Where are the best places to go in the UK in spring? With brighter days right around the corner, many of us are considering that very question. And the good news is, plenty of outstanding UK destinations in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales come into their own through the spring months, not least if you're into wildlife, food and festivals.
The United Kingdom ranked top in our recent reader poll of the world’s most beautiful countries. Many of the destinations highlighted in that poll are actually among the best UK places to visit in spring. Moreover, visiting outside peak summer season is ideal for anyone looking to avoid the crowds with some alternative travel timing or travel more sustainably, as 96% of Rough Guides' readers recently declared.
For more ideas, take a look at the inspirational Rough Guides’ Staycation pocket guidebooks, with comprehensive guidebooks also available for many destinations.
Selected by our experts as one of the 100 best places on earth for 2022, Pembrokeshire is a jaw-droppingly scenic, family-friendly destination.
Being the birthplace of coasteering, it’ll come as no surprise that this picture-perfect pocket of West Wales also offers elite adventure experiences, with visitors flocking to hike the 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path — the UK’s only coastal National Park.
For nature-lovers, spring is arguably the best time to visit Pembrokeshire. Bluebells and snowdrops bloom in the woodlands, the lilies of Bosherston Lakes burst into life, and Atlantic puffins return to their nesting sites on the bird-rich islands.
Wales as a whole isn’t short of beautiful beaches and, in accordance with that, Pembrokeshire‘s shoreline presents a stream of sweeping dune-backed bays and craggy coves.
With fewer crowds, spring is also the ideal time to explore Pembrokeshire’s castles, prehistoric monuments, and seaside settlements like Tenby. This 13th-century town is renowned for the candy-coloured buildings that overlook its harbour, with plenty of places serving fresh local produce. And, if you’re travelling with kids, the wildlife centres and theme parks will be pretty queue-free.
Spanning an expanse of south-central and southwest England and the West Midlands, this region invites relaxation, with scenic walks and hikes on hand if you're looking for more action.
Given the peaceful, picturesque appeal of pretty Cotswold villages and towns (think thatched cottages, bubbling brooks, farmers’ markets and independent boutiques), it is no surprise that visitors clamour to the region during summer, which can detract from the laidback, old-world allure.
Better to visit in spring for fewer crowds, and to view the gardens, woodlands, parklands and hills at their most spectacular. Mid-March also heralds the Cheltenham Festival, while in late May you could experience archetypal English eccentricity by watching (or joining) the annual cheese roll down Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire.
For further inspiration, take a look at ten great things to do in the Cotswolds
From brooding moorland villages, cliff-backed coves and wildflower meadows, to grand old market towns like Exeter and Totnes, and seaside resorts that exude all the flair of the French Riviera (Torquay, we’re looking at you), Devon’s diverse landscapes provide perfect backdrops for all kinds of unforgettable staycations.
Dartmoor National Park is a hotspot for hikers - 365 square miles of wilderness and wooded valleys speckled with Bronze Age sites and secluded villages. Though known for its haunting atmosphere, a spring visit means seeing the menacing moors and heathland made over with blooming bluebells and daffodils.
Meanwhile, wildlife-watchers would do well to visit Devon’s Dawlish Warren in spring. This golden sandbar at the entrance to the Exe Estuary draws thousands of migratory birds to its nature reserve of grassland, sand dunes and mudflats.
In good news for travellers who like mix things up, Dawlish Warren also has a Blue Flag beach, funfair attractions, and beautiful walks. With a beachfront trail clinging to the crimson cliffs, following the South West Coast Path to neighbouring Dawlish comes highly recommended.
Being right next door to Cornwall, Devon is also primely-placed for dual-destination breaks that’ll satisfy all ages and tastes. Find out more in Rough Guides’ Staycations Devon and Cornwall pocket guidebook, the main Rough Guide to Devon and Cornwall, and our overview of the 15 best things to do in this stunning region of the UK.
Scale iconic Mount Snowdon. Zipline repurposed slate caverns. Raft rapids at Wales’ National White-Water Centre. Meander enchanting chocolate-box villages. Meet mythical monsters at Bala Lake. Snowdonia sure offers an exhilarating mix of experiences.
Whether you’re heading there to hike, or plan to take it easy aboard the scenic Snowdon Mountain Railway, spring is an ideal time to explore Snowdonia National Park. You’ll be ahead of the summer crowds, which means no queuing for the railway, and taking your pick of places to stay.
Spring visits also offer nature-lovers a chance to see the elusive, one-of-a-kind Snowdon lily — it blooms between May and early June.
If you fancy a break from high-octane activities, head to Beddgelert for excellent tea shops, pubs and restaurants. But fear not if you’re keen to get back to adventuring — clustered beneath the mighty Moel Hebog mountain, Beddgelert is as known for its hiking and biking as it is for sitting pretty at the confluence of the Glaslyn and Colwyn rivers.
Then there’s the Italian elegance of Portmeirion. Made famous by cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner, the village’s architectural allure is matched by the beauty of the nearby Dwyryd Estuary — think white sand beaches and secret caves.
For more inspiration about Snowdonia, find time-saving itineraries and tips in the Rough Guide Staycations Snowdonia and North Walesguidebook.
With its sweeping horizons, broad sandy beaches (like Holkham Bay), and wonderful waterways, Norfolk has long attracted travellers looking for beautiful back-to-nature breaks.
If that sounds like you, visit in spring to enjoy some of the region’s top wildlife experiences. For example, seal-spotting trips start in March. Departing from Morston quay, the ferry stops at Blakeney Point Nature Reserve, where dunes, shingle, salt marshes and mudflats attract seabirds from late spring.
Another great way to immersive yourself in wildlife while being wowed by wide-open vistas is to boat the Norfolk Broads. Take your pick from rowing, motor boating, or skippering a sailing boat. Alternatively, the Norfolk Coastal Cycleway traverses an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s agreeably flat, too.
Alongside all this natural beauty, Norfolk isn’t short of manmade marvels. It's home to the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, handsome Holkham Hall, ancient villages, and striking places of worship, among them Norwich Cathedral. Its soaring spire, elegant cloisters, painted medieval panels and carvings present over 900-years of history and architectural splendour.
Cathedral aside, Norwich is a stunner. Though small in size, it’s big on charm, especially on Elm Hill, where you can shop and eat your way up the winding incline surrounded by medieval buildings and blossoming trees. This was included in our round-up of the top 20 UK locations for amazing street photography for very good reason.
Intrigued? If you’re ready to plan your trip, our Staycations Norfolk guidebook is packed with time-saving itineraries, also read our guide to the best things to do in Norfolk and find some top ideas for your holidays here.
Visiting historic York in spring makes for a thoroughly rewarding city break, especially for families and foodies, with the spring fair and food festival bringing together the best local produce and all the fun of a vintage fairground.
A real highlight here is ambling the intriguingly named Shambles. One of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe, this winding thoroughfare is one of our top 20 UK locations for amazing street photography.
It’s clear to see why the Shambles has laid claim to being JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley, and Potter-heads won’t want to miss mooching around The Shop That Must Not Be Named at number 30. For an alternate taste of the Shambles’ old-world atmosphere, there are plenty of taverns and restaurants to stop-off in.
After exploring the Minster, one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, walking the city walls is another York must-do. The longest and most complete of their kind in England, the slopes are especially stunning in spring, when dazzling daffodils add more than a dash of colour.
No visit to York would be complete without heading to the Jorvik Viking Centre, where you’ll step into a time machine to travel back to 866 AD — the year Vikings invaded York — for an exhilaratingly immersive experience.
To make the most of your time in this handsome historic city, Rough Guide Staycations York shares time-saving tour itineraries and tonnes of insider information about what to see and do, whatever the weather.
If you fancy heading further afield, discover five things you didn't know you could do in Yorkshire, with a regional Rough Guide to Yorkshire on hand to help you get around.
Offering an alluring landscape of mysterious moors and mountains, craggy cliffs and castles, windswept beaches and lochs, Scotland’s Isle of Skye is the perfect place to get back to nature, while enjoying some of the country's best food and drink.
To beat the crowds and avoid the pesky midges that emerge in summer, Syke is best visited in spring, which also happens to be the best time to see the enchanting Fairy Glen. The landscape of emerald valleys and miniature mountains cross-crossed by babbling brooks really does look like something from a fairy tale.
For more otherworldly magic, don’t miss the Fairy Pools in the south. Not only breathtakingly beautiful, this spot is also one of the best places in Britain for wild swimming.
Wildlife-watchers will also be in their element on Skye, with April marking the start of puffin-watching boat trips. Add to that the fact that minke whales are more likely to be sighted from May and you have even more reasons to visit in spring.
Skye is also celebrated for its exquisite shellfish, meats and cheeses, with quaint capital Portree speckled with picturesque places to eat and drink. Meanwhile, whiskey-lovers won’t want to pass up the chance to tour the Talisker distillery.
For more inspiration, read about the best Scottish islands and discover the best things to see and do in the Scottish highlands and islands. Travelling with kids? Read our guide to family-friendly experiences in the Scottish Highlands.
If you fancy exploring the lsle of Skye along with Loch Ness and Edinburgh, our tailor-made Highland Tour might be of interest. Curated by a local expert, it can be fully customised to your needs. We also have a pocket guide book to the Isle of Syke and the Western Isles, plus a comprehensive Rough Guide to the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
If you love live music and want the option of getting away from it all, Belfast is well worth considering for a different kind of spring break. In fact, there are plenty of great reasons to visit Northern Ireland as a whole.
Built on Victorian industry, Belfast boasts an abundance of grand public buildings that provide a beautiful backdrop to exploring the city by foot on a Best of Belfast walking tour. Keen to find out more about Belfast’s more recent political history? Book a guided black taxi tour to see famous murals from both sides of the conflict.
If you’re into music, the Brilliant Corners Jazz Festival blasts off for 8 days (and nights, obviously) from the 4th March 2022, while the Féile an Earraigh festival celebrates Irish music and culture across 30 venues from 1st-18th March.
Spring is also a great time to visit if you’re travelling with little ones. The Belfast Children’s Festival runs 4th-13th March (handily overlapping with the jazz festival), with lots of lively events for all ages. Kids will also enjoy journeying through the history of the world’s most famous ocean liner in the city’s Titanic Quarter.
If you’re in the market for getting away from it all, the Causeway Coastal Route is one of the most spectacular road-trips in Europe. It extends for 120 miles between Belfast and Derry, with the Giant’s Causeway the jewel in its glorious crown. Discovering more about Northern Ireland’s legendary Causeway Coast may well compel you to extend your city break into a full-blown holiday.
Talking of longer stays, you could book an epic Game of Thrones trip to discover awe-inspiring sites featured in the show. But fear not if you’re short on time — take a day tour to the Giant’s Causeway in a luxury coach or book a weekend getaway that covers Belfast and Dublin.
With tonnes of traditional tea rooms, sublime coastal walks, romantic gardens, and cosy pubs, the Isle of Wight is an ideal destination for couples seeking R&R, especially in spring when the cliffs and trails burst with colour. What’s more, being chockful of dinosaur fossils and seaside resorts, it has plenty to keep kids happy, too.
With over half the island a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and being one of only seven UK sites with UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status, it’s no surprise that exploring the outdoors is one of the island’s top experiences. One of the most scenic walks stretches between Tennyson Down and the iconic Needles Headland.
For a taste of traditional English idyll, Shanklin is a must-visit. As it happens, we named it one of Britain’s best seaside towns. Its quaint Old Village of thatched pubs, sweet shops and tearooms is a delight, with a family-friendly beach waiting at the bottom of the cliffs.
Families with monster-mad kids will want to follow in big footsteps by exploring Compton Bay at low-tide, when dinosaur prints are revealed. Or, to stroll in the well-heeled steps of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, head to Italianate Osborne House. After Albert’s death, Victoria elevated the property from palatial summer home to permanent residence.
Discover more about the Isle of Wight in our handy British Breaks Isle of Wight guidebook.
Wondering where to go in the UK in spring to keep the whole family happy? The Lake District might just be what you’re looking for. Take your pick from romantic rambles, high-energy hikes, and old-fashioned family fun — all enjoyed in the most spectacular surroundings. In fact, this area of the UK is so stunning, selecting the 12 most beautiful places in the Lake District was no easy task.
Kicking off with the jewel in the crown, Lake Windermere offers 360 views of breath-taking countryside, leisurely cruises, and a charming museum displaying the boat behind Arthur Ransom’s Swallows and Amazons vessel.
Little booklovers will also be entertained at The World of Beatrix Potter, where interactive attractions explore all 23 tales. Potter’s pretty seventeenth-century Hill Top farmhouse is wonderful, too. After being wowed by the writer’s cottage garden, head next door to the Tower Bank Arms — as featured in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.
Another fun family experience can be had aboard the super-cute Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. This narrow-gauge steam train transports passengers from the Esk estuary to the foot of the western fells through two of the Lake District’s prettiest valleys.
To enjoy the best rugged rambling in the central fells, visit the verdant Langdale Valley. Meanwhile, romantics will want to walk the Gowbarrow trail to the Aira Force waterfall, which lays bare the fresh spring landscape of William Wordsworth’s “lonely as a cloud” daffodil wanderings.
Looking for more lowdown on the Lake District? Discover the area’s most beautiful places. And, while we’ve highlighted this as a top spring destination, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Lake District also offers wonderful winter walks.
In addition, our pocket Staycations guidebook to the Lake District is packed with itineraries and walking routes. If you’re planning to get off-the-beaten-track for longer, read the Rough Guide to the Lake District.
The United Kingdom is perfect for travelling at any time of year. Check out our list of the most interesting ways to spend winter breaks in the UK.
Inspired? Rough Guides experts have curated a range of fully customisable trips that take the hassle out of planning, and make your UK travel experiences all the more rewarding. How about embracing wild adventures in Wales or Scotland? What about discovering historic highlights of England, or exploring the Pearls of Ireland? Or you could set off on a Great British road-trip.
In addition, whenever you’re thinking of heading, there’ll be a Rough Guide to support you along every step of your journey.
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Header image: spring bluebells on North Yorkshire's Roseberry Topping hill © Shutterstock