Hospitality group James’ Places is laying claim to some of the greatest wildflower treats of the year within easy reach of its hotels.
According to the group’s marketing manager, Heidi Kettle, some of the North West’s best bluebell displays can be found near Falcon Manor at Settle, The Royal Hotel at Kirkby Lonsdale and the Shireburn Arms in Hurst Green, near Clitheroe.
Said Heidi: “We are blessed with beautiful bluebells and spring flowers on the doorsteps of our hotels.”
Carole Melling, general manager of Falcon Manor, suggested a visit to Oxenber Wood, near Austwick and Cleatop Wood, which offers a circular walk of around four miles from the door of Falcon Manor.
She said: “As well as bluebells as far as the eye can see as walkers wander up through the wood, as you emerge from the trees there is an excellent view of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks mountains and the upper reaches of North Ribblesdale.”
It is 10 minutes in the car from Falcon Manor to the village of Austwick from where Oxenber Wood is the main event in a circular walk of around three to four miles.
Carole said: “Oxenber Wood really does offer a jewel among bluebell displays and if guests go nowhere else – don’t miss this. From Austwick, a glance across at the hillside below the wood in May will show it as a blue haze as bluebells have continued to thrive in a field next to the wood where once there were trees.
“Stroll along bridleways and over an ancient clapper bridge spanning Austwick Beck and make your way uphill through this pasture of bluebells into the woods where the flowers continue in abundance.”
The Royal Hotel is in the South Lakes but ideally placed for the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. Oxenber Wood is easy to visit from here too, being just 20 minutes in the car from Kirkby Lonsdale.
Damian Atkins, general manager of The Royal Hotel, also recommended a visit to Barbon Wood and to Warriners Wood, just outside Kendal.
He said: “The countryside around Barbon, a village five minutes’ drive from Kirkby Lonsdale, is one of the areas which was included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park when the boundary changed in 2016.
“Walkers emerge from the wood into a beautiful dale with its dramatic steep valley sides and babbling beck. This is a perfect place to enjoy a Royal Hotel walker’s picnic which we make fresh to order in the hotel kitchen on the morning of your hike.”
Didier Vincent, general manager of The Shireburn Arms highlighted strolls in Spring Wood, near Whalley and Mill Wood, just North of Hurst Green.
He said: “Spring Wood offers a treat for the senses with wildflowers, and especially bluebells, the crowning glory. It’s also an excellent picnic site in an ideal position from which to explore Pendle Hill or the historic village of Whalley and its surrounding countryside.
“What’s better is that it’s only a 15 minute drive in the car from The Shireburn Arms and a number of self-guide routes are available, suitable for all abilities and ages.”
Meanwhile Mill Wood forms part of a two-mile circular walk from the door of The Shireburn Arms. Bluebells can also be enjoyed on the Tolkein Trail, a 5.5 walk around the Hurst Green area so loved by JRR Tolkein, who wrote part of his Lord of the Rings trilogy while staying at nearby Stonyhurst College.
Bluebells are usually in flower between late April and late May and two different species are commonly found in Lancashire, Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales – the native bluebell, identifiable by its longer stem and white-cream coloured pollen, and the Spanish bluebell.
Some bluebell facts:
• Bees can 'steal' the nectar from bluebells flowers by biting a hole in the bottom of the bell, reaching the nectar without pollinating the flower.
• Where native and Spanish bluebells grow close together a hybrid plant can be produced.
• Bluebell bulbs were crushed to provide starch for the ruffs of Elizabethan collars and sleeves. Meanwhile, back in the Bronze Age, bluebells were used to set feathers on arrows: a process known as ‘fletching’.
• Fields of bluebells are said to be intricately woven with fairy enchantments.
• Half the world’s population of bluebells grow in the UK.
Heidi added: “Our hotels’ dinner, bed and breakfast offers are particularly good value for enjoying a break and experiencing the bluebells while relaxing in stunning surroundings. Keep an eye on www.falconmanor.co.uk,www.royalhotelkirkbylonsdale.co.uk, and www.shireburnarmshotel.co.uk for our April/May offers.”
Falcon Manor, The Shireburn Arms and The Royal Hotel are part of the James’ Places group of hotels, inns, interior design and hospitality businesses across the Ribble Valley, Yorkshire Dales and South Lakes, all different yet sharing the same service values and ethos.