May is a fabulous time to visit the Lake District, as the days grow longer, the weather gets warmer and the beautiful bluebells burst into life. Here are five of my favourite locations to enjoy a scenic stroll and gaze in wonder at the breathtaking carpets of blue.
Dorothy Farrer’s Spring Wood Nature Reserve, Staveley
Managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, this upland oak woodland reserve consists of three separate areas – High Wood, Dorothy Farrer’s Spring Wood and Beddard’s Wood – and bluebells, wild garlic, early purple orchids and the scarcer herb-paris create a glorious array of colour and scent in spring.
Coppicing in this area has produced a profusion of other wildflowers, including violets, bramble and foxglove, and the damper north-facing areas of High Wood are particularly good places to seek out ferns, mosses and liverworts.
The reserve boasts an awesome display of bluebells, as seen in the super photograph above by John Morrison, kindly shared with us by Cumbria Wildlife Trust. In addition, if you visit in spring and early summer you can expect to hear – and hopefully also see – pied and spotted flycatcher, redstart, willow warbler, blackcap, great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, treecreeper and buzzard.
Being off the beaten track it’s a little more secluded than some of the more popular areas, but it’s only a short drive from Staveley to Windermere, giving access to lots more attractions for all the family.
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River Brathay, near Skelwith Bridge
Take a walk along the River Brathay, near Skelwith Bridge, for some wonderful sights within ancient woodland.
You can see large swathes of bluebells in this idyllic setting in the Langdale Valley, where you are surrounded by fells. Patches of blue seem to stretch all the way down to the old bridge at Skelwith. It’s an incredibly picturesque location and I guarantee you won’t want to leave!
Make time to view Skelwith Force, an impressive location all year round but particularly after a period of heavy rain. It’s popular with canoeists and offers some great photo opportunities that must not be missed! The area around the falls can become quite slippery so make sure you take care and opt for suitable footwear.
After your walk, Chesters By The River is a fabulous spot for great food and drink, including impressive home-made cakes! The nearby bustling town of Ambleside offers a wide choice of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants as well as plenty of activities for all the family to enjoy.
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Loughrigg Terrace, Grasmere
Loughrigg Terrace is a path that runs along the side of Loughrigg Fell and boasts a good viewpoint to head to as part of a walk around Grasmere or Rydal Water.
Bluebell season is a great time to visit as you can see vast carpets of colour flowing down the fellside towards the water! Benches along the path provide the perfect rest stop as you can sit and savour the glorious surrounding scenery.
If you’re visiting Loughrigg Terrace, park at the White Moss car park near Rydal Water for a choice of stunning routes to choose from.
Take time to wander around the picturesque village of Grasmere – and don’t forget to try the famous Grasmere Gingerbread!
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Muncaster Castle and Gardens
Discover double the delight at Muncaster Castle and Gardens at this time of year as you can see spectacular colours from their famous rhododendrons at the same time as the bluebells are on display.
Enjoy an enchanted walk through the high woodlands above the castle as you lose yourself in a blue-purple haze, while from April to June the rhododendrons are equally stunning. The Himalayan Gardens feature many specimens that are rarely seen in the west and are Europe’s oldest leading collection.
There’s also the Georgian Terrace, a formal walk with other plants that create a riot of colour throughout the year. The Hawk & Owl Centre within the grounds is open daily from mid-February to December and hosts bird of prey flying displays twice daily in the main season and once daily in low season, plus an incredible wild heron feed at 4pm every day – something that simply has to be seen to be believed!
Why not combine your visit to this area with a trip on the “La’al Ratty” to Eskdale? The Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway, to give it its full name, is a popular narrow-gauge railway offering an unforgettable steam-driven trip ideal for all ages. It was built in 1875 to bring iron ore from the mines near Boot to the coastal railway and was the first narrow-gauge railway to be laid in England.
Arguably the most famous bluebell walk within the Lakes, every year visitors are drawn to see the Rannerdale bluebells above Crummock Water, which are in a rare location on open fellside rather than among trees.
It’s a sheltered spot below Rannerdale Knotts and offers stunning views over Crummock Water to Mellbreak and beyond. This beautiful walk is a particular favourite of mine! The carpet of bluebells is a sight to behold against brilliant blue skies and the craggy outline of the fell.
Legend suggests this hidden valley was one of the last seats of resistance against the Norman invaders and the bluebells are said to have sprung up from the blood spilled during the Battle of Rannerdale. Fortunately, these days there are no such battles! In fact, the areas surrounding Crummock Water are absolutely idyllic in this remote part of the Lake District.
From Rannerdale, if you head towards Keswick the next lake along is Buttermere, where you can enjoy more walks or call in at either The Bridge Hotel or the Fish Inn for well-deserved refreshments.
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I hope you have a fabulous time discovering the amazing bluebell displays around the Lakes!
Of course, the Lake District is a stunning location to visit throughout the year. Use the Sally’s Cottages online search facility to help you find the perfect holiday property for you in your ideal location. And don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter – we'd love to hear about your trip and see lots of fab photos!
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