The nights are closing in, the leaves are turning fifty shades of gold and outdoor-addicts have started filling their thermos flasks with hot tea, ready to feel the crisp air hit their lungs as the sounds of twigs crunching underfoot fills the air. When it comes to layered-up autumn walks, there really is nowhere quite like the United Kingdom.
That’s partly because almost 15% of the UK is exploration-ready woodland and, with everything that’s going on in the world right now, leaf-peeping might be one of the few sure-fire ways to get outside, reconnect with nature and enjoy autumn in all its glory. The trick is knowing which patch of burnt-orange countryside near you is the best to explore.
In that spirit, it’s time to lace up your boots and load up your Roll Top backpack because here is the Stubble & Co guide to the UKs best autumn walks:
Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury
If you’re in the know, you’ll already be looking at your backpack and nodding. Otherwise, those near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, are about to discover the incredible scenes at the 600 acre National Arboretum. What makes it a must-visit, though, is the colours; the 2,500-plus native and exotic trees turning gold and red from the beginning of October to the end of November; colours that are unsurpassed in Britain. From paperbark maples to incense cedars to huge Scots pine; Westonbirt creates a botanical experience like no other, so grab some on-the-move snacks, fill your hip flask with warm apple cider and take your time as you wander around in total awe.
Allen Banks, Northumberland
For those that get to call the North East home, make sure you explore the double whammy of ancient woodlands and foliage views on your daily escape by following the winding trail that is Allen Banks Morralee Tarn walk. It’s a November adventure that everyone needs to do at least once in their life; when the beech and oak trees create an endless blanket of yellows, oranges, reds and browns as far as the eye can see; a sight that’s best enjoyed from the rickety rope bridge that droops low over the river to connect the woodlands on each side.
Borrowdale, Lake District
The wooded valley of Borrowdale is a hidden gem that feels a hundred miles from civilisation. That’s what makes it a total no-brainer for foliage hunters. Clinging to the rolling hills of Cumbria’s countryside, the thick forest of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and foliage is one to see at sunrise or sunset, when the entire valley turns a riot of reds and oranges and yellows and purples. You can see when you’re hiking the trails through it, but if you want to get the best view, fill your adventure bag with your usual equipment and climb the Castle Crag hill where you can take it all in from above.
Gower Peninsula, South Wales
For those in South Wales, there’s not a more iconic stretch of golden foliage than the one clinging to the Gower Peninsula; the first place in the United Kingdom to be named as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty -- and we can see why. For the most part, autumn strolls are about wandering in and out of ancient trees as they change colour, the forest floor covered in a rug of fallen leaves. But combine these colours with the sight of waves lapping against a deserted coastline and you may have just uncovered your new favourite autumn walk. And the best part is you’re spoiled for choice. There are over 20 beaches and 39 miles of hiking trails to explore, although our pick of the pack is the walk from Rhossili to Mewslade Bay. Pro tip: pack a towel.
Blickling Estate, Norfolk
Not too far from now, the chance to explore Norfolk for at least 48-hours will be possible again, but for now, those in Norfolk need to set aside an afternoon to just wander around the Blickling, an old estate with trees every shade of gold: oaks, beeches, limes and sweet chestnuts -- and there are tons of them. On arrival, you’ll be greeted by an extravagant red Jacobean mansion, but make your way around the back and you’ll discover over 4,600 acres of land, 500 of which are woodlands you can explore on the different trails, while the rest are made up of formal gardens, historic parklands and serene lakes from which you can take in all the colours of autumn.
Loch Lomond, Scottish Highlands
There are a thousand places in Britain that make another lockdown seem idyllic, and the Scottish Highlands is at the top of that list; a destination where the landscape is incredible and the prismatic flora is breathtaking. But if you’re looking for a local walk that will leave pinch marks up and down your arm, Loch Lomond in the autumn is truly something special. That’s why we recommend you head into the Trossachs National Park and let yourself get lost in the dramatic landscapes as you walk your walk; from relaxed loch-side strolls to hardcore mountain hikes. This stretch of Scotland has an autumn walk for everyone.
Brockenhurst, New Forest
The best leaf-viewing spots in the whole of the UK may well be found here, along any one of the walking trails that wind through the Brockenhurst forest. Explore the tall trees of Blackwater, take on the South Taste Trail, meandre down the Old Railway or make your way to the Rhinefield Ornamental Woodland. Whichever patch of the New Forest you’re able to venture into, you’re guaranteed to discover colours everywhere you stare; from fiery leaves above your head to purple heathers by your feet. If, however, you’re not good with choice, walk around the Wilverley Inclosure where you’ll find everything from ancient oak trees to silver birches and sky-scraping pines. It’s a kaleidoscope of autumnal scenes.
Wimbledon Common, London
London isn’t short of leaf-covered parks at this time of year, but if you want to explore somewhere with real autumn wow-power, you need to charge your camera and head to Wimbledon Common. Dripping red, yellow, gold and orange, this suburban wilderness is a must-explore for anyone into woodland walks or autumn scenes. But what sets it apart from the rest is the sheer size of it; a huge 460 hectares hiding in southwest London that’s packed to the edges with trees, ferns, shrubs and foliage. So turn on your exploration mode, tighten the straps on your new roll top bag and head here to wander around the open, wild and woodland spaces.
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