As the nights draw in and the air turns nippy, the UK’s woodlands, arboretums and gardens set on fire with a tapestry of colour.
Burnished reds, pinks and golds blanket the countryside, presenting a new and exciting landscape for exploration. We’ve rounded up the best places around the country to experience this blaze of autumn colour. Put on a hat, scarf and wellies, pack a thermos and breath in the crisp autumn air. Or, if you’d rather, we’ve included a few drives that let you take in varied landscapes from the warmth of your car.
Brede High Woods, East Sussex
The site of Brede High Woods conceals a noisy industrial past, with a gunpowder works, several quarries and an arms production once rooted on the site. Nowadays they’re much more peaceful. But, in autumn, the birch, oak, hornbeam and sweet chestnuts explode with copper and gold.
Borrowdale Lake, Lake District
The most wooded vale in the Lake District, Borrowdale Lake is home to native oak that burn gold and copper in the autumn months. The remnants of an ancient woodland, these trees have European Special Areas of Conservation status. Take a lakeside stroll or climb to Castle Crag, which has sweeping views above the canopy.
Discover more great days out and things to do in autumn
Wicken Fen, Cambridge
Wildlife lovers flock to this ancient wetland reserve of Wicken Fen from September to see late dragonflies, migrant wildfowl and grazing ponies against a backdrop of golden reeds and auburn sedge. Stroll the boardwalk; hire bikes to explore the wider reserve; or take a boat trip on the ‘Mayfly’ along the waterways themselves.
There’s autumn and then there’s autumn at Westonbirt arboretum, 600 acres where 3000 species stand tall, including rare and exotic specimens from across the globe. Most famous are the scarlet and gold maples of Acer Glade. There’s also a family trail and bird viewing in the Old Arboretum.
National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire
The living, growing tribute at the National Memorial Arboretum is dedicated to those who serve or have served their country is home to 350 memorials and over 30,000 trees. Explore on foot to see Dawn Redwoods, cork oaks and black pines intertwined with statues and sculptures. Then hug a coffee surrounded by red oaks – the scarlet stars of this autumn show.
Kingston Lacey, Dorset
The National Trust estate at Kingston Lacey comes into its own autumn. Walk a tunnel of russet along Beech Avenue, explore 40 varieties of acer in the Japanese Garden, kick fallen leaves in the nursery wood and then take home a pumpkin from the kitchen garden shop. Look out for ruby red cattle too – even the cows want to get in on the act.
Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
This National Trust site has a varied autumn paintbox; with pastel hydrangea and hot pink fuchsia flowering in its walled garden while the trees in the informal woodland turn yellow and gold. But the jewel in Colby Woodland Garden's crown has to be the opportunity to see autumn colours with a sea view.
The best autumnal drives in the UK
New Forest National Park
Vibrant heather, mist-filled valleys and wild ponies make the New Forest national park feel mystical in autumn. Roads cut from heath to woodland where birch, oak and sweet-chestnuts burn red and gold. Step outside to hunt for unusual fungi or to spy the pigs released each Autumn to gobble acorns from the forest floor.
Sperrin Mountains, Northern Ireland
The heather-clad hills of the Emerald Isle burn auburn and lilac during autumn and its best to view them from atop the Sperrin Mountains. Brave rollercoaster roads and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views. Then hop out of the car to explore sets of stone circles (there are 90) or to picnic on Gortin Lake.
Loch Lomond, Scotland
The proximity of Scotland’s famous Loch to the wooded glens of the Trossachs National Park make this an autumn photographer’s dream. Drive up the western shore to snap burnt orange hills mirrored in the water below. If you want to stretch your legs the 1.5 mile Millennium Forest Trail offers splendid views.