Autumn may signal the end of summer days, but with it, Britain’s forests, arboretums, parks and gardens come ablaze with dazzling displays of colour. Peaking from late September and throughout October, visitors are greeted with the fiery reds, golden yellows and rich burgundies of turning leaves. Here are ten places to relax and enjoy Britain’s autumnal beauty at its best.
1. Westonbirt National Arboretum, Gloucestershire, south-west England
Carefully planted in the mid-19th century, Westonbirt National Arboretum is home to around 15,000 specimens from all over the globe. This peaceful oasis bursts with autumnal colours from late September to November, but October is arguably the best time to visit, when the Japanese maples are at their peak. There are 17 miles of paths across the 600-acre site, which is divided into three main areas: the Old Arboretum, the ancient woodland of Silk Wood, and the Downs grassland. To check what looks the best when, visit Westonbirt’s Facebook page for updates and event information.
2. Faskally Wood, Perthshire, Scotland
Perthshire is known as big tree country, with around 25 species of tree including Scots pine, silver birch, hazel, ash and oak. While it’s a beautiful place to visit year-round, Faskally Wood really delivers the goods when it comes to autumnal displays. Created as a ‘model forest’ in the 19th century, it’s full of beautiful specimens which are pointed out on the guided trail-blaze walk in October. As night falls, the wood transforms into the Enchanted Forest with a shimmering light and music show.
3. Lime Avenue at Marbury Country Park, Cheshire, north-west England
Instagram at the ready! Capture the blonde autumn tints of magnificently symmetrical Lime Avenue – a legacy of Marbury Country Park‘s former grand estate days. The park is in the heart of Northwich Community Woodlands, which is part of the Mersey Forest.
4. New Forest, Hampshire, southern England
New Forest National Park’s ancient woodlands cover more than 50 square miles. Discover mighty redwoods planted in the late 1850s, as well as alder, beech, sweet chestnut and other varieties. Take the tall trees trail under majestic conifers on Rhinefield Ornamental Drive – it’s one of the best places to experience the vivid array of autumnal hues, which arrive in time for New Forest Walking Festival in October. Don’t miss the huge 500 year-old Knightwood Oak on the Bolderwood Ornamental Drive near Lyndhurst, and look out for the park’s famous wild ponies, as well as pigs roaming the forest floor on the hunt for green acorns.
5. Richmond Park, London
Escape the city and soak up the rich colours of autumn with a walk or cycle around Richmond Park, when the leaves of the park’s ancient oak trees are tinted a deep orange. It’s a national nature reserve, the largest of London’s royal parks, and three times the size of New York’s Central Park. You’ll most likely enjoy some wildlife spotting among the autumn leaves – Richmond Park has been a deer park since 1637, and is populated with 630 freely-roaming red and fallow deer.
6. Bodnant Gardens, Colwyn Bay, Wales
Set in a stunning location overlooking Snowdonia’s Carneddau mountains, highlights of Bodnant’s woodland garden include striking sweet chestnut trees, a waterfall, and a deep valley framed by towering trees. October is the peak time to enjoy the season’s shades, celebrated on an autumn colour walk with Bodnant Garden’s resident expert.
7. Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest, Kent, south-east England
Visitors to Kent (known as ‘The Garden of England’) can discover one of world’s finest coniferous tree collections at Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest. Most of these species have been introduced from all over the world – on a walk through the forest you’ll find pines from California, Scotland and even Taiwan. During the autumn months, orange, red, purple and yellow leaves decorate the canopies and forest floor. If a footpath isn’t exciting enough, at Go Ape Bedgebury Forest adventurers can zip-line, balance and scramble their way through the tree tops instead.
8. Mount Stewart House, County Down, Northern Ireland
This stately home is framed by one of the National Trust’s most unusual gardens. The warm climate of the surrounding Strangford Lough (a large sea lake) supports exotic plants, which has led to parts of the landscaped gardens taking inspiration from the Mediterranean. In October, Mount Stewart’s guides take visitors on an autumn walk around the garden’s rusty hues.
9. Kew Gardens, London, England
Relax in London’s famous Kew Gardens – just 20 minutes from the city centre – where you can see some of the world’s rarest plants. There are guided autumn walks and tree identification sessions around the enormous 300-acre site, or take to the Treetop Walkway up in the canopy 18 metres above the woodland floor for great views across the gardens and the city beyond.
10. Stourhead, Wiltshire, south-west England
Stourhead’s world-famous 18th-century landscaped gardens – featuring classical temples, a lake, and a domed ‘grotto’ – were described as ‘a living work of art’ when they first opened in the 1740s. The original gardeners planted sycamore, oak, beech, and Spanish chestnut trees, followed by birch, horse chestnut and ash, added a generation later alongside more exotic trees and shrubs. The trees reflecting in the lake in all their golden glory is a sight to behold, and a highlight of the free autumn colour guided garden tours in October.