First snowdrops bring a sign of hope for 2021

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Traditionally the first flower of winter, snowdrops have come to symbolise hope and consolation, making them the perfect pick-me-up for walkers this winter. Read on for the National Trust’s pick of the top snowdrop walks in Northern Ireland.

When planning your walk, please remember to follow the latest government guidance, stay local and exercise close to home.

January officially marks the start of snowdrop season. From January to March, depending on the location and the weather, white carpets of snowdrops start to appear in woodlands, fields and gardens, signalling the end of winter and the promise of spring.

Long associated with the winter months, the Latin name for the snowdrop is Galanthus nivalis, which translated literally means ‘milk flower of the snow’.

Symbolic of hope and purity in folklore, the snowdrop is celebrated as one of the first signs of new spring life. Tougher than they look, snowdrop buds have hard tips that help them break through the frozen ground. Their sap also contains a type of antifreeze that protects them from the frost.

Just a few decades ago you wouldn’t have expected to see snowdrops appear until late February. Recently however the shorter, milder winters have meant snowdrops are appearing as early as the New Year providing a welcome reminder that brighter days are ahead.

Top snowdrop walks

Please remember to follow the latest government guidance, stay local and exercise close to home.

Springhill, County Londonderry

As winter melts away and spring awakens, take a self-guided walk through Springhill’s glorious display of snowdrops. Come and meet these intrepid little flowers and enjoy an invigorating walk around the grounds and estate.

Grounds open daily, booking not required. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/springhill for details.

Rowallane Garden, County Down

Enjoy a relaxing stroll around the garden and see how many different varieties of snowdrops you can spot. The delightful display of these pretty winter flowers is a real credit to the gardening team who have planted over 130,000 bulbs over the past ten years. Take in the drifts of snowdrops on a self-guided tour of the garden and afterwards warm yourself up with a take-away treat from the café.

Pre-booking recommended to avoid disappointment. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/rowallane-garden  for details.

The Argory, County Armagh

Despite the cold and damp weather of late, early signs of spring are appearing at The Argory. The Argory will open its doors every weekend from 9 January, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the beautiful carpets of snowdrops. Look out for blankets of the pretty white flower along the banks of the Lime Tree walk in particular.

Pe-booking recommended at the weekend. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-argory for details.

Castle Coole, County Fermanagh

Castle Coole’s woodland is made of up mature ‘broadleaved’ trees like oak, beech and horse-chestnut. Beneath the oaks you’ll find a carpet of herbs and wildflowers, looking for light before the leaves appear in the canopy above. Some of the first flowers to appear are snowdrops. The Beech Walk is the best place to see these appear, as well as sheltered under the oaks on the main drive.

Grounds open daily, booking not required. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-coole for details.

Castle Ward, County Down

More well-known for its majestic show of bluebells, Castle Ward’s snowdrops are often overlooked. Those who do seek them out will be rewarded with large clusters of the flowers along Laurel Walk, Strangford Avenue (towards the caravan park) and on the lawns in front of the mansion.

Pre-booking recommended to avoid disappointment. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-ward  for details.

Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne, County Londonderry

Take a wander through Bishop’s gate and into the Black Glen where the snowdrops thrive in the shady, moist conditions. As you explore, see whether you can spot the fishpond, and the headless statue of George, the Earl Bishop’s brother whose head has never been found.

Grounds open daily, booking not required. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mussenden-temple for details.

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