Things to do in autumn
English countryside in all its glory...
900-year-old woodland ablaze with auburn and gold and teeming with wild ponies, autumn walks through an arboretum decked out with exotic trees, steam trains snaking through enchanting autumnal gardens… Here are ten reasons why autumn is the best time to take a holiday in England.
Nothing quite prepares you for the first time you experience the remote beauty of Northumberland, and in autumn, with the golden light that the changing of the season brings to the north, it feels even more enchanting. Ramble through the ancient woodlands and along the waterside of Allen Banks and Staward Gorge for example, and you’ll come across flittering grey wagtails and herons hunting for prey, alongside a mass of towering trees dressed in deep oranges and pale yellows. Keep an eye out too for elusive red squirrels nesting in the forks of tree trunks.
Getting there: Bardon Mill train station is 1.5 miles. NewcastleGateshead has the nearest major transport hubs, including Newcastle International Airport.
The bursts of colour from the Japanese maples, dogwoods and azaleas that you’ll hit you along the autumn walking trail come late September are pretty magical all by themselves, but add a steam-spouting locomotive into the mix too, and autumn at Exbury Gardens becomes even more spectacular. The compact railway gently chugs along a one and a quarter mile circular route lined with towering oaks and various themed gardens all bursting with mellow autumnal hues, and is one of the most unique ways to experience the changing of the seasons.
Getting there: Southampton and Brockenhurst are the nearest train stations. You will need to take a taxi (and a ferry from Southampton) to complete the journey. The nearest airport is Southampton, although Heathrow and Gatwick are within easy reach too.
Plant lovers, listen up. Some of England’s most magnificent trees are to be found in Westonbirt Aboretum decked out in their autumn finery over 600 acres of countryside. Just 40 minutes from Bath you’ll find a wooden wonderland with the rippling reds and fading greens of the maples and the hickories’ brisk yellows. It’s a top spot for an autumn walk, and the meandering assortment of trails and paths means you can explore at your leisure.
Getting there: Kemble train station is a 15 minute taxi ride. Bristol International Airport is under an hour’s drive.
If you weren’t looking, you might not have noticed the nearly 6,000 acres of ancient woodland tucked away around London’s eastern limits. Now we’ve told you, you’ve no excuses. Epping Forest is a hidden woodland world, fiery and bright with autumn colours at this time of year, and crisscrossed with trails for you to amble happily along. You’ll also find wandering cows grazing freely among the trees in scenes harking back to London’s farming past.
Getting there: Epping Forest is easily reachable by public transport from London. Chingford train station and the London Underground’s Central Line are also nearby.
Devoid of both cats and bells, Catbells is a peculiarly named Cumbrian peak, but a striking autumn walk nonetheless. It takes a little more effort than the average stroll, but is suitable for families and well worth that smidgen of extra energy. From just outside the hamlet of Little Town, in the Newlands Valley, it’s a gradual climb to the top where you’ll find some of the best views to Skiddaw directly across Derwent Water.
Getting there: Regular buses and boats go to Catbells. The nearest train station is Aspatria.
Feeling in need of inspiration? Well, John Keats’ famous poem To Autumn, was inspired by this walk, so it’s a route with some potency. Setting out from Winchester’s centre, you’ll pass by the gentle greens of the cathedral grounds and out into the Water Meadows, beside the River Itchen. Calm, relaxing and rich with a sense of heritage – not to mention poetry – you can’t help but feel an autumnal poignancy as you take in this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”.
Getting there: Winchester is just under an hour by train from London. Winchester is just 15 minutes by road or rail from Southampton Airport, 50 miles from London Heathrow and 72 miles from London Gatwick.
The Malvern Hills cover 4,500 acres. From their peaks, you can look down over the vibrant autumn landscapes of surrounding Worcestershire and Herefordshire. Worcestershire Beacon is the highest point in the county and offers striking views over the Cotswolds and the Severn Valley. Alternatively, ascend through the autumn countryside to visit the Herefordshire Beacon and its Iron Age fort, British Camp.
Getting there: The easiest way to explore the Malvern Hills is to drive to one of the conveniently placed car parks and walk. There is a train station in Great Malvern. The nearest airport is Birmingham International.
Come autumn this 900-year-old woodland – teeming with wandering ponies – becomes even more magical as a burst of warm autumnal colour takes hold. Weave between towering oaks, beech, ash and sweet chestnut clothed in warm amber and robust copper colours. Fairytale-like red and white fungi can also be spotted. Go on a fungi hunt with Hidden Britain where you’ll join fungi experts for a guided walk and introduction to the wonderful world of mushrooms, both edible and poisonous.
Getting there: Brockenhurst train station is 90 minutes from London. There are numerous local stations throughout the New Forest, as well as an integrated transport system. The nearest airport is Sounthampton.
Stourhead is a 2,650 acre National Trust estate, and home to some of the best 18th-century landscaped gardens in the world. In autumn its oaks and beeches are ablaze with reds, golds and yellows, and you can spend a whole day just exploring its classical follies, or relaxing by its elegant lake. Don’t forget to pop into the Palladian mansion itself, and venture into the ancient woodland that also forms part of the estate – you’ll see the contrast between this and the meticulously kept gardens.
Getting there: Gillingham train station is 6½ miles; Bruton 7 miles. Bristol International and Sounthampton airports are both nearby.
Get your camera ready. Autumn is one of the best times of year to see Cheddar Gorge, when the bright reds, oranges and yellows of the autumn leaves stand out boldly against the grey slabs of the rock itself. Our favourite place to see it is from the top of Jacob’s Ladder. We find this walk is made even better with a chunk or two of Cheddar to chomp on as you go.
Getting there: Trains run from London to Bristol Temple Meads train station in 1 hour 45 minutes. First bus 126 goes from Bristol Temple Meads to Cheddar.