Britain’s best autumn walks

The arrival of autumn brings a palette of colour to the British countryside – experience these spectacular seasonal hues on foot with our pick of the best autumn walks in the UK

Beautiful Scottish riverside footpath in autumn

Autumn in Britain sees a wash of breathtaking seasonal colours spread across the countryside. So why not make the most of it and get outside?

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From bracing hikes over windswept moorlands to gentle woodland strolls, perfect for families, our guide to Britain’s best autumn walks has something for everyone.

Family on an autumn walk in woodland
Make the most of autumn with one of our favourite seasonal rambles
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Here is our guide to the best autumn hikes in Britain, from wooded valleys and forested hills to gentle riverside strolls.


England

Allen Banks, Northumberland

3.5 miles/5.6km | 2.5 hours | moderate 

Allen Banks, Northumberland
Take an autumn wander through a deep-cut river gorge, cascading with wooded slopes, bubbling rivers and busy wildlife
Alamy

This hidden corner of Northumberland presents a real lost-world feel. Where the River Allen has cut a precipitous gorge on its winding course to join the River Tyne, that sense is reinforced. Forests of beech and oak cascade down the steep-sided valley, the largest area of ancient woodland in Northumberland.

October is the best time to visit as autumn takes hold and the trees present a final flourish of colour before their leaves fall to the woodland floor. Allen Banks is also home to some spectacular fungi, including puffballs, sulphur tufts and fairy inkcaps, adding to the allure of an autumn wander.

Allen Banks walking route and map


Savernake Forest, Wiltshire

5.9 miles/9.5km | 3-4 hours | easy-moderate

White Road Oak, Savernake Forest
Savernake Forest contains thousands of veteran oaks, offering the opportunity to stumble upon a remarkable tree around every corner
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Afew miles south of the historic town of Marlborough lies a sprawling 2,750-acre forest, once a popular hunting area where royalty chased stags past trees that still stand today.

Savernake is now in private ownership (but open to the public and managed by the Forestry Commission) and is believed to hold the highest concentration of veteran trees in Europe. Several of these specimens have been bestowed with names that reflect their age and history, including the imposing Big Belly Oak, one of the oldest oak trees in Britain.

Savernake Forest walking route and map


Rhinefield Forest, Hampshire

3.2 miles/5.1km | 2 hours | easy

Rhinefield Forest, New Forest
Take a sensory stroll past towering redwoods and monumental firs
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A pine-scented route that sweeps through the heart of the New Forest National Park, Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is home to some of the tallest trees in England.

Alongside the oak, ash and beech, non-native trees are an outstanding feature of the park. Lining the Drive are fifty-metre-tall redwoods and mighty Douglas firs that were planted by the Victorians in the 1850s.

Rhinefield walking route and map


Buttermere and Rannerdale Knotts, Cumbria

7.5 miles/12km | 5 hours | moderate–challenging

Lake Buttermere Lake District National Park Cumbria England
Lake Buttermere Lake District National Park Cumbria England
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Henry David Thoreau wrote of tramping eight or 10 miles to “keep an appointment with a beech tree, a yellow birch or an old acquaintance among the pines”. Here in the Lakes, visitors can do the same with a walk of about eight miles, first climbing to the crest of Rannerdale Knotts before returning via the iconic Buttermere Pines.

This autumn walk includes some of the Lake District’s most beautiful trees and forests, where myth and legend tangle with the Scots pines and the golden needles of larches.

Buttermere walking route and map


Tarr Steps, Somerset

7.1 miles/11.5km | 4.5 hours | moderate

Autumn colours along the River Barle at Tarr Steps, Somerset
Autumn colours along the River Barle at Tarr Steps, Somerset
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Tarr Steps is one of Exmoor’s true hidden treasures, especially in autumn – once you’ve discovered it, you’ll find yourself drawn back time and time.

Tucked away down a narrow lane five miles from Dulverton, the steps are an ancient clapper bridge – large flat slabs of stone placed on stone supports – across the River Barle, which dates back to around 1000 BC. Local legend says the five-tonne slabs were placed here by the Devil to win a bet with a local giant (apparently Old Nick still has sunbathing rights on its stones).

Tarr Steps walking route and map


Birchover, Derbyshire

Robin Hood's Stride, Harthill Moor, Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, England, UK
Robin Hood’s Stride sits on the hills above Birchover, Peak District National Park/Credit: Alamy
Surrounding the Peak District village of Birchover is a haunting landscape of gritstone bluffs, standing stones, burial mounds and Bronze-Age stone circles, hidden in inky woodland or exposed on windswept upland – discover some of the best on this prehistoric five-mile walk.

Birchover walking route and map


Cragside, Northumberland

2.7 miles/3.8km | 1.5 hours | easy

Tumbleton Lake
The route runs alongside Tumbleton Lake – on a still day, the reflections are magical
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Towering trees thick with colour, lakes and brooks criss-crossed by bridges, and a fantastical country mansion – enter the watery world of Cragside, an enchanting estate dreamt up by an ambitious inventor.

On this walk, look out for Douglas fir, western hemlock, giant sequoia – some towering above 50m – along with beech, Norway spruce, pedunculate oak, Norway maple, Scots pine, larch, common lime and silver birch, creating a majestic riot of autumn colour. It’s a true woodland wonder

Cragside walking route and map


Old man of Coniston, Cumbria

6.7 miles/10.6km | 5 hours | moderate–challenging

Old Man of Coniston Lake District
Coniston Water – the third largest waterbody in the Lake District – sits beneath The Old Man’s russet-coloured slopes on a sunny day in autumn
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The village of Coniston, an attractive little spot bisected by the bustling waters of a mountain stream, sits near the northern end of beautiful Coniston Water in Cumbria.

It is an area that was made famous for Victorian tourists by John Ruskin, who has a grandiose memorial in the churchyard. There are still memories of those days in the rebuilt elegant 19th-century steam yacht gondola that offers regular trips on the lake.

Old man of Coniston walking route and map


Teign Gorge, Devon

4.3miles/6.9km | 3 hours | moderate

The River Teign surrounded by autumnal foliage, near Fingle Bridge in Dartmoor National Park, Devon, England
The River Teign runs through Fingle Wood in northern Dartmoor
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The River Teign tumbles off windswept moors, swirling and carving through a spectacular gorge overhung with crooked oaks and beeches. The fresh autumn air invigorates the soul, while the peace is occasionally broken by the chilling bellows of a stag ready to rut.

Deep within this valley in the northern fringes of Dartmoor National Park, an ancient woodland is returning.

Teign Gorge walking route and map


Rivington Terraced Gardens, Lancashire

2.7 miles/4.3km | 1.5 hours | easy–moderate

Rivington Terraced Gardens, Lancashire ©Alamy
Autumn is a particularly rewarding time to visit the gardens, when deep carpets of fallen leaves line the paths and fungi flourish
Alamy

Like the remains of a lost civilisation, the ruins and follies of Lord Leverhulme’s terraced gardens add a real spirit of adventure and discovery to an autumn exploration of Rivington Wood.

In the early 20th century, soap baron Lord Leverhulme created a terraced garden of Japanese lakes, pagodas, archways, Romanesque bridges and an elaborate ballroom. By 1925 it was all abandoned and today is being reclaimed by nature. It’s a great place to spice up a walk with a game of ‘hide and seek’.

Rivington Terraced Gardens walking route and map


Stourhead, Wiltshire

5.5 miles/8.8km | 3 hours | moderate – route courtesy of the National Trust

Autumn colours across lake to building (Getty)
An autumn view across the lake to the Pantheon at Stourhead Gardens Getty

The 5-mile  King Alfred’s Tower walk (2 hours) takes you up through beautiful woodland to King Alfred’s Tower, a 160ft-high folly designed for Stourhead’s owner Henry Hoare II in 1772. There are truly spectacular views from the top, with the deep autumnal hues of red, russet and yellow from surrounding forest. It is not open to visitors every day, so make sure you check out the best times to visit.

King Alfred’s Tower walking route and map


Brownsea Island, Dorset

1 miles/1.6km | 30 mins | easy – route courtesy of the National Trust

Brownsea Ferns ©National Trust Images Chris Lacey
Brownsea Ferns turn russet in autumn National Trust Images Chris Lacey
National Trust Images

On Brownsea’s easy Lake and Heath Walk (1 mile/1.6 km, 40 mins) there are a whole range of bright hues to enjoy, from sweet chestnuts and beeches to hazel trees and scarlet oaks from North America. Even the local wildlife adds to the vibrant atmosphere, with migrant redstarts and the local population of red squirrels as the stars of the show. This easy walk will take you round the island to enjoy all the delights of the season, with sweeping coastal views thrown in for good measure. Combine your visit with a Poole Harbour Boat Cruise for one of the one of the best autumn and winter bird spectacles in the UK.

Brownsea walking route and map


Ashridge, Hertfordshire

5.9 miles/9.4km | 3 hours | moderate – route courtesy of the National Trust

Ashridge, Hertfordshire
Look out for resident muntjacs or fallow deer herds through the trees Getty

The Autumn Colour Trail (5.9 miles/9.4km, 3 hours) at Ashridge leads you through some of the most spectacular woodland and parkland at Ashridge. Every corner you turn or hill you climb will give you more breath-taking views of autumnal colour. The final stretch of the trail offers a stunning palette of colours provided by the beech, oak and lime trees, and if you have the time to climb the monument, the views are dazzling. Lucky wildlife spotters may catch a glimpse of the resident muntjacs or fallow deer herds through the trees. In autumn the fallow deer are particularly active as the bucks are busy trying to attract during the rut.

Ashridge walking route and map


Belton House, Lincolnshire

3.2 miles/5.1km | 1.5 hours | easy–moderate – route courtesy of the National Trust

Belton Park, Lincolnshire
The magical, misty mornings and crisp, clear days of autumn are an ideal time to enjoy Belton Park’s colours Rika Gordan

Autumn reds, yellows and golden browns can be found all over Belton, from the adventure playground and parkland to the tranquil views overlooking the boating lakes. The magical misty mornings and crisp, clear days of autumn are an ideal time to enjoy the wonderful succession of changing colours. As you explore the estate on Belton Park Walk (3.2 miles/5.1km, 1.5 hours) you can rustle your way through fallen leaves and enjoy the gorgeous golds and yellows of the lime trees along the cobbled drive. Closer to the house, rich ruby and russet creepers clad the honey-coloured walls of the West Courtyard, where the sharp but sweet aroma of ripening quinces lingers on the air.

Belton Park walking route and map 


Scotland

Glen Affric, Highland

11 miles/16.6km | 6-7 hours | moderate–challenging

Glen Affric, Highlands, Scotland
Enjoy an 11-mile hike around the shores of Glen Affric, the Highland’s most beautiful glen
Getty

Often hailed as the Highlands’ most beautiful glen, Glen Affric not only boasts shimmering lochs and rugged mountains, but it is also one of the largest remnants of the pine forest that used to cover much of Scotland. For centuries the flanks of the glen were blanketed with birch,rowan and magnificent Caledonian pines.

Much of the forest was felled during the Industrial Revolution, but in recent decades Glen Affric has been at the centre of a determined attempt to conserve and extend the remaining woodland.

Glen Affric walking route and map


Steall Falls and Glen Nevis, Highland

2 miles/3.2km | 1.5 hours | moderate

Steall Falls, Nevis Gorge, Scotland
An Steall – also known as Steal Falls or The White Spout – dominates the valley

Tapering south from the Highland town of Fort William, gorgeous Glen Nevis is bounded by several high, rugged mountains, including the huge bulk of Ben Nevis, which, at 1,344m (4,409ft) above sea level, is the highest point in the British Isles. Other iconic peaks include Sgurr a’ Mhaim and Stob Ban and the glen is a playground for mountaineers, mountain bikers and white-water rafters.

However, it is a low-level, two-mile walk through the dramatic Nevis Gorge that really packs a punch and provides an unforgettable aural and visual experience, especially in autumn.

Steall Falls walking route and map


Glenfinnan, Highland

10.6 miles/17.1km | 7 hours | challenging

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Highland, Scotland
Glenfinnan Viaduct is elevated 30m above the valley floor
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Seek refuge from the cold inside one of Scotland’s most majestic churches, then venture into the Highlands past the wizards’ railway to a lonely mountain pass. In autumn and winter, as day breaks from a cloudless night, the glen is particularly magical. Frost envelops everything: the pine trees, the mountain ridges, the church’s pitched roof. It dusts frozen puddles, crunches beneath feet and petrifies plants.

Glenfinnan walking route and map


Birks of Aberfeldy, Perthshire

2.7 miles/4.3km | 1.5-2 hours | moderate

Birks of Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland
‘Birks’ is the old Scots word for birch trees

When Robert Burns came to visit Aberfeldy in 1787, he was so impressed by the spectacular waterfalls and birch woods outside that he wrote a poem celebrating the area’s natural beauty. ‘Birks’ is the old Scots word for birch trees, and there are plenty of them around – glowing gold in autumn –as you follow the path along Moness Burn.

Birks of Aberfeldy walking route and map


Big Tree Country, Perthshire

Garry Bridge, Perthshire
The River Garry winding through stunning autumn woodland
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This signed walk leads through the National Trust for Scotland Linn of Tummel, originally part of Bonskeid Estate. The large Douglas firs and Sitka spruce date from around 1900, part of a great pine planting tradition in Perthshire, sparked by the Scottish Plant Hunters.

Big Tree Country walking route and map


Wales

Waterfall Country, Powys

2.5 miles/4km (5 miles/8km return) | 2 hours (4 hours return) | moderate

Waterfall Country, Vale of Neath, Wales
Autumn in Waterfall Country, Vale of Neath, Wales
Jake Graham

“I cannot call to mind a single valley that… comprises so much beautiful and picturesque scenery and so many interesting and special features.” With these words, Victorian naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was describing neither the Amazon nor the Far East that he explored on his intrepid travels, but somewhere much closer to home: the Vale of Neath on the southern slopes of the Brecon Beacons.

Spilling water, mossy riverbeds and tree-shrouded caverns – Waterfall Country is an autumn walker’s dream.

Waterfall Country walking route and map


Tŷ Hyll, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy

4.4 miles/7.1km | 2.5 hours | moderate

Ty Hyll (The Ugly House), Snowdonia
Ty Hyll in Snowdonia is also known as The Ugly House
Alamy

Tŷ Hyll, or ‘the Ugly House’, is named for its colossal, crudely cut yet lovely stones. It’s a place of uncertain origin – a brigand’s hide-out, duke’s folly, or maybe a tŷ unnos (a home built in a day to secure ownership of land). What is certain is that it’s now a cosy tearoom selling fresh-baked delights and very, very good tea. It’s also the starting point of a peaceful woodland walk, which offers seasonal delights whether you visit in spring, summer, autumn or winter.

Tŷ Hyll walking route and map


Coed y Brenin, Gwynedd

3.5 miles/5.6km | 2 hours |easy-moderate

Coed y Brenin waterfalls
A series of cascades run through the heart of Coed y Brenin
Getty

In Snowdonia’s rain-soaked forests, everything is clean and wet. Mist rises, trees transpire, moisture kisses your skin and wets your lips. Oxygen-rich air lifts your spirits and the sound of water fills your ears as it trickles down tracks, bubbles through moss, and crashes in creeks.

Coed y Brenin Forest Park is managed for timber and recreation, with well-marked mountain-bike, walking and running trails.

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Coed y Brenin walking route and map


Plas Power Woods, Wrexham

1.5 miles/2.4km | 1 hour | easy

Plas Power Woods, Wrexham
For a shorter yet equally rich circular walk, a 2km seasonal trail has been devised by the Woodland Trust in the very heart of the vale at Plas Power Woods
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The Vale of Clywedog wriggles defiantly through a part of the map that red lines and grey blocks dominate. And through it, the delightfully sylvan 9km Clywedog Trail follows the river to Wrexham via Minera Lead Mines, the corn mills at Kings Mill and Nant Mill, Bersham Ironworks, the Turkey Paper Mill and the William Emes-designed open parkland of Erddig Estate, where the trees are a true delight come autumn.

Plas Power walking route and map


Carn Pica, Powys

Look out for wild ponies on the ridge up to Carn Pica
Look out for wild ponies on the ridge up to Carn Pica
Daniel Graham

The Brecon Beacons National Park comprises many great peaks, each as worthy as the next – one of the most understated of all these is Carn Pica.

There’s no easy way to get to the summit of this mountain, which rises more than 750m above sea level. You can approach it from the long, sprawling mass of Bryn and the boggy uplands of Waun Rydd, or from the west and the Central Peaks of Pen y Fan and Cribyn. One of the quietest ways to reach the summit, however, is from the east and Talybont Reservoir. It’s a steep route to the top, but on an early autumn day the slopes are blanketed in pink heather, and views of the surrounding woodland add a tint of gold to the scene.

Carn Pica walking route and map


Northern Ireland

Tollymore Forest Park, County Down

Variable distances, from half-mile to six-mile trails

Tollymore Forest, Northern Ireland
The slopes around the Shimna River are home to a remarkable number of tree species, including oak, beech, ash, birch, larch, Sitka spruce, yew and willow.
Alamy

The River Shimna rises on the rutted slopes of the Mourne Mountains, gurgling over granite and heather before dropping into the shadowy depths of Tollymore Forest.

In autumn, burnt-orange beech leaves cling to ashen spurs, their increasing minimalism countered by majestic evergreens and low-lying reefs of mosses, liverworts and feathery ferns. The forest’s saturation and decay are palpable.

Tollymore Forest walking routes


Glenariff Nature Reserve, County Antrim

Boardwalks lead through the reserve from one waterfall to the next
In autumn and winter the rivers swell, accentuating their beauty
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The Rivers Glenariff and Inver have cut right through this spectacular steep-sided gorge – the Queen of the Glens.

These rivers can be lively and dramatic as they tumble over boulders and a series of three impressive waterfalls. But then they become suddenly calm and tranquil, flowing lazily through oak and beech woodland, sunlight streaming through the fresh new leaves.

Glenariff Nature Reserve walking routes