After a long winter, it’s easy to forget how much there is just a short hop away. But with spring peeking around the corner, now’s the time to seek out some fun in the fresh air. If you’re ready to de-hibernate here’s a quick list of our favourite spring trips.
Go off-road in Weymouth
Weymouth has everything that constitutes the ideal British seaside town. It has history (George III was a fan), a lovely harbourside that appears to have stopped in time, and a beautiful Esplanade perfect for seaside strolls. The town centre, meanwhile, is bustling and contemporary, full of quirky shops, restaurants and friendly pubs and bars.
But it’s the location that makes Weymouth special. Perched on the prow of Dorset, it’s the ideal springboard to explore the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. An easy way to do that is to take a Jurassic Safari. You're picked up from a location of your choice (Weymouth Station, for example) in a sturdy 4x4 Land Rover for a wild – sometimes bumpy – guided tour taking in spectacular Dorset views including Jurassic cliffs, Corfe Castle, Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.
Safari or no safari, there's always plenty to do nearby. Don't miss the sea views from the Isle of Portland (look out for the pirate graves...) and make sure you stroll down Chesil Beach - the gorgeous 18-mile stretch of shingle that connects to West Bay near Bridport.
The Jurassic Safari runs year-round, Wednesdays to Saturdays. For more: jurassicsafari.co.uk
Blooming flowers at RHS Garden Wisley
Nothing cheers you up like watching the landscape spring back to life after winter. Which makes the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley, Surrey a proper tonic as it houses one of the largest collection of plants and flowers in the world.
There are contemporary rose gardens, allotments for vegetables, fruit and herbs, a bonsai walk, a rock garden and the original Oakwood garden where spring magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons burst into life at this time of the year.
Taking pride of place is the vast glasshouse. The size of 10 tennis courts, it features temperate, dry and tropical zones, so you can see fascinating plants and flowers all year round. As a bonus, it’s also inhabited by many species of rare and exotic butterflies.
Wisley is a couple of miles from West Byfleet station, so you’ll need to take a 10-minute taxi ride but it’s well worth the effort. And, as you’re just one stop away from Woking on the train, it's easy to pop into town for a bite to eat afterwards.
Soar over the sea at Bournemouth
If you have a taste for high-speed, high-wire antics then have a blast on Bournemouth’s PierZip – a 250-metre pier-to-shore dual zip wire – the first of its kind on the planet. You start on a tower, 25 metres above the sea (a stunning view in itself), then speed over the waves below to the shore. Because it's a dual line, you can ride solo, or race your friends and family back to dry land. You can book in advance or just show up on the day: rockreef.co.uk/pierzip
Once you've soared over the wavetops it’s time to sample Bournemouth’s many other attractions. The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum hosts a superb collection of contemporary works and fascinating historical artefacts, housed in an incredible Art Nouveau Grade II listed building. And if you fancy heading slightly further afield, then Hengistbury Head Beach is a few miles down the coast, offering a more earthbound, but equally lovely view of the sea.
Soak up culture at the Bath Fringe
While Edinburgh tops the UK's Fringe Festival charts, there are alternatives. One of the best can be found in Bath. For 17 days, the city is abuzz with alternative arts activity. You'll see comedy, music, magic, theatre, clowning, poetry, dance and more besides, all curated by a team of (mostly) volunteers who do what they do out of a love for the city and its culture.
It’s easy to get around the city centre to see all the different acts – everything is within ambling distance. And when you fancy a break, you can always indulge in a luxurious spa with views across the city’s rooftops, take in the 2,000-year-old Roman Baths, or grab a bite at one of the many fine eateries. Simply wandering the streets is a treat: the world-famous architecture from the Royal Crescent to the Abbey makes Bath a beautiful city in any season.
The Bath Fringe Festival takes place from 24 May to 9 June. Keep an eye on bathfringe.co.uk for more details.
Stuff your face at the Exeter Festival of Food and Drink
But perhaps what you really want to do is lazily pootle around a charming, historic venue, tasting the best that local food and drink providers have to offer. Well, as it happens, you're in luck...
The annual Festival of South West Food and Drink is a three-day feast with the tastiest local fare on the menu all set in the grandeur of Exeter Castle. Whatever your culinary cravings, this is the opportunity to discover more about the region’s fine foods, whether that's flavoursome fruit and veg, delicious cheese, succulent meat or divine wines. Most importantly, it's a chance to stuff yourself silly with samples before stocking up on your favourites.
It's not just about eating tasty free snacks, of course – there are also demonstrations and workshops to help inspire you and improve your cooking. Exeter Beats, meanwhile, is packed with live music from locally-reared bands, as well as (more) food, wines, beers and cider. It is, quite literally, a delicious proposition.
The event attracts over 20,000 visitors each year and takes place over 4-6 May. See exeterfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk for the full details.
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