Symbolising hope and purity, snowdrops are Scotland’s answer to Japan’s cherry blossom season with their arrival heralding the end of winter and the promise of spring. Walking through winter woodlands carpeted in snowdrops, is a joy and, once among them, it’s easy to see why in Latin their name, Galanthus nivalis, literally translates as ‘milk flower of the snow’.
These hardy little plants form the basis of one of Scotland’s most popular outdoor festivals, the Scottish Snowdrop Festival (January 25 to March 11), taking place in gardens and estates across the country. Here’s how and where to enjoy them.
Head to the Scottish capital’s handsome Royal Botanic Garden to walk through a fantastic display of snowdrops and to rejoice at the first signs of spring. Visible throughout the grounds, there are also dedicated guided garden tours focusing on the snowdrop collection every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the festival period.
Dates: February 15 to March 10.
Opening hours: daily 10am to 4pm (Snowdrop Walks run 11-12)
Entry: Free for non-guided visit. (Snowdrop Walks cost £6.00 for adults)
Peebles, Scottish Borders
Not far from Edinburgh is the grand Cringletie House. At this time of year snowdrops litter the surrounding woods overlooking a gorge and around a gurgling stream. The Cringletie nature and historical trail has recently expanded and promises pretty walks around manicured lawns, acres of mature woodland and a walled garden with a 400-year-old yew hedge, reputed to be the oldest in Scotland.
Dates: January 25 to March 11
Opening hours: dawn to dusk
Along with its resident red squirrels, relatively easy to spot during the winter months with their bushy tails darting between trees, the gardens of Perthshire’s Cluny House also have an impressive snowdrop display. Visitors will also spot a whole range of other early spring flowers, including Asiatic primulas, hellebores, winter aconites and cyclamen – all signs of brighter days ahead.
Dates: February 23 to March 11
Opening hours: 10am-6pm
Entry: Adults £5.00, children £1.00.
Dumfries & Galloway
The magical garden at Broughton House was designed and maintained by the artist E A (Edward Atkinson) Hornel (1864–1933), a Scottish painter of landscapes and flowers between 1901 and 1933. His unique creation, backing on to the River Dee, contains a grand display of snowdrops, believed to have provided much artistic inspiration. Art lovers and gardeners will find plenty to admire here, including Hornel’s bright, airy studio at the back of the house, set up to show how he worked. With its small winding paths, and a series of hidden away corners, this is a special garden, especially at this time of year.
Dates: February 1 to March 11.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 11am to 4pm
Entry: via the garden gate is by donation
Dog-friendly and child-friendly Cambo House in Fife is perfect for a fun-packed family outing. The estate offers snowdrop woodland walks, has piglets and ponies to admire, and even a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring.
Dates: Runs from mid-January to March 8.
Opening hours: various times
Entry: most events are free with garden entry but booking may be required
To find a Snowdrop Festival garden near you, visit www.discoverscottishgardens.org or www.visitscotland.com/snowdrop