Britain's best autumn pub walks
Head into the British countryside this autumn for a seasonal ramble through golden forests and woodlands, before dropping into a country pub for a well-earned rest.
As autumn sweeps across the British countryside, our woods, moors and mountains transform. The vibrant greens of summer begin to mellow; the trees flush a hundred shades of orange, red, gold and yellow, and the hillsides bronze with fading bracken and heather.
Autumn is one of the best times of year to be out walking in the British countryside. It's also a wonderful season for dropping into a cosy, country pub, somewhere to rest weary feet, to refuel your body, and to warm up by a toasty fire. So, why not combine the two for the perfect autumn day out?
We've gathered some of our favourite walks in the UK for experiencing autumn colour, from rusty-hued riverside rambles to brilliant beech woods, each starting, ending or pausing midway at a traditional country inn.
16 perfect autumn pub walks
Teign Gorge, Devon
6.9km/4.3 miles | 2.5 hours | moderate
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.
Take an autumn walk from Castle Drogo to the Fingle Bridge Inn. The route passes through Piddledown Common and Fingle Wood, one of England’s largest woodland restoration projects.
Rydal and Grasmere, Cumbria
5.7 miles/9.25km | 3.5 hours | moderate
On 23 October 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal: “A breathless, grey day that leaves the golden woods of autumn quiet in their tranquillity, stately and beautiful in their decaying. The lake is a perfect mirror.”
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This six-mile circular tour around Grasmere and Rydal Water illustrates perfectly how her description of the autumnal landscape is just as evocative today as it was when she wrote it in her journal 215 years ago. The route starts and finishes at Rydal, home to the Badge Bar – the perfect reward after a day on the trail.
Padley Gorge, Derbyshire
2.3 miles/3.7km | 1.5 hours | moderate
The river Derwent arcs through the eastern Peak District in a wooded vale with looming moorland shoulders. Tributaries tumble from the tops, foaming amid wizened woodlands little-changed in centuries. Padley Gorge has the best of these, draining Burbage Moor to the Derwent at Grindleford.
An enchanting stroll explores this chasm, pausing midway along to route at the cosy Sir William Hotel., before looping up through woodland-shrouded industrial heritage.
Llanbedr Woods, Gwynedd
6.3 miles/10.2km | 4 hours | moderate
Now a Conservation Area, the oak woods hugging the hillsides above Afon Artro form a fine example of temperate forest that once covered most of Wales.
Pass through this ancient woodland teeming with wildlife in north-west Wales with this 6.5-miles walk, especially glorious in late summer and autumn when the woods are filled with colour and foraging creatures. For a well-deserved drink, head to The Victoria Inn in Llanbedr.
Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire
4.6 miles | 7.4km | 3 hours | easy–moderate
Take a walk through the historic Burnham Beeches National Nature Reserve – one of the best examples of ancient woodland in Britain.
Grizedale Forest, Cumbria
7.8 miles/12.6km | 4 hours | moderate
Rippling across the crags between Windermere and Coniston in the Lake District National Park, Grizedale Forest is 8,000 acres of mixed woodland laced with tracks and endowed with a renowned series of outdoor sculptures. Inaugurated in 1977, the sculptures dot the forest as unexpected, thought-provoking, inspiring creations, made by artists “in response to the landscape”.
Find these magical sculptures among the trees on this eight-walk through the hilly Lake District forest. The Eagles Head offers hungry walkers a chance to refuel before continuing on the trail.
Church Stretton, Shropshire
6.2 miles/10km | 4 hours | moderate-challenging
The town of Church Stretton in Shropshire began life as a Saxon settlement on a Roman Road, so it’s of venerable age. But the peaks crowding round it are truly ancient, created by volcanic lava and ashes about 566 million years ago when southern Britain was somewhere near the South Pole.
Peering into town from the east are the hills of Caradoc, Lawley and Ragleth, while the Long Mynd plateau looks in from the west, and the Roman Road (now the A49) and the railway occupy the fault line between them. Carved by melt-water from snowfields and retreating glaciers 20,000 years ago, these valleys are now strewn with footpaths up to the hills
Highmeadow Woods, Gloucestershire
3.7 miles/6km | 2 hours | easy
The Forest of Dean’s forested plateau spills into the Wye’s tortuous gorge via a string of scarps, wooded embayments and side-valleys turning amber and orange. Exploring deer-rich Highmeadow Inclosure, this serene countryside is best seen towards sunset, when the views to the Black Mountains are breathtaking.
Thread through the Forest of Dean's autumnal trees, stopping off half way at the White Horse Inn, before winding back on a woodland path.
Peel Crags and Sycamore Gap, Northumberland
2.5 miles/4.1km | 1.5 hours | moderate
What did the Romans ever do for us? Well, they built a very long wall, set among miles of lonely, surging hill country. And although they didn’t construct the Twice Brewed Inn, the pub is beautifully positioned just to the south of Hadrian’s Wall and is the ideal starting point for exploring one of its dreamiest sections.
This is a stirringly beautiful walk whatever time of year you visit. But in an ideal world you would walk this route on an early autumn evening, when the sun starts to dip and fill what feels like the whole of Northumberland with a burnished gold.
Monsal Dale, Derbyshire
4.5 miles | 2.5 hours | moderate
Ramble the high tracks and waterside paths of Monsal Dale in the Peak District National Park. The walk starts and finishes on the edge of Little Longstone where autumn walkers can refuel with drinks and food at one of two delightful pubs – the Monsal Head Hotel or the Packhorse Inn.
Birks of Aberfeldy, Perthshire
2.7 miles/4.3km | 1.5 hours | moderate
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.
Today, a 4.5 mile circular path allows you to follow in his footsteps and be equally inspired by this amazing place – experience this jaw-dropping gorge path, ending the walk at either The Fountain or the Black Watch.
Delamere Forest, Cheshire
6.2 miles/9.9km | 4 hours | moderate
Graded forest roads offer easy ways to explore the beautiful the mixed woodlands of Delamere Forest. Here and there your paths cross primeval meres – atmospheric relics of the Ice Age.
Experience striking autumn contrasts on this gentle walk in Cheshire's ancient green heart, stopping of for a half-way pint at The Carriers Inn.
Forge Valley Woods, North Yorkshire
3.9 miles/6.3km | 2.5 hours | easy-moderate
This beautiful nature reserve on the banks of the River Derwent in the North York Moors National Park was once home to iron smelting.
Today it's a peaceful spot, so go quietly and you may see an otter or kingfisher on your way to East Ayton, where there are two country pubs – the Denison Arms and Ye Olde Forge Valley Inn.
5 miles/8km | 3.5 hours | moderate-challenging
The venerable Wasdale Head Inn, hidden within the valleys and mountains of the Lake District, has housed some of Britain's best novelists and poets – find out what inspired these great writers with a five-mile walk.
The walks in the area encompass everything that a Lakeland explorer could hope to find but should be treated with the utmost respect in the icy months. A relatively straightforward but still glorious excursion can be had by climbing north-east to the waters of Styhead Tarn.
Norham Castle, Northumberland
Visit Norham Castle on the banks of the River Tweed and enjoy a historic woodland and riverside stroll through the village and surrounding countryside.
Finish at Norham itself, an attractive and peaceful village, with the Mason Arms a perfect spot for a post-walk meal or refreshment.
The great thing about this pub walk is that you don't need a map. Simply step out of the Bridge Inn pub door, cross the river on the old stone bridge and join the towpath.
The canal stretches east to west and offers miles and miles of trail. Autumn is a great season to visit, as the trees' rusty leaves cast rippled reflections on the surface of the canal.
Danny is the outdoors editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine, responsible for commissioning, editing and writing articles that offer ideas and inspiration for exploring the UK countryside.