Wales? Dolgellau is a perfectly sized market town that is a wonderful base for a rejuvenating spring getaway, enabling you to make the most of the longer days. It’s just 10 miles from the mountain bike trails at Coed y Brenin. You can climb the beautiful Cader Idris from the town or walk to Barmouth to devour fish’n’chips at the seaside. There are plenty of tasty restaurants, cosy pubs, and interesting shops to explore. Stay at Bryn Mair, from £89 B&B a night.

Walk among New Forest flowers and fir trees

Wood anemones light up the woods in early April. Photograph: Alamy

The first trip in our new campervan took us to the New Forest in early April. We went for a walk in the woods off Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. It was drizzling as we strolled past some of the tallest and oldest Douglas firs in Britain, with their red trunks and dark green needles. Nestling at the bottom of the trees were delicate white anemones. A little further on in a clearing we were delighted to see custard-yellow celandines carpeting the woodland floor. Back at our picturesque campsite the sun broke through the clouds and we sat outside sipping tea and watching New Forest ponies grazing in the next field.

Hike along Menorca’s glorious coast

Arenal d’en Castell, on Menorca’s Camí de Cavalls. Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

If you enjoy a peaceful hike combined with a stunning island coastline, Balearic spring sunshine, flowers galore and a plate of golden paella with fine wine, you cannot do better than to strike out on the Camí de Cavalls, an ancient 185km coastal path that circumnavigates the island of Menorca, hugging the coastline and providing unparalleled access to secluded sandy beaches, remote coves, rocky outcrops and plunging clifftop balconies. During April and May, the island is a floral explosion of colour. You can walk around it in a week, or just do a couple of days. If the fancy takes you, you can even run it! I have done both, supported by the fantastic team at [email protected].

Soak up the Netherland’s golden dunes and gorgeous spas

It’s one of our closest European neighbours, but spring in the Netherlands is wonderful and can be done without a car. Taking the ferry from Harwich or Newcastle can keeps costs down, while trains and cycling on the other side are a cheap way to get around. Docking on the North Sea coast, expect undulating sand dune national parks, forests and lakes, and beyond that fields of spring bulbs. All the beaches have great bars and restaurants that are constructed in March and remain until October. There’s also excellent mountain biking and kite surfing.

Open water swimming and toasted marshmallows in York

Wild swimming at Pool Bridge Farm

After the darkness of winter fades, dust off your camping equipment and head to Pool Bridge Farm, 10 minutes south of York – a tranquil lakeside campsite that offers wild open water swimming with stunning scenery. Pitch your tent next to the lake so that when you unzip the door of a morning, you are greeted by glistening water and the smell of yellow daffodils. Spend the evenings toasting marshmallows over the campfire or take a trip out to the historic city of York and combine a city and country break in one.

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