The UK comes alive with colour in the autumn and there are so many magical walks to choose from. As the temperatures cool, the leaves change colour from vibrant green to golden, orange and russet, the mists rise out of the valleys and the crisp blue skies welcome you outdoors, there’s no better time than to be digging out your walking boots, putting on your waterproofs and getting out there.
It’s been tough narrowing down our list of the best autumn walks in the UK – we could have given you 100 walks to choose from! But here’s our starter for ten to get you going.
The South West
1. Heddon Valley to Woody Bay Walk, North Devon
Famously enjoyed by the Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, the Heddon Valley is tucked into the West Exmoor coast.
During the autumn, its path towards Heddon’s Mouth is brimming with the full spectrum of Autumnal colours with its yellow gorse and golden and russet leaves. And there are a few routes you can choose from.
Higher up there’s the historic 19th Century carriageway, part of the South West Coast Path. The views across the coastal cliffs toward the Bristol Channel and into Wales are outstanding.
2. Chipping Campden Circular Walk, The Cotswolds
You’re spoilt for choice of walks in the Cotswolds, whatever the time of year, but if we were to pick one, it would be a circular walk starting at the historic village of Chipping Campden, which also marks the beginning of the Cotswolds Way.
Starting in Chipping Campden, head towards Hidcote where you can enjoy the beautiful American-inspired Hidcote Gardens and explore the Garden Rooms designed by Lawrence Johnston. From here you walk to the top of the Cotswolds with views all the way across to Birmingham. Finally, finish up your walk at Ebrington where you can enjoy a pint of local Yubby at the Ebrington Arms.
The South East
3. Weardale Walk, Emmetts Garden, Kent – Weardale walk
Weardale Walk is a satisfying circular joining Emmetts Garden and Chartwell (once home to Sir Winston Churchill) through wooded Toys Hill and Hosey Commons. The spectacular autumnal colours of Emmetts garden are a sight to behold, as are the exotic flora, from Acers and Katsura Toffa trees, along with more native species.
4. Birchover, Derbyshire
The Peak District is gorgeous in the autumn, and the village of Birchover is a dramatic landscape of standing stones, burial mounds, and Bronze-Age stone circles sitting among the dramatic, windswept high ground. The village itself, mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, is a beautiful collection of old cottages, most of which were built from the pink gritstone from the Stanton Moor quarries nearby.
The walks around Birchover are steeped in mythology: There’s the tale of the hermit of Cratcliffe Tor who was said to have led weary travellers to safety from the Portway trail. Then there are the Rowtor Rocks which demonstrate both prehistoric rock art and Victorian sculpture. There’s also Stanton Moor which is a hive of 4,000 years of historical activity.
If you’re looking for some refreshment, The Druid Inn is a great spot for food and real ales but is also home to its own legends, reputedly once the meeting place of the Druids who used Birchover for their ceremonial worship.
5. Dinas Island Spectacular Walk, Pembrokeshire
The Pembrokeshire coast is spectacular in the autumn. The slope towards the sea is a yellow, brown and russet carpet of fading bracken, with pops of pinks and purples coming from the blooming heather and yellow from the gorse flowers.
Dinas Island (a peninsula on the South West coast of Wales) makes for a gorgeous walk. Starting at Pwllgwaelod car park, your route takes you in a clockwise direction, past Fishguard Bay, Pen y Fan, Dinas Head, Cwm-yr-Eglwys and finally back to Pwllgwaelod.
6. Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire
The Yorkshire Dales are unique in the autumn. The rocky paths, dry stone walls, and meandering country lanes are even more adorable with a backdrop of autumnal colours and crisp blue skies.
The Hardcastle Crags walk in West Yorkshire is a lovely three-mile affair following the rocky paths through the woodlands, up hills, and along the Railway Trail with its ravines, streams and ancient mills.
The walk is particularly photogenic, with its commanding oak, beech and pine trees with their warm autumnal colours. There’s also a smattering of ancient stepping stones, footbridges and weirs which form delightful focal points for a panoramic photograph.
7. Allen Banks in Northumberland
The location at which the River Allen has cut a gorge on its way towards the River Tyne, is Allen Banks, a strangely mystical area of woodland, home to an abundance of flora, fauna and fungi, especially in the autumn.
Back in the early 19th Century, Allen Banks was owned by Susan Davidson who created the paths of this wilderness garden. It was her vision to create a garden of exotic plants, meandering routes and beautiful viewpoints overlooking the valley. During the autumn, this hidden gem in Northumberland bursts with vibrant colour, making it an extra special wonderland adventure.
8. The Old Man of Coniston, The Lake District
The Lake District is also well worth a visit any time of the year. In the autumn, however, the already attractive area around Coniston Water is more beautiful than ever.
The walk itself (although there are several routes to choose from) starts at Coniston village taking you in a zig-zag towards the summit across former slate mines and past Low Water Tarn. The summit is spectacular, with views across to Scafell, Blencathra and Kentmere and even, if you’re lucky on a clear autumn day, over to the Isle of Man.
9. Steall Falls & Glen Nevis, Scottish Highlands
Glen Nevis, south of the Highland town of Fort William is surrounded by rugged mountains, one of which being Ben Nevis at 1,344 metres (4,409 feet) above sea level, the highest point of the British Isles. It’s quite something, and somehow even more dramatic in the autumn.
The foreboding landscape might trick you into thinking this walk will be a challenge too far. But this is a moderate walk, only two miles along a relatively low-level footing. The Nevis Gorge is a feast for the sense, taking you from the Glen Nevis car park into the valley towards the quite magical Steal Falls.
To end your walk, either turn back and retrace your steps back to Glen Nevis or carry on along the wire bridge towards Steall Ruin, the 1700s-built shepherds’ hut.
10. Castle Trail, County Down
The Castle Trail in County Down is an 820-acre walled demesne taking you through gardens, woodland and parkland with stunning views across Strangford Lough.
The evergreen forests, piqued with russet beeches and golden larch are a sight worth seeing. As is the 18th Century country house – incidentally where parts of Game of Thrones were filmed – and the surrounding farm and courtyard.
The autumn is such a magical time in which to visit the UK, and even more so if you’re planning to do some walking. Whether it’s a brisk walk among the golden russet trees in a country estate, a circular walk and a pint in a Cotswolds pub, or a challenging scramble in the Lake District, the UK comes alive during the autumn months.