Autumn is often cited as people’s favourite time of year and the October half-term is always a welcome break before the build up to Christmas. Milder days give us a chance to explore nature in her seasonal splendour, whether kicking through lush carpets of leaves or taking in the stunning autumnal hues through a lens.
Halloween is looming, so there are plenty of spooky and magical events on offer for all the family, with pumpkin picking for the younger ones. Older children may enjoy the thrill of the annual deer rut, or may want to try their hand at landscape photography at a shoot-worthy beauty spot. You’ll find plenty more ideas in our guide to how to make the most of the October half term.
Great family days out
Half-term Halloween hoot, Chatsworth House, Peak District
Little monsters can enjoy autumnal fun and Halloween horrors at Chatsworth House in the Peak District, Derbyshire. Meet the farmyard animals, join in with creepy crafts, get your face painted and, if you’re feeling brave, dare to ride the Halloween tractor trailer into Warlock Wood where your help will be needed to battle the ghastly ghouls.
Self-guided bat trail, Northumberland
Get half-term off to flying start with a Halloween fun self-led Bat Trail at Northumberlandia in Northumberland. Download their trail guide to help your wildlife explorers find bats hidden in the woodland and learn all about these amazing creatures along the way. Do allow time to treat your bat spotters to a snack – and yourself to a well-earned coffee – in the cafe at the end of the trail. Halloween costumes optional.
Wizards of Once Halloween Quest, English Heritage sites UK-wide
You’re guaranteed a magical day out when you explore the adventure trails inspired by Cressida Cowell’s bestselling ‘Wizards of Once’ series at various English Heritage sites. Will you find the ingredients for the Spell to get rid of Witches, and uncover the location of the Cup of Second Chances? Come along in frightful fancy dress for a chance to win a prize.
Apple harvest day at Wightwick Manor, West Midlands
Enjoy the fruits of the season at the Apple Harvest on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 October at the National Trust’s Wightwick Manor, West Midlands. Head to their historic orchards to discover heritage apple varieties, try some samples and learn how they grow twelve different apple varieties on one tree. You can purchase pre-picked apples for a donation while stocks last.
Allhallowtide at Barrington Court, Somerset
This beautiful Tudor manor house, cared for by the National Trust, is a historical treasure in itself, and at Allhallowtide the walled gardens, orchard and barns come into their own. Join the search for the hinky punks, the mysterious lights said to lure travellers from well-trodden paths. Or grab a wheelbarrow and help collect the harvest from over 100 different varieties of apples. It is said every orchard has its own Apple Tree Man, so be sure to pay your respects. Crafts in the cowshed include making fairy doors, and there’s live music from master luthiers Mitchell and Vincent on the 27 October, and storytelling on 23–25 and on Halloween itself.
Pick your own pumpkin, UK-wide
Get the children engaged with the harvest element of Halloween by taking them to choose and pick their own pumpkins. PYO sites are widespread throughout the UK at local farm centres, and a quick search will yield your nearest. At the Pumpkin Moon sites in Maidstone, Rainham and Faversham, you’ll find over 100 varieties of pumpkin, squash and gourd. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a warty and weird Halloween decoration or a delicious culinary delight. You’ll find food and drink stalls, ample parking and fancy dress is encouraged.
- History and traditions of Halloween in the UK and pumpkin recipes ideas
- Gothic days out for Halloween
- New nature podcast – listen to folktales and old stories on a Halloween walk in Dorset
Spooky walks and ghostly storytelling, English Heritage sites UK-wide
Get into the spirit of Halloween by joining ghost-hunting storytellers on family friendly walks through the grounds of various English Heritage sites. Prepare to be enraptured by well-told tales full of spooky and strange goings on suitable for children aged 5-12. This is an outdoor early evening tour lasting around 45 minutes so please wear suitable clothes and footwear.
Halloween happenings at Ormesbury Hall, Middlesbrough
For all-round All Hallows fun, visit the National Trust’s Ormesby Hall in Middlesbrough. Follow the Potions and Poisons trail through the house and into the garden before joining the cackling Ormesby witches to learn their special dance. Settle down by the fire in the Victorian kitchen to hear spooky stories and terrifying tales, and on All Hallow’s Eve, you’ll find an array of fun but frightful creatures and creepy crawlies at the Kirkleatham Owl Centre.
Free autumn activities for the whole family
Listen out for rutting deers
Red, sika and fallow deer begin rutting in October, when the stags fight over females by locking antlers or by rubbing them against trees. This is when you’ll hear the eerie bellowing of the males calling to the female does. The season usually lasts between 7 and 10 days but, if you’re lucky, you can catch this great wildlife spectacle at one of these deer spotting destinations. Just remember to stand well back, and keep dogs under control.
Take your teenagers outside with a real camera
How do you prise a young person away from a smartphone and out into daylight? Allowing them to play with your expensive (alright, your second most expensive) camera for a whole afternoon may incentivise them. Autumn has merits aplenty for the photographer. Thick clouds and grey skies soften the light and the grey allows the brightness of the reds, golds and russets the perfect frame. What better time to inspire the next generation of photographers by heading out with them into the countryside to be creative with some real gear?
With crashing waves and a chill in the air, the UK’s beaches are often beautifully moody in autumn. Take a flask of hot tea and your sturdiest wellies for a spot of beachcombing. Look for polished sea glass, driftwood, mermaid’s purses or unusual shells. You may even find the odd fossil.
Autumn crafts for rainy days
Make and fly a retro kite
Make the most of blustery weather by making and flying your own retro kite. You’ll need newspaper, sticks, glue and string. This could be a fun rainy day project and, when the sun appears, you can launch your kite and it will be extra satisfying when it takes flight.
Make conker creatures
If you’re looking for a less aggressive use for your conkers than bashing them into each other, try making these little animals. All you need is a bag of stick-on eyes, some matchsticks, a screwdriver (to make holes for the legs), some wood glue and a bit of patience. You may wish to soak the conkers in water first to soften them up before ‘drilling’ them with the screwdriver, but it’s not essential.
Alternatively, soak them in vinegar for two minutes, drill a hole all the way through, attach a string and get smashing.
Try leaf printing
Make the most of all the fallen leaves around and capture their beauty with a spot of leaf printing. Collect some of the most striking ones you can find and then cover one side of the leaf in your choice of paint before pressing onto paper or fabric. Place a sheet of paper or paper towel over the leaf, then run a roller or rolling pin over the leaf to bring out the finer details of the veins.