With the clocks set to go back this Sunday, it’s time to make the most of autumn’s fading golden glow and dipping hours of sunshine. From stunning national parks to the genteel refinement of a National Trust garden, spooky ghost tours to impressive firework displays – there’s plenty of family friendly fun to be had across the UK. Read our snapshot guide by Anna Savva to find out where to go and when…
An autumnal day on Loch Lomond © Robert Brown
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Scotland
Located only 30 miles north of Glasgow, where the lowlands meets the highlands of Scotland, sits Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. At 24 miles long and with 22 islands to explore, Loch Lomond is the largest body of freshwater in the UK – it’s also surrounded by rolling glens of purple heather at this time of year, so you won’t be short of amazing views.
Taking inspiration from the Norwegians, this park features a number of scenic viewpoints near to the main routes throughout the park. Young, talented architects competed to design the installations, four of whom were selected to form the pilot of what will become a national network across Scotland.
The best place for lovely autumn hues on the loch is Inchcailloch, which is easily accessed from nearby Balmaha by an old mail boat. As you cross the loch you might be lucky enough to see deer swim between the islands, or catch a glimpse of the area’s mythical white stag.
When you reach the top of the island you will realise you’re standing on a perfectly straight line of peaks that cross the loch to form the highland boundary fault – with one foot in the lowlands and one in the highlands.
Benmore Botanic Gardens, Argyll and Bute, Scotland © kloniwotski
Benmore Botanic Gardens
Benmore Botanic Gardens, in nearby Argyll & Bute, is run by horticultural experts at Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden. With its giant Sierra redwood trees and exotic Victorian plantation schemes, this luscious mountainside garden is one of the finest in the British Isles, and in autumn the azaleas and witch hazels blaze with vibrant colour against the evergreens.
Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland
Covering 680 square miles of the central Pennies hills in the north of England, the Yorkshire Dales National Park has some of the most tranquil views in the country. With its diverse range of flora and fauna, its nature reserve is internationally renowned as a haven for endangered wildlife species.
The park has superb facilities for public access with an extensive network of footpaths, tracks and bridleways. Whether you’re keen on long distance walks or guided tours, there are excellent guides covering the different options available.
The park’s distinctive stepped profile landscape is separated by expansive moorland. For a visual feast this autumn, key sightseeing points include the spectacular Hardraw Force falls with its impressive 90ft uninterrupted drop.
Ribblehead Viaduct, North Yorkshire © chantrybee
For breath-taking views of the Three Peaks, stop off to see the Grade II listed Ribblehead Viaduct. Built by Midlands Railway in 1874, it comprises 24 arches stretching some 100ft in the air. The contrast of this iconic industrial Victorian structure set against the red umber landscape makes for the perfect photo opportunity.
While you’re there, check out the small village station, which has been beautifully restored and turned into a museum.
Castle Howard, York © Allan Harris
The historical Castle Howard in nearby York is Yorkshire’s finest house and gardens. Set in Howardian hills, it spans 1,000 acres of unspoilt woodland and parkland, making it a great place to see in the best of the season’s changes. Family friendly highlights include historic guided walks, an adventure playground for children and an 18t–century walled garden, housing a well-stocked garden centre as well as a café.
Brimming with architectural and horticultural points of interest, this is one of the UK’s top big house attractions, straight from the ‘Downton Abbey’ era.
New Forest ponies at Brock © Hec Tate
Situated between the counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset, The New Forest National Park is one of the most accessible nature sites in the country and incorporates some of the most ancient woodland in Europe.
As in Scotland, during the autumn the heather blossoms, turning vast tracts of land a beautiful russet purple.
The park includes a patchwork landscape of rare lowland heath, with open pasture, mudflats, salt marshes and a couple of historical village. Wild roaming ponies are on hand to protect the precious heathland habitat – they help by keeping new birch and pine tree saplings from growing and overtaking the heath.
Key family friendly activities include horse riding, walking tours, and bike trips. And why not spend a crisp autumn afternoon meandering through the ancient woodland before sampling some cider in one of the parks cosy tucked away pubs?
The New Forest Walking Festival runs from the 18th of October to the 2nd of November and has a diverse range of themed walking tours on offer. Whether you love wildlife, foraging, history, or gentle strolls, there’s something for everyone.
Stourhead, Wiltshire © mendhak
So spectacular is Stourhead in nearby Wiltshire, it was once described as a ‘living work of art’. Founded in 1740, this estate is rich in wildlife, ancient wood and farmland. Famous for the tumbling splendour of its acer and tulip trees in autumn, the estate puts on annual autumnal events, with special themed culinary treats in its restaurant – and don’t miss the daily autumn colour gardens tours.
Hit the seaside
For those looking for a bracing autumn day out, why not blow away the cobwebs with some fresh sea air and tackle the UK’s stunning coastline. Here are our top 3 coastal walks…
Salcombe, Devon © Jason Ballard
With one of the most diverse and beautiful coastlines in the UK, Devon is the perfect place to visit now that the summer crowds have left town. For some spectacular views, visit the estuary at Salcombe, where there are numerous enjoyable National Trust walking routes mapped out towards Prawle Point.
Speke Hall, Liverpool
With its 8-mile stretch of cliffs, lakeland, woodland, sand dunes and coves, Stackpole offers unbeatable opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors. Its rugged windswept vistas are renowned for being some of the finest in the world.
Also, visit the wonderfully secluded Barafundle beach, which is only accessible via a cliff path walk from Stackpole Quay.
Autumn apples © Alice Popkorn
Dates for the diary
If all that fresh air and exploring makes you hungry, why not sample the local produce at one of many regional food and drink festivals taking place this autumn. Here’s a few to look out for…
Newbury Autumn Food Festival
What: A Halloween-themed food festival with over 50 food, drink and craft stalls
Where: Newbury, West Berkshire
When: Sat 1st to 2nd Nov 2014
Wild Boar Festival, Sussex
What: A celebration of game and other abundant culinary delights of the Sussex countryside
Where: Rye, East Sussex
When: 25 Oct – 2nd Nov 2014
Real Food Market, London
What: Independent food and drink producers selling sustainable seasonal produce
Where: London Southbank Centre Square
When: Runs weekly, Fri to Sun 2014
Clovelly Herring Festival, Devon
What: Fish-focused cookery demos, shanty songs, stalls and more, this popular festival held in support of traditional fishing methods
Where: Bideford, North Devon
When: Sun Nov 16th 2014
Pumpkin patch © Kam Abbott
It’s time to wrap up warm and embrace the chill in the air – and scare yourself silly! Head here for Halloween fun at its best…
What: Frights and scares abound in this immersive experience at Kentwall Hall Estate
When: October 20 to November 1st
More Info: www.scaresville.co.uk
Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens Fire Festival
What: Spectacular bonfire and fireworks display, includes a rock opera and fire jugglers
Where: Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, London
When: 31st Oct 2014
Nottingham Ghost Walk
What: Psychic ghost tour taking participants past Nottingham castle, through a graveyard and into local caves
When: Runs throughout the year
Mexican Day of The Dead Festival, London
What: Taster of the traditional Mexican festival honouring the dead. Includes exhibition pieces from contemporary artists, film screenings and children’s craft workshops
Where: Oxo Tower Wharf, London South Bank
When: 30th October to 2nd Nov