Best places in Britain to see the autumn colours

As the nights draw in it’s time to enjoy nature’s firework display. The annual spectacle of leaves turning rich reds, golds and mauves as trees prepare for winter can be enjoyed up and down the country. Here is our guide on the best places in Britain to see the autumn glow

30th August 2017
Westonbirt National Arboretum

See the autumn glow in native woodlands and hedgerows as well as in exotic arboreta and plantations, with our pick of places where you can catch this wonderful transition of the seasons.

12 great British woods with superb seasonal colour

Westonbirt National Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Home to more than 16,000 types of trees and shrubs over 600 acres of woodland, Westonbirt is a great place for a leisurely meander. Take in autumn’s natural firework display as the arboretum’s acers (Japanese maples) become ablaze with reds, oranges and yellows, while its delicate Chinese spindle treen turns a vibrate pretty pink.

(Main image: Getty)

Dove Crag in the Simonside Hills, Northumberland National Park

Dove Crag
Dove Crag in the Simonside Hills, Northumberland National Park, Credit: Roger Coulam/Getty

This autumn, take a walk through the beautiful oak woodland from Holystone to Dove Crag. Weave through the forest, rising to heather moorland scattered with stunning juniper and birch trees, which glow red and yellow against the heather. On a clear day you can see as far as the Northumberland coast.


Bodenham Arboretum, Worcestershire

This tranquil arboretum holds more than 3,000 species of trees from across the world. At its centre is a large pool with many rare and ornamental trees adorning its banks. Autumn brings a riot of leaf colour ranging from deep butter yellow through to orange, reds and crimsons as well as an abundance of berries. The many varieties of acer are particularly vivid.

Thorp Perrow Arboretum, North Yorkshire

Bodenham Arboretum
Bodenham Arboretum, Worcestershire is home to more than 3,000 species of tree/Credit: Getty

Thorp Perrow holds no less than five National Plant Collections – of ash, walnut, lime, laburnum and cotinus (which has leaves the colour of red wine in autumn). The arboretum also holds 51 Champion Trees (this national scheme records details of exceptionally large, historic, rare and remarkable trees growing in Britain and Ireland). This collection of exotics results in a stunning seasonal leaf display of golds, oranges, reds, browns and purples.

Knightwood Oak Trail, New Forest

New Forest
Beech Forest, New Forest, Hampshire/Credit: Getty

This stunning woodland offers up colours of red, orange and yellow in the autumn months, which look stunning against the backdrop of open heath and moorland. Hunt for the Queen of the Forest, the largest oak to grace the woodland with a girth of 7.4m (24ft), or visit the New Forest's deer sanctuary at Bolderwood

Cardinham Woods, Cornwall

Cardinham is a beautiful mixed woodland. Stroll along the banks of the river and enjoy the sight of the oak, alder, rowan and willow trees in a flurry of reds, yellows and golds. The Forestry Commission has developed a series of cycling trails including the 12km Bodmin Beast plus walking trails and a Gruffalo trail.

Arley Arboretum, Worcestershire/Shropshire

Arley is one of the oldest arboretums in Britain. Among its 300 species of trees is an old tower covered in creepers, which turn magnificent colours of red, yellow, orange and pink. There are few displays more stunning than acers (Japanese maples) in autumn, and Arley boasts a fine collection. They make beautiful focal points in the arboretum’s autumn display.

Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire

Explore this medieval hunting forest from the treetops/Credit: Getty

Salcey is a part of a former medieval hunting forest and today you can get a bird’s eye view of the colours of autumn from its Tree Top Way.

It rises to 15 metres above the woodland floor, with a higher crow’s nest platform at 20 metres. The structure offers stunning vistas across Salcey Forest and the adjoining woodlands of Yardley Chase. If you’ve no head for heights, there’s a series of walking trails to explore.

Castlewellan Arboretum, Northern Ireland

In a dramatic setting of mountains and sea, Castlewellan offers the chance to catch the vivid autumn glow from exotic trees and shrubs from as far afield as Japan, Chile, Australia and China. The arboretum also offers the possibility of catching sight of a red squirrel, pine marten or even an otter. There are also scenic walking trails, mountain bike trails and a forest park play area for 4 to 11 year olds called Animal Wood.

Grizedale Forest, Lake District

Grizedale Forest, Lake District/Credit: Getty

Grizedale Forest consists of ten square miles of natural woodland in the Lake District near Coniston Water. It is famous for the many sculptures by internationally renowned artists, using natural materials such as stone and wood, made in response to the forest landscape. These can be discovered on an extensive network of walking and cycling trials, offering spectacular trips deep into the forest as it turns deep shades of red and gold in autumn.

 Birks of Aberfeldy, Perthshire

There is perhaps no better place to walk in autumn than Perthshire in the Scottish Highlands. Dubbed Big Tree Country, it has wonderful seasonal foliage with beech, oak, rowan and birch trees aflame in spectacular shades of oranges, reds and yellows. A popular destination in Perthshire is the Birks of Aberfeldy, a gorgeous woodland split in two by the dramatic Moness Burn, set near the bustling and attractive town of Aberfeldy itself.

Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire

Travellers have been flocking to this riverbank in the Wye Valley for hundreds of years to admire the grace and beauty of the ruin of the 12th-century Tintern Abbey. The surrounding wooded slopes are particularly lovely in autumn, while close up, the ancient woodland, with gnarled trees and moss-covered boulders, looks like the setting for a Grimm fairytale. You can enjoy sensational views of the seasonal colour by climbing to a limestone outcrop high above the river.

Autumn riverside rambles

Scrunching leaves, vibrant views and the red-tinted golden hues of autumn make for some breathtaking places to visit on the nation’s beautiful waterways. Travelling by boat or on foot you can double your enjoyment by watching the watery reflections of trees as you follow the waterway to appreciate their seasonal splendour. With thanks from the Canal & River Trust, we’ve handpicked sites that provide great places to visit and experience the vibrant colours that are nature’s way of preparing for winter.

Here are 10 great places to enjoy seasonal colour on Britain's waterways

Travelling by boat or on foot you can double your enjoyment by watching the watery reflections of trees as you follow the waterway to appreciate their seasonal splendour. The Canal & River Trust has handpicked eight sites that provide great places to visit and experience the vibrant colours that are nature’s way of preparing for winter.

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Brecon, Wales

A popular attraction in the stunning Brecon Beacons National Park, this is a beautiful and peaceful waterway. The navigable section of the canal runs for 35 miles from Brecon to the Pontymoile basin and it’s a haven for wildlife and a favourite with nature-lovers, walkers and cyclists. Beech are one of the most spectacular species of tree for autumn colour and travelling west towards Brecon, a whole wooded bank of them provide a fiery backdrop to huge landscape views of the Usk Valley. From here it’s a short walk to the basin in Brecon where there’s a café for a cosy lunch.

Wander along the peaceful Kennet & Avon Canal, Avon cliff Aqueduct, Avoncliff, Wiltshire/Credit: Canal & River Trust

2. Kennet & Avon Canal, Wiltshire

The Avoncliff Aqueduct is a stately spot to view the beautiful autumn colours of the Bath Valley. There’s a handy, but tiny and picturesque, railway station at Avoncliff and a riverside pub, The Cross Guns The woodland here is a rich variety and includes oak, ash, sycamore, hazel and hawthorn. There are great views from the top of the 100m long Bath stone aqueduct taking the canal over the river. It’s a great spot to see bats flying at dusk to and from the tall arches of the aqueduct and wandering deer feeding on hedgerow leaves and berries.

3. Llangollen Canal, Denbighshire, North Wales

Follow the Llangollen Canal from Horseshoe Falls, above Llangollen through to Chirk, taking in the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The aqueduct’s soaring arches provide a beautiful picture perfect frame for the views beyond. Pass through the Vale of Llangollen, a beautiful valley with native woodlands all the way through, and then cross the Rivers Dee and Clywedog valleys – which provide spectacular displays when viewed from the aqueducts.

Llangollen Canal, Llangollen, Denbighshire, North Wales/Credit: Canal & River Trust

4. Grand Union Canal, Hertfordshire

Veteran trees provide bright patches of colour along the Grand Union Canal as it passes through formal pleasure garden at Cassiobury Park, Watford. The canal follows the River Gade along the western side of the park separating it from the ancient woodland of Whippendell Woods. Its oak, beech, silver birch and ash, with areas of hazel, hornbeam, holly, hawthorn and wild cherry, create a superb display of autumn colour.

5. Leeds & Liverpool Canal, North Yorkshire

As the mill towns drift into countryside follow the Leeds & Liverpool Canal as it snakes from Bingley towards Skipton. At Farnhill there’s a sheer wooded cutting that provides an impressive ravine to journey through. With the North Yorkshire moors in the distance, each side of this tiny wooded valley and Farnhill Wood provide displays of beech, oak, silver birch, sycamore interspersed with some evergreen holly bushes.

6. Pocklington Canal, Yorkshire

Pocklington Canal is one of the country’s best canals for nature and virtually the whole length falls within one of three Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It runs from Canal Head near Pocklington to the River Derwent in East Cottingwith. Its over-hanging trees give way to colourful woodland pockets and hedgerows. As you travel along its length you’ll be able to hear wildfowl on the nearby nature reserve and spot late autumn dragonflies from the towpath as you admire the changing leaves.

7. Trent & Mersey Canal, Staffordshire

Fradley Junction is the meeting place of the Trent & Mersey with the Coventry Canal. Fradley Pool Nature Reserve is surrounded by native trees and offers a circular walk or a wooded canal side walk. Tree sculptures are dotted among the falling leaves and there are pond dipping platforms. The Junction is home to a number of listed buildings including the Swan Inn, cottages, bridge locks and a small warehouse with original wharf buildings – now an information centre and café.

River Trent Nottingham
Stroll along the banks of the River Trent in Nottingham/Credit: Canal & River Trust

8. River Trent, Nottingham

Enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the beautiful rural location of Stoke Lock and Woods. Planted by returning sailors and soldiers after the First World War, the trees were used to protect barges from the wind; now it is an excellent site for walkers and nature lovers. Stoke Woods, a combination of ash, hazel, beech and grey poplar, is full of wildlife.

9. Craigvinean Forest, Perthshire

Spot red squirrels and leaping salmon on an autumn walk in one of Scotland’s oldest managed plantations at Craigvinean Forest, where paths follow the River Braan; look out for salmon leaping up the white water to spawn and a moss-encrusted stone bridge spanning deep pools of swirling black water. Created by the 3rd Duke of Atholl in the 18th century, the woodland boasts a rich mix of beech, larch and Scots pine and is home to some of the tallest trees in Britain.

10. Glenariff Forest, County Down

Delight in the seasonal fireworks of ash, oak, beech and hazel that light up this wooded glen – and discover dramatic falls and pools. Glenariff Forest Park is set in Glenariff Glen, considered to be the most stunning of all nine of the Antrim glens. Its 1,185 hectares include two beautiful rivers, the Glenariff and Inver and a couple of truly impressive waterfalls amid the trees.


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