For much of the UK, November represents the height of autumn. The stag rut is in full flow, forests sing with seasonal colour, rivers flow with vigour and fires burn in cosy country pubs. It's also a month of mystery; a time when strange creatures – witches, monsters and fairy folk – haunt our woodlands, coasts and hills.

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We’ve come across some spectacular landscapes, wildlife highlights and rural stories while putting together our November issue of BBC Countryfile Magazine, from magical ruins and leaping salmon to the gilded woodlands of Perthshire.

So, without further ado, here are a few November highlights from the British countryside.

Toadstool heaven

Mushrooms reflected in water
Fly agaric mushrooms./Credit: Mike Hudson/Getty Images. Getty

Of fairy-tale fame, the poisonous fly agaric grows in woodland among birch, pine and spruce. It was traditionally used as an insecticide, to attract and kill flies, which is how it got its name.


Mountain hares

Two white mountain hares box on snow covered slope
Mountain hares boxing in the snow-covered Cairngorms mountains./Credit: Christophe Ruisz

Native to Scotland and introduced to several spots in northern England, mountain hares reside most commonly on upland heathland. They are a little larger than rabbits with a white winter coat that helps conceal them from predators.

Look for these hilltop dwellers in autumn, along with many more upland animals.


Leaping salmon

Atlantic salmon leaping
Atlantic Salmon taking on ferocious white water to return to their spawning grounds/Credit: Getty

November marks the start of the salmon run up both the Derwent and Rye rivers. The weirs at Howsham, Kirkham, Nunnington and Duncombe Park offer your best chance of seeing them leap as they swim upstream to spawn (above). Otters love salmon and a good population thrives on both rivers – best seen very early in the morning.

Bats are still on the wing on warm evenings in late October/early November. Try Ryedale Windypits, Nunnington Bridge or the old, hollow oak and chestnut trees of Castle Howard for sightings.

Autumn is the time for fungi, with mushrooms and toadstools sprouting up in woodlands, especially those with ancient trees, such as Duncombe Park. Late November sees the arrival of winter wildfowl to Castle Howard Great Lake and Newburgh Priory Lake.


Autumn lakes

Tarn Hows in autumn
A view across Tarn Hows in the English Lake District in autumn, with the sky reflected in the tarn. /Credit: Rory McDonald/Getty Images.

A moment of golden tranquility at one of the Lake District’s most visited sites. Tarn Hows is a small lake tucked in the hills just north of Coniston Water and is associated with Beatrix Potter, who lived nearby and walked the lake shores and surrounding hills for inspiration. Tarn Hows is also called The Tarns as it was once three separate bodies of water. There is a gentle but beautiful walk around it – it’s best to go early to avoid the crowds that are drawn here in homage to Potter.


Autumn hills

Sunbeams down onto mossy mountains
Part of the Cambrian Mountain range at Llyn Brianne, a man made reservoir in Mid Wales, UK. /Credit: Lieghcol/iStock/Gerry Images Plus

Britain’s landscape is covered with spectacular hills, from the Cambrians in Wales and the Chilterns in southern England, to Northern Ireland’s Mournes and Scotland’s Southern Uplands.

One of the best ways to explore this bounty of ridges, knolls and uplands in on foot. There are thousands of paths to choose from – here are a few our our favourites.


Coastal castles

Castle on the coast
Dunnottar Castle on an Aberdeenshire headland. /Credit: 2630ben/Getty

Perched high on a rocky peninsula, with sheer cliffs rising up from the crashing North Sea on all its sides but one, Dunnottar is perhaps the most dramatically located castle in the entire British Isles. A small wooden church – one of the first Christian buildings in all of Pictland – was built at Dunnottar during the 5th century AD by the missionary St Ninan. By the 9th century, King Donald II ruled here from a small fort, until Vikings killed him and razed the buildings to the ground.


Autumn monuments

Stirling, Scotland
The Wallace Monument, Scotland. /Credit: Drew Buckley

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a still from The Lord of the Rings film set: the Wallace Monument rising in low autumn light from the volcanic outcrop of Abbey Craig just north of Stirling. Built in the 1860s in Victorian Gothic style, it commemorates William Wallace’s victory over the English at Stirling Bridge in 1297. From Abbey Craig, Wallace was able to watch his enemies slowly cross the bridge, and so was able to time his attack when “as many of the enemy had come over as they believed [they] could overcome”. Some 5,000 English troops were trapped and slaughtered.


Deer ruts

Deer in autumn
A large red deer stag one early misty morning. /Credit: MarkBridger/Getty
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Autumn woods, fells and heaths reverberate to the bellows of red deer stags. Bedecked with a full set of antlers, the male deer calls out his battle cry – a disconcerting primal groan – staking a claim on a harem of females (hinds) and defying rivals to challenge him to mating rights. He will hope that this is enough to dissuade other stags from a physical confrontation.

Authors

Daniel Graham of COuntryfile magazine on a hike with wet hair and blue coat and hills in background
Daniel GrahamOutdoors editor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

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.

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