Although weather-wise it may not feel like it, today (Wednesday 20 March) marks the first day of spring.
It is also the spring equinox – one of two days in the year when daytime and night time have a similar length.
From budding daffodils to the early-morning melodies of the birds, it’s hard to beat that spring feeling.
And as the skies get a bit brighter, it’s a great time to venture outdoors and see the season unfold in its full glory.
Here, National Trust for Scotland recommends the best of its properties to welcome the new season.
1.Culzean Castle & Country Park, Ayrshire
From red deer to soay sheep, National Trust for Scotland properties are home to an abundance of wildlife.
Risen above a world of woods, beaches, secret follies and play parks, the incredible Culzean Castle & Country Park hosts swans, highland cows, deer and fawn, bats, many nesting birds and hedgehogs waking up from hibernation.
Be sure to say hello to the estates most recent calves, Caramel, Flora and Ebony in the Deer Park.
The estate has something for everyone: while the adults adore the jaw-dropping architecture and history of the opulent castle, the kids can be kept entertained as they follow the LEGO trail to find tiny figures hidden in the nooks and crannies of the rooms.
Take your pick from miles-worth of walking trails and let the kids be in their element as they explore the giant adventure playground, Adventure Cove, which goes deep into the woodlands.
Don’t worry, grown-ups are allowed in too.
2. Branklyn Garden, Perthshire
Scotland is the perfect place for the beautiful shrubs to flourish, due to its naturally acidic soil.
That’s why the Scottish Rhododendron Festival will be taking place this spring, on Monday 1 April at various National Trust for Scotland gardens and venues across the country.
Rhododendrons are one of the most vivid signs of spring, showing off bright yellow, purples, pinks and reds, brightening up the country and the magical Branklyn Garden.
Plenty more rare species await at the enchanting Branklyn Garden too: from snowdrops and distinctive Himalayan blue poppies to rhododendrons and azaleas, the attractive garden is a peaceful haven just minutes away from the bustling city centre of Perth.
Gardeners and botanists travel from across the globe to admire Branklyn Garden’s outstanding collection. At this time of year, the garden hosts an abundance of rhododendrons and daffodils and becomes home to a variety of bees.
The garden also holds several National Collections of plants, including Meconopsis and Cassiope.
3. Threave Garden & Estate, Dumfries and Galloway
After a long and cold winter, migrating birds start to return from milder climates to spend spring and summer in the UK, and bring with them their enchanting songs.
At Threave Garden & Estate you can hear the beautiful sounds of a variety of birds. First to make their way back to the UK are chiffchaffs, swallows and house martins, but you may also be lucky to hear from robins, dippers, wood pigeons and blue tits.
After admiring the birdsong, take a lovely walk through the rockery, discover the secret garden and take in the soothing sound of water and admire the rich collages of heathers.
Threave Garden & Estate is also home to the UK’s only bat reserve, with over seven bat species waiting to be discovered.
4. Brodie Castle, Moray
The 24th Laird of Brodie, Ian Brodie, was an eminent breeder of daffodils in the late 19th and early 20th century, and even gained global recognition for his work.
The grounds of Brodie Castle were the Laird’s playground and over the years he raised thousands of plants, including over 400 varieties of daffodils.
Since 1889, Brodie Castle has been synonymous with the vibrant yellow flower and, today, it is still one of the best places in Scotland to see them.
On a visit to Brodie, visitors can expect to can still see great swathes of daffodils around the grounds and down the majestic Cathedral Walk. In the walled garden, there are also 100 blooms arranged as they would have been in the Laird’s day.
This time of year is perfect to see Brodie Castle’s daffodils at their brightest and best. Special guided tours are also offered to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Brodie Castle is also home to the Playful Garden – a garden that explores the Brodie family history in a novel and fun-filled way. Home to a fascinating menagerie of characters inspired by the castle’s quirky and colourful history, including Scotland’s biggest bunny sculpture, the Playful Garden is full of excitement for all the family and rounds off a perfect day trip of seeing daffodils.
*Please note, Brodie Castle and grounds will be closed on Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 March for maintenance work
5. Fyvie Castle, Garden & Estate, Aberdeenshire
Growing best in areas with rich, damp soil such as beside rivers and in moist woodland, National Trust for Scotland has some of the best places to see snowdrops.
As one of the earliest flowering plants, snowdrops are a wonderful sign that the winter months are coming to an end. They can be found in deciduous woodland, meadows and near rivers, making National Trust for Scotland properties some of the best places to catch a glimpse of the so-called ‘flower of hope’.
Taking its name from ‘galanthus’ (milk white flower) and ‘nivalis’ (snow), the snowdrop (also known by its scientific name of ‘Galanthus nivalis’) flowers from January to March. Often described as symbolising hope and purity, the flower appears frequently in myth and legend: from the pagan Roman festival of purification ‘Lupercalia’ to the religious feast of ‘Candlemas’.
Despite being a familiar sight in the Scottish landscape, the flower is not native to the UK but after being planted as an ornamental it has naturalised across the country, and today one of the most spectacular places to see it is located within the woods at Fyvie Castle, which is a carpet of white at this time of year.
*Please note Fyvie Castle and tea room will still be closed for the season, but the gardens and grounds are fully open.
6. Pollok House, Glasgow
The historic Pollok House might be most famous for its grand stately home, but its attractive spring setting is just as captivating with its mature woodlands singing vibrant colours during the spring months.
Already this year, the black-form blossom trees are at full bloom, boasting a cream blanket across the area.
Prepare to be transported into a fairytale of your own, with the sound of the leaves beneath your feet as sun rays beam through the gaps in the trees. You don’t need to stay in the gardens to enjoy the golden light of autumn though, you can enjoy a walk along the riverside to feed the swans and their latest off-spring.