Spring is the time of new life. Fluffy white lambs bounce in the fields, lush green leaves sprout on trees, and spring rains make fresh blooms. Of course, the wildflowers also start to bloom.
Bluebells are just one of those types of flowers but they are certainly worth highlighting. There’s something quite magical about walking through a carpet of Irish bluebells – a sea of blues and violets flowing out in every direction. Learn the right time to enjoy Irish bluebells and where you can spot them. Even if you don’t manage to view any on a trip, enjoy our image gallery of Irish wildflowers.
A member of the hyacinth family of flowers, bluebells are native flora to the UK & Ireland. Though common throughout Ireland, there is habitat loss, cross hybridisation and other environmental concerns which make Ireland’s native populations significant. Bluebells are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in Ireland.
These striking, vivid violet-blue flowers bloom in April and May, disappearing as quickly as they appeared by early June. Native Irish bluebells have rounded stems and clusters of drooping bell-shaped violet flowers, not to be confused with the invasive variety which has straight stems.
Bluebells also make delicious spring meals for butterflies and bees, an important early source of food for these little insects.
What makes bluebells stand out from other wildflowers is their sheer numbers. When bluebells flower, they cover entire swathes of the forests, a vivid carpet of purple against lunch emerald vegetation spreading out in every direction. Oftentimes, the rich purple is combined with the bright white of wild garlic flowers. Walking through a carpet of bluebells, it’s easy to believe in magic…
Irish bluebells flower in tandem for a few weeks between April and June. These stunning purple-blue flowers grow in broad-leaf forests where they can get a mixture of sun and shade. Too much of one or other is not compatible with bluebell blooms.
In April and May, the trees are sprouting new leaves but the thick, green canopy of leaves doesn’t arrive fully until June, making early spring April to early June the sweet spot to enjoy these stunning flowers while they are in bloom.
Broadleaf old-growth forests are the best places to spot bluebells. They particularly like to grow beneath oak, beech and ash trees. While Ireland doesn’t have as many forests as it once had, there are still plenty of woodlands across the island. As perennial flowers, they re-grow in the same place every year making their location easy to predict.
Native broadleaf forests are their preferred habitats and this is where to find the most stunning display. That said, you’ll still spot bluebells in other places as broad-ranging as meadows to cliff-tops, as well as below hedgerows or even the side of country lanes.
The best way to enjoy these natural floral displays is by hiking through Ireland’s forests during springtime. While bluebells can be quite exceptional, they aren’t the only spring wildflowers – primroses, wild garlic flowers and a few others often bloom around the same time and place as bluebells. You’ll have to get your hiking boots on and head outdoors to view the full spectrum.
Glendalough – Wicklow
Powerscourt Estate – Wicklow
Belleek Woods – Mayo
Westport – Mayo
Union Woods – Sligo
Hazelwood – Sligo
Bluebell Woods – Roscommon
Rindoon Castle – Roscommon
Downhill Demesne – Derry
Castle Ward – Down
Glenariff – Antrim
Killarney National Park – Kerry
Bluebells may be the most iconic and vividly photogenic flowers in early spring, but they are far from the only floral displays in Ireland. There are many other flowers such as purple orchids, gorse flowers, red campion, meadowsweet, daisies and so many more. See a few of our favourite flowers below.
This might not sound like a flower. But wild garlic produces bunches of lovely tiny white flowers. Like bluebells, these plants grow in pockets in the woods. When in bloom, the flowers create a sea of white blooms. Wild garlic is found in the same sort of places as bluebells and often grow together, sprouting in March and flowering in April and May. They are recognisable for their distinctive scent. The leaves and flowers are edible.
Primroses are one of the first flowering buds in Ireland. Light yellow petals with a sunshine-yellow centre, primroses are among the first signs of spring in Irish woodlands. They are also an important early source of nectar for butterflies. They can start blooming in late winter, but are in full bloom in March, April and May. Like the other flowers here, primroses usually grow in forests or in other shaded spots like under hedgerows.
Often heralded as the first signs of spring, snowdrops are an early flowering plant found in wooded areas. Though non-native to the UK and Ireland, these pretty buds are well-established in both environments. Like bluebells, snowdrops have a bell-shaped flower and a curved stem – though, unlike bluebells, they are white instead of purple.
One of the most easily recognisable flowers in Ireland is the foxglove. Unlike the others here, foxgloves grow in sunnier spots and are much larger plants. They can grow up to 2 meters high, with long stalks that sway in the wind. Tight magenta-purple bell-shaped flowers cling to the tall stalks. Like the others, foxgloves are great sources of nectar for insects, but the plant itself is poisonous if consumed. These flowers are found more on woodland edges and start blooming in midsummer, from June onwards.
Spring weather is mild, but the days are lengthening and consistently drier. The landscape is buzzing with life and colour, with flowers blooming and bustling wildlife.Find out more
Summer promises long days, pleasant temperatures, and festivals galore. The countryside transitions from vibrant green to breath-taking purple as the heather blooms.Find out more
Autumn is a time of colourful landscapes and glowing skies. Witness some of Scotland’s most exciting wildlife spectacles and taste flavours unique to our autumn months.Find out more
If the conditions are right, Scottish winters are the epitome of ‘winter wonderland’. Crunchy snow underneath your boots, sparkly fields, and the most beautiful night skies.Find out more