Winning tip: The Falls of Clyde, South Lanarkshire
Follow in the footsteps of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Turner to enjoy the power and romanticism of the Falls of Clyde. Spectacular at any time of year, this walk reaches its golden, amber and feuille morte peak in the autumn months, especially after heavy rain. About 30 miles south-east of Glasgow, it’s home to badgers, otters and kingfishers on a trail that begins at the Unesco world heritage site of New Lanark (drop in to the visitor centre to find out all about the millowner and philanthropist Robert Owen) and leads to the 26-metre waterfall Cora Linn. You can have coffee at the Mill Café or stay at the New Lanark Hotel. A sepia and russet dream.
Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor
Wistman’s Wood is interesting at any time of year – but especially so around dusk on Halloween, when it’s not hard to imagine the Hound of the Baskervilles might be on the loose. It is an ancient forest where time seems to have stood still. Walk around, over and under lichen-covered gnarled tree boughs and huge granite rocks at the 170-hectare national nature reserve, which also has fantastic upland heath and moorland birds –
Kinver Edge, Worcestershire/Staffordshire
Kinver Edge, a National Trust site in south Staffordshire that extends over the Worcestershire border, is particularly stunning in the autumn. A remnant of the Mercian forest, this sandstone ridge is host to trees of all shapes and sizes, with fiery autumn colours in abundance. Follow the trails up to the top and you can see countryside for miles around. If you fancy a different walk, venture into the valley near Nanny’s Rock and see the old rock houses hidden in the trees – home to troglodytes until the 1960s.
Coffin trails, Lake District
For stunning autumn colours, a ghoulish twist and a dash of poetry, walk the coffin trail from Grasmere to Ambleside in Wordsworth’s Lake District. The walk is just under four miles and includes beautiful native woodland, lakes and two of the poet’s homes. Cumbria’s coffin trails were named for the corpses which had to be carried to the nearest consecrated ground. Large flat stones beside the path are where bearers stopped to take a break. En route, the Old School Room tea shop offers delicious homemade food and the bath buns at the Apple Pie cafe and takeaway would inspire anyone to poetry!
Hackfall Woods, Yorkshire Dales
Hackfall Woods in Nidderdale is a joy to explore. It was designed as a “wild romantic garden”, by 18th-century landowner and politician William Aislabie. A series of paths traverse the 47-hectare woods, with lovely ruined follies and grottos along the way. The colours in autumn are mesmerising … the view from the Ruin (the banqueting house) terrace feels like you are on top of a rainforest looking over a canopy of rich colours. Springs, cascades and an artificial waterfall operated by a pump make this a magical place.
The Hermitage, Perthshire
For the most beautiful autumn colours, enjoy a wonderful woodland walk around the Hermitage, Dunkeld. When the leaves turn, this magical area of Perthshire forestry is transformed into a wonderland where you will experience a breathtaking explosion of red and gold among the evergreen. The Douglas firs here are among the tallest trees in the UK. Keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels and watch salmon leaping up the dam as you enjoy the vibrant autumn scenery. Parking is £3. The picturesque village of Dunkeld, a five-minute drive away, is the perfect place to enjoy a post-walk coffee and cake.
Friston Forest, South Downs national park
Close to the coast at Newhaven in East Sussex, the River Cuckmere’s wide meanders and water meadows are a fine sight. Looking up, you’ll see the faded green, yellow and orange leaves of Friston Forest’s beeches. This is a lovely place to walk at this time of year. The paths are covered in brown and gold leaves – particularly colourful in the dappled sunshine of a bright autumn day. With hills that aren’t too strenuous and Narnia-like avenues, it is wonderful. Beautiful sea views can be enjoyed nearby on top of the Seven Sisters cliffs and at Beachy Head. A reward afterwards is a visit to the the Tiger Inn in East Dean, where the sticky toffee pudding is beyond question.
Witton Woods, Norfolk
Witton Woods (also known as Bacton Woods to some) in north Norfolk has a great variety of trees – ancient sessile oak, ash, alder and chestnut and recent plantings of pine and wellingtonia – and patches of heather, broom and gorse, which make it lovely to visit in any season. It’s also great for a foraging session if you’re into spotting mushrooms in the autumn. There’s a bronze age burial mound and ancient pot-boiling site, too.
Allen Banks, North Pennines
Ten miles west of Hexham, in the North Pennines area of outstanding national beauty, is Allen Banks. From the car park the footpath follows the river to Planky Mill, a good spot for a picnic, and to one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in Northumberland. Bordered by oak, beech, and birch, the gorge is framed in autumn by reds and golds. Below the canopy, the River Allen, which flows into the South Tyne just to the north, sparkles in autumn sunlight and the berries of the Scots fir gleam. Although it’s not a difficult walk, stout shoes are advisable. Allen Banks is a National Trust property: it’s free to walk there but there is a fee for parking unless you are an NT member.
Thorncombe Woods, Dorset
There’s lovely autumn colour at Thorncombe Woods nature reserve next to Thomas Hardy’s cottage. The 26-hectare ancient woodland has an amazing range of mature trees, from majestic oaks to sweet chestnut, hazel and beech. The beech trees meld into a spectacular blaze of gold and copper in autumn. The woods, through which a well-preserved Roman road runs, eventually give way to Black Heath, which hosts Dartmoor ponies. There is a car park and also an independently run cafe.