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9 of the best autumn walks in the UK

Autumn is here and the British countryside is alive with a palette of rustic hues. Here’s our pick of the best UK walks for autumn colours, most of them short enough for a sunny autumnal afternoon...

Walking in autumn (Shutterstock)

1. Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire

Autumn leaves Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire (Shutterstock)

Autumn leaves Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire (Shutterstock)

The Ashridge Estate is a 5,000 acre National Trust property in the Chiltern Hills. With its beech and oak woodlands, commons and chalk downlands, it's the perfect place for an autumnal stroll. The trees here offer a truly stunning palette of autumnal colours.

With that in mind, Ashridge has a special Autumn Colour Trail, a route that leads you through the most spectacular woodland and parkland on the estate. Nearly six miles long and with a few hills to climb, the trail takes you to the most remote corners, where the colours are their most vibrant.

The final stretch of the trail is breathtaking, with the beech, oak and lime trees putting on a spectacular show. Take care, though. Autumn is rutting season and the resident muntjacs and fallow deer are particularly frisky.

2. Brownsea Island, Dorset

Red squirrel foraging on Brownsea Island (Shutterstock)

Red squirrel foraging on Brownsea Island (Shutterstock)

Autumn is a great time to visit Brownsea Island, just off the Dorset coast. The woodlands are a riot of autumn colour, fungi emerges from the forest floor and the island’s colony of red squirrels are busily scuttling around collection food for their winter stores. 

Grab a leaflet from the island’s visitor centre and follow the specially marked ‘Rich Reds of Brownsea’ walk. Designed to show off the island at its autumnal best, it will take you to coastal view points, through stands of sweet chestnuts, beeches, hazel trees and scarlet oaks from North America, to a lily pond where migrant redstarts and the local population of red squirrels are most active.

3. Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire

Gibson Mill in Hardcastle Crags (Shutterstock)

Gibson Mill in Hardcastle Crags (Shutterstock)

If it’s sweeping views of the Yorkshire Dales you’re after, dressed in their finest autumnal colours, this moderate three mile walk is for you.

Following rocky paths through woodlands and up hilltops, the Railway Trail at Hardcastle Crags serves up deep ravines, rushing streams and ancient mills, framed by deep, rustic autumn colours.

The walk is particularly popular with photographers. The woodlands of oak, beech and pine trees offer up the prettiest fall colours. Ancients stepping stones, arching footbridges and picturesque weirs offer plenty of great focal points, too.

4. Blickling Hall, Norfolk

Autumn reflection on the Bickling Estate (National Trust/Justin Minns)

Autumn reflection on the Bickling Estate (National Trust/Justin Minns)

For most of the year, the Bickling Estate’s magnificent Jacobean mansion is the star attraction, but come autumn, it is the estate’s magnificent Great Wood taking centre stage.

The mix of English oaks, groves of beech and ancient sweet chestnuts turn a variety of russet hues. A stand of small-leaved lime trees add to the melting pot of colour.

There is no specific, autumn-themed walk on the 4,500 acre estate. Instead, just follow the the estate walk, named after David Brady, the former Head Ranger who recently retired after 30 years of service.

It will lead you through the most spectacular parts of the estate and deposit you, near enough, to the local pub, the Buckinghamshire Arms, to end your walk with a seasonal ale.

5. Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey

A visitor admiring the deep red foliage at Winkworth Arboretum (Shutterstock)

A visitor admiring the deep red foliage at Winkworth Arboretum (Shutterstock)

If you’re looking for a lazy post-roast Sunday afternoon stroll where autumn's best reds, yellows and oranges are laid out before you, then you can’t beat the Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey.

The two-and-a-half mile Winkworth to Oakhurst walk here is a blaze of autumnal brightness, thanks to exotic stands of Japanese, American and Norwegian maples. 

The walk weaves its way through woodland to the top of Hydon's Ball. From here, you can gaze across the Surrey landscape, before continuing to the charming village of Hambledon.

Home to what is believed to be the oldest cricket club in England, dating back to 1750, the village is becoming more famous now for its vineyard and its well-regarded sparkling wines.

6. Nant Gwynant, Gwynedd

Nant Gwynant in autumn (Shutterstock)

Nant Gwynant in autumn (Shutterstock)

Starting from the Bethania car park, just off the A498, and finishing at Craflwyn Hall, this moderate four mile walk follows the famous Watkin Path along the lower slopes of Snowdon and the Nant Gwynant valley.

It takes you through a landscape rich in history, the preserve of a herd of feral goats and through wooden glades, under a canopy of orange leaves, and on to open fields, braided with rust-coloured bracken.

After exploring the ruins of Cwm Llan House, head towards Craflwyn, where you’ll pass through more flame-coloured glades to reach the end of the trail.

7. Emmetts Garden, Kent

Kent in autumn (Shutterstock)

Kent in autumn (Shutterstock)

The Weardale walk from Emmetts Garden in Kent is an easy five-mile circular walk through the woodland areas of Toys Hill and Hosey Common.

It’s a pleasant way to spend a sunny autumn afternoon, with the added bonus of passing Chartwell, Winston Churchill’s old digs. Indeed, as you pass Chart Lane, early on in your walk, you may be tempted to follow the great man’s lead and stop at the Fox and Hounds for a quick pint.

Resist the temptation – it’s a circular walk, so you’ll pass by the pub again at the end of your walk – and continue on to Toys Hill and Hosey Common, where the best of the autumn colours are to be found.

8. Gibside, near Newcastle Upon Tyne

Autumn foliage at Gibside (Shutterstock)

Autumn foliage at Gibside (Shutterstock)

The Gibside Skyline walk is a challenging four-and-a-half mile walk in the north-east of England. It should take between four and seven hours, depending on your fitness level.

Starting in the Gibside Estate, it will take you out of the Derwent Valley, following a circular skyline walk. During autumn, you get the surreal effect of watching the colour change on the trees below as you follow the path and rise above them.

As well as views of spectacular fall colours across the valley, your hard work will be rewarded with wonderful wildlife encounters. Gibside is home red kites, roe deer and many other rare animals and they are all active at this time of the year.

Make sure to drop by the Gibside Pub afterwards and reward yourself with a pizza. Money from each slice goes to help preserving this special part of the world.

9. Teign Gorge, Devon

The Teign River in autumn (Shutterstock)

The Teign River in autumn (Shutterstock)

The Teign Gorge walk is the most famous walk on our list. It takes you through a gorgeous valley on the northern fringes of Dartmoor National Park.

It starts at Drogo Castle, the last to be built in England, and follows a waterway under the gnarled branches of crooked oaks and beeches. You'll go on to an ancient woodland, that has been slowly brought back to life after centuries of logging, with careful management.

There’s is no doubt that the gorge is at its best in autumn. The woods glow with orange and brown hues and an ethereal mist hangs over the valleys. Sharp Tor offers the best moorland views.

Drogo Weir, with its suspension bridge and stands of beech, larch, oak, horse chestnut and birch trees, is also the place to shoot your perfect autumnal Instagram pic.

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