At this time of year, there’s a palette of colours waiting to be discovered across breath-taking landscapes. Discover woodlands of golden leaves, glistening blue lakes, green flora and if you're lucky some red squirrels along the way.
With hundreds of walks available to download from the National Trust’s website, there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and connect with nature. From bracing hikes over windswept moorlands to gentle woodland walks, there are trails to suit all tastes.
Castle Drogo, Devon
Teign Gorge walk
This is perhaps the most famous walk on Dartmoor. From the imposing bulk of Castle Drogo – the last castle to be built in England – the route takes you through areas rich in history,
with incredible views and abundant wildlife. Built in the 13th century as part of a packhorse trail, Fingle Bridge is a popular focal point for budding photographers, while kids will love using it to play Pooh sticks in the river Teign. The return journey follows the river’s path through dense oak woodland, where the foliage turns to vibrant shades of yellow and orange. If you look up you might just catch a glimpse of the castle above the trees.
Find out more at National Trust.
Kingston Lacy, Dorset
Beech Avenue and Droves walk
This 3.8-mile walk takes you round the beautiful network of droves, along the stunning 1835 Beech Avenue and back along the outskirts of the Kingston Lacy parkland. The Avenue began life in 1835 when William John Bankes planted 731 trees along the side of the newly built road. The tree canopy now forms a beautiful tunnel of russet colour during the autumn months. The National Trust is now working to conserve this stunning visual landmark by replacing lost beeches with hornbeam trees, which also provide beautiful autumn colour, but are more suited to the British climate.
Brownsea Island, Dorset
Rich Reds of Brownsea walk
Brownsea’s unspoilt landscape provides a peaceful haven for visitors seeking a bit of autumn colour. From sweet chestnuts and beeches to hazel trees and scarlet oaks from North America, there are a whole range of bright hues to enjoy. Even the local wildlife adds to the vibrant atmosphere, with migrant redstarts and the local population of red squirrels as the stars of the show. This easy walk will take you around the island to enjoy all the delights of the season, with sweeping coastal views thrown in for good measure.
Heddon Valley, North Devon
Heddon Valley to Woody Bay walk
Nestled on the West Exmoor coast it’s easy to see why the Heddon Valley was a favourite with the Romantic poets. In autumn the path through the valley is full of vibrant yellow gorse, which scents the air with the smell of coconuts all the way down to the sea at Heddon’s Mouth. There are also plenty of walking routes higher up, including a historic 19th-century carriageway and part of the South West Coast Path, which run across some of England’s most dramatic coastal cliffs. Those prepared to brave the challenging terrain will be rewarded with stunning coastal views across the Bristol Channel to Wales.
King Alfred’s Tower walk
This 5-mile walk takes you up through beautiful woodlands to King Alfred’s Tower, a 160ft high folly designed for Stourhead’s owner Henry Hoare II in 1772. It is believed to mark the site where King Alfred the Great rallied his troops in 878. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the spectacular views across the lake in the landscape garden, with the deep autumnal hues of red, russet and yellow from the surrounding trees. Take your time to soak up all the features of this masterpiece, including the tranquil garden of the South Lawn, the shaded banks running down to the lake and the Grotto, which contains a statue of a sleeping nymph.
Before your visit, you can get a taster of Stourhead’s changing landscape with this autumn time-lapse video.
N.B. For visitors wanting to explore inside King Alfred’s Tower, it will be open at weekends only, 12-4pm throughout October.
London and South East
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
Winkworth to Oakhurst walk
During the autumn months, the splendour of Winkworth Arboretum really comes to life with rich, blazing colour from the Japanese, American and Norwegian maples. This 2.5-mile walk weaves its way through the woodland to the top of Hydon's Ball, where you can enjoy spectacular views across the Surrey landscape. From here the route carries on to the charming village of Hambledon where you will discover Oakhurst Cottage, a delightful 16th-century labourer's home which has remained largely unchanged for the past hundred years or more.
Visit National Trust for more information
Emmetts Garden, Kent
This beautiful circular walk links Emmetts Garden and Chartwell (formerly home to Winston Churchill), passing through the woodland areas of Toys Hill and Hosey Common. Emmetts garden has a beautiful display of autumn colour due to its variety of exotic trees and shrubs, all surrounded by acres of wild native woodland. Keep an eye out for the Acers and Katsura Toffa trees, and see if you can smell latter filling the air with a sweet toffee scent.
Devil’s Dyke, West Sussex
Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber walk
Only five miles north of Brighton, Devil’s Dyke is full of stunning vistas – including a panorama which the Romantic painter John Constable described as 'the grandest view in the world'. From a working farm nestled among rolling hills to the remains of Iron Age ramparts and old chalk pits, there is plenty to see in this downland landscape. A colourful habitat all year round, in September the hill-barrows at Newtimber become even more vibrant when the flowering devil’s bit scabious transforms the hillside into a haze of purple: the autumn equivalent of bluebells in a wood.
Autumn Colour Trail at Ashridge
This route leads you through some of the most spectacular woodland and parkland at Ashridge. Every corner you turn or hill you climb will give you more breath-taking views of autumnal colour. The final stretch of the trail offers a stunning palette of colours provided by the beech, oak and lime trees, and if you have the time to climb the monument, the views of autumn splendour are dazzling. Lucky wildlife spotters may catch a glimpse of the resident muntjacs or fallow deer herds through the trees. In autumn the fallow deer are particularly active as the bucks are busy trying to attract during the rut.
Find out more.
East of England
Blickling Hall, Norfolk
Blickling Estate walk
Currently called the Blickling Estate walk, this trail is being renamed in dedication to Head Ranger, David Brady who has just hung up his boots after 30 years with the National Trust and 26 years looking after Blickling’s 4,500-acre estate. The route passes through or beside several sections of woodland, providing ample opportunity to enjoy the autumn colour. The Great Wood is a particularly good spot to pause and take in your surroundings. The wood’s mix of English oaks, groves of beech and ancient sweet chestnuts, and small-leaved limes all combine to form a sea of vibrant russet hues. If you’re in need of refreshment after your walk then Blickling Hall has a café, or you can head to the National Trust-owned local pub – the Buckinghamshire Arms.
Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire
Wicken Fen Boardwalk trail
Wicken Fen may not have any woodland, but it’s still possible to see stunning autumn colour on a walk around the reserve. In September the sedge turns an amazing russet colour, which becomes golden in the evenings as the setting sun illuminates the leaves. During the Second World War Dig for Victory campaign, the war office turned the fen into arable land. Restoration of the area is now being carried out, and every visit you make to Wicken Fen helps the National Trust to care for the plants and wildlife that have made a home here.
Attingham Park, Shropshire
Autumn Light Walk
Explore the changing colours of the deer park with a walk taking in views over the open landscape to the river, and of the orange-gold trees that mark the start of the woodland. Kids will love crunching leaves underfoot or trying to catch them as they fall from the trees. Keen-eyed adventurers might also be able to spot some of the resident fallow deer herd camouflaged among the brown bracken and ferns.
Read more here.
Belton House, Lincolnshire
Belton Park Walk
Autumn reds, yellows and golden browns can be found all over Belton, from the adventure playground and parkland to the tranquil views overlooking the boating lakes. The magical misty mornings and crisp, clear days of autumn are an ideal time to enjoy the wonderful succession of changing colours. As you explore the estate on this walk you can rustle your way through fallen leaves and enjoy the gorgeous golds and yellows of the lime trees along the cobbled drive. Closer to the house, rich ruby and russet creepers clad the honey-coloured walls of the West Courtyard, where the sharp but sweet aroma of ripening quinces lingers on the air.
Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire
Railway walk at Hardcastle Crags
Lying just west of Halifax, the valleys of Hardcastle Crags offer more than 400 acres of peaceful countryside to explore, with scenic views of deep ravines and tumbling streams.
Anyone with a craving for open spaces can take the rocky paths to the hilltops and enjoy sweeping views over the West Yorkshire landscape, while down in the woodland the oak, beech and pine trees provide vibrant bursts of autumn colour. Stepping stones and picturesque footbridges arching over the river provide a great focal point for that perfect autumn photograph.
Gibside, Tyne and Wear
Gibside Skyline walk
Buzzing with wildlife, Gibside is home to red kites, roe deer and many other rare animals.
During the autumn months, you can see the colours changing on the trees below as you rise out of the Derwent Valley on this circular skyline walk. With plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy panoramic views, this is a great chance to get out and about on a crisp autumn day. If you need somewhere to warm your toes afterwards then pay a visit to the Gibside Pub which is open until 9pm on Friday and Saturday evenings – it’s the perfect place to relax with local ales or tuck into delicious fresh pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven. What’s more, every pizza you eat helps the National Trust to care for special places such as Gibside.
Find out more at National Trust
Nostell, West Yorkshire
Autumn Menagerie Garden Walk
Nostell’s Menagerie House and Garden were created in 1743 by Robert Adam to house exotic species, from monkeys and colourful birds to lions. Whilst the animals are no longer here, in autumn you can still marvel at the garden’s vibrant flame-coloured Acers. Further along the winding path, you’ll find mesmerising viewpoints over the lakes, with gold, red and orange hues reflected in the water. This route uses all-weather paths which are suitable for wheels, offering a fully accessible route for bikes, wheelchairs and buggies.
Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Ancient Trees walk
Dunham Massey is home to some of England’s finest veteran trees, and autumn is the time to take in the long avenues of ancient copper beech trees as they turn into pathways of golds, reds and yellows. Between the trees, look out for groups of fallow deer gathering for the rut in one of nature’s greatest annual spectacles.
Nant Gwynant, Gwynedd
Autumn Colour walk
Step out this autumn and explore the lower slopes of Snowdon and Nant Gwynant valley, where you'll discover a landscape steeped in history and rich autumnal colours. This walk will take you through wooded glades in a tranquil valley, passing the orange canopy of oak leaves above while a variety of fungi grow below. The route then ascends the famous Watkin Path out into the open fields of fading green, dotted with the rust of bracken die-back at Cwm Llan. From here you can explore the intriguing ruins of Cwm Llan House before heading towards Craflwyn, watching out for feral goats as they start to descend the hills and seek shelter in the wooded glades.
Read more here.
Dinas Island, Pembrokeshire
Dinas Island Spectacular walk
This circular walk boasts some of the finest views anywhere on the Pembrokeshire coast. In early autumn the coastal slopes are cloaked with the yellows and browns of fading bracken, while on the headland the pinks and purples of common heather are just coming into bloom, alongside the yellow gorse flowers.
Castle Ward, County Down
Take a stroll through this 820-acre walled demesne along trails that wind their way through atmospheric woodland, parkland and gardens, with impressive views over Strangford Lough and the surrounding countryside. You’ll also wander through a series of colourful woodlands, from evergreen conifers to russet beech and golden larch. The quirky 18th-century house adds to the charm to the walk, while the old farmyard gives fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ the chance to experience life at Winterfell in the courtyard that was used for filming.
Mount Stewart, County Down
Voted one of the top ten gardens in the world, Mount Stewart reflects a rich tapestry of design and planting artistry bearing the hallmark of its creator – Edith, Lady Londonderry. There are walks for everyone from a short stroll around the gardens to longer walks around the lake and woodlands. The lake is particularly beautiful in autumn with gorgeous red and gold foliage.
Feeling inspired? Find your walk at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walking, and share your adventures with us on social media: @nationaltrustLast modified: June 10, 2021