At the risk of sounding like we’ve turned into our parents, we not-so-secretly pine for an autumn walk, when there’s a chill in the air. The first frost on the floor and the natural world comes to life with a kaleidoscope of colours. Yellows, oranges, reds. It’s a leaf-peepers paradise -- and the National Trust looks after some of the most soul-stirring spots in the UK.
From middle-of-everywhere parks to edge-of-nowhere coasts to rolling patches of countryside, exploring autumn by foot can restore a sense of calm. The cool fresh air, the long landscapes, the rustle of crunchy leaves -- there’s a whole world of colour and peace no matter where you explore. But just in case, here are the ultimate National Trusts to explore this autumn.
When looking for unusual backdrops, there’s only one place to head: Cragside. Once famous for being the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, it’s the grounds that steal the show nowadays. Rocky crags, glistening lakes, sky-scraping conifers and great drifts of rhododendrons can all be explored as you amble up the winding hillside footpaths, into the sun-specked stretches of woodland and then through the scenic gorge walk, which takes you alongside trickling streams and incredible open meadows. Just make sure you’ve packed some sturdy hiking boots in your waterproof roll top backpack for this one. Ideal for capable walkers.
Anytime you head to Norfolk for 48-hours, make sure Blickling Hall has been bookmarked. Everything about this dreamy destination has a fairytale feel to it: the red-brick Jacobean mansion, the ancient yew hedges, the formal gardens and, above them all, the 500-acre woodlands. From oaks to beeches, limes to chestnuts, these trees are painted every shade of gold imaginable. But don’t just stroll under the branches and through the leaves -- rent a bike (or take your own) and explore the full 4,600 acres by following the twisting paths that wind in and out of the Great Wood, the centuries-old towers and the ancient tombs, all while taking in the deep colours of autumn. Ideal for beaten-path cyclists.
Brean Down has more than earned its reputation as one of the most scenic autumn walks on the South West coast, with clifftop forts, ragged rocks, and an endless blanket of flora and fauna that almost changes colour before your eyes. And yet the forget-me-not scenery of this 300ft high walk into the Bristol Channel is just one half of the adventure. The other lies in the intriguing stories that are whispered along this coast, from the prehistoric worship that was once prevalent to Second World War weapon testing. This is a headland walk well worth checking off come the autumn. Ideal for coastal-walkers.
Pack your waterproofs, fill your adventure bag and lace up your hiking boots because this 21,000-acre mountainous paradise is home to some semi-serious leg stretching.With dozens of tricky trails to explore and nine peaks that stretch up and over the 3,000ft mark, the chance to take in autumn’s colours in all their glory is reserved only for those confident of tackling tough terrain. But it’s worth it for the views, especially from the notorious Tryfan Peak, where you can fully appreciate the autumnal colours of the nature reserve below. Ideal for challenge-takers.
If you need any proof that the midlands can go head-to-head with any other part of the UK during autumn (or any time of year), set your SatNav to Derbyshire’s High Peak, one of the most postcard-perfect walks anywhere. Whether it’s a simple stroll to the Kinder Reservoir, a wet-weather wander through the ancient woodlands or an all-day meander across the rolling moorlands, there's a plethora of walks just waiting to be uncovered at the High Peak Estate -- and there’s no better time to see it with your own eyes than October, as everything that’s green turns to gold. Ideal for trail-hunters.
There’s a thousand reasons this place is one of the most visited National Trusts in all of Scotland, and they hit you all at once before you’ve even got close. Overlooking the majestic waters of Loch Shiel and surrounded by the highland hills, the towering Glenfinnan Monument is the jewel in the crown of this area. More than just a landmark, this monument marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie unfurled his banner and rallied the clans to his cause. Yet that’s only part of the reason to head here. The other is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, complete with steam-bellowing express, all of which can be seen as you walk through the red, gold and amber wilderness. Ideal for majestic scenery.
Cutting a jaw-dropping swathe through the west coast of Exmoor, Heddon Valley is one for the romantics, especially when the autumn colours set in. Winding its way down the valley, the path towards Woody Bay is surrounded by a vibrant coat of yellow gorse that’s so thick it actually paints the air with the scent of coconuts all the way down to where the waves hit the shore at Heddon's Mouth. Of course, you don’t have to follow the path down. Head higher and you’ll discover a maze of routes that leads you through the canopy of golds, including an overgrown carriageway dating back to the 19th Century and runs alongside some of the most dramatic cliffs you could ever imagine. The terrain can be challenging, but the views across the Bristol Channel and out to Wales are worth every grunt and groan. Ideal for a clifftop adventure.