The simple act of going for a walk on an autumn day can be therapeutic and invigorating in equal measure. Whether you’re leaning into the wind on a blustery beach or relishing the serenity of woodland on a crisp afternoon, getting out into the autumn air has the power to make you feel marvellous.
Come October, England’s palette changes from gentle, shifting greens to an explosion of fiery hues – red, gold, amber and purple can be found everywhere, from heaths and woodlands to village lanes and city streets. Now is the time to get out there and indulge in the sights, sounds and scents of the season.
Here’s our guide to ten of the best autumn walks in England. Some may be on your doorstep; some may be further afield. All are worth doing, and most of them can be achieved in a morning or afternoon, leaving plenty of time for a well-deserved pub lunch or afternoon tea.
Winkworth Arboretum, Surrey
A vast collection of maples from around the world set Winkworth ablaze at this time of year. With 121 acres of wild woodland, you have plenty of space to roam, but if you want to go a little further afield, you can do the Winkworth to Oakhurst walk, which is around two and a half miles. It leaves from Winkworth Arboretum and takes you to the top of Hydon’s Ball with its spectacular views before dropping down into the lovely village of Hambledon, home to Oakhurst Cottage, a beautifully preserved 16th-century labourer’s cottage.
Learn more at: The National Trust
The National Arboretum - Westonbirt, The Cotswolds
Westonbirt houses the national collection of maples which makes it a must-see if you’re in the west country at this time of year. Visit the Maple Loop in Silk Wood and the Acer Glade – both aglow with the deepest reds and oranges – and get a bird’s eye view by journeying up into the canopy on the Tree Top Walkway.
Learn more at: Forestry England
The Teign Gorge walk, Devon
Possibly one of the best-loved walks on Dartmoor, this one starts at Castle Drogo – the last castle to be built in England – and follows the River Teign down to Fingle Bridge. Stop at the charming Fingle Bridge Inn, but if you can’t get a seat, cross the ancient stone bridge and rest your legs on the grassy banks opposite. It’s excellent people-watching territory. From here, you can loop back towards the castle following either Fisherman’s Path or Forester’s Path. The circular walk is just over four miles in total. There is some steep terrain, so it’s not pushchair friendly, but great for families on foot and four-legged friends.
St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall
For an almost otherworldly experience, venture to St Nectan's Glen near Tintagel. Many consider this ancient woodland one of England's most spiritual, mystical places. Indeed, somehow it stirs even the most sceptical souls. Tales of King Arthur and his knights, ghostly sightings, and fairies and pixies feel almost unquestionable amongst the fern-covered trees, mossy stones and magical 60-foot waterfall. Don a sturdy pair of walking shoes, as the terrain is muddy and can be slippery, and take either the nature trail or the woodland walk.
Learn more at: St Nectan's Glen
Tyrrels Wood, Norfolk
Five small magical woods make up this ancient Norfolk woodland, the oldest part of which is referenced in records dating back to 1251. With little bridges to run across and dens to play in, the circular walk is perfect for families with young children. It can get pretty muddy, so wellies are a good idea, but kids of all ages will relish sploshing through the puddles. It’s a haven for wildlife, too, and autumn is a wonderful time to see some impressive fungi displays.
Learn more at: Walking Britain
Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
Sitting on the edge of the splendid Yorkshire Dales, the vast Bolton Abbey Estate is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year, but autumn turns it from a green playground to one of rustic hues. Walk the leafy paths of Strid Wood (which are pushchair and wheelchair-friendly), take in the spectacular waterfall in the Valley of Desolation, and, if you can, catch the ruins of the Priory Church bathed in golden autumn light.
Learn more at: Bolton Abbey
If you fancy walking in the footsteps of Iron Age tribespeople or Roman soldiers, Credenhill in Herefordshire is the place to be. Steeped in history, it’s now home to fallow, roe and muntjac deer, as well as buzzards, kestrels and tawny owls. The woodland sits perched on top of a large knoll – once home to one of Britain’s largest Iron Age hillforts – and affords magnificent views of the Black Mountains. There are a number of paths leading to the top of the knoll and lower trails that circumnavigate it – these are surfaced and easier going than those leading up to the peak. There are three well-marked walks here: the yellow walk (one and a half miles), the white walk (two miles) and the blue walk (two and a half miles).
Learn more at: All Trails
Chatsworth Estate to Edensor, Derbyshire
This delightful walk is a must-do if you’re lucky enough to find yourself near Derbyshire in autumn. Chatsworth House, framed by autumnal mist, is a spellbinding sight. But mist or no mist, you’ll be blessed with beautiful views of the stately home and the River Derwent on this four-mile walk. Start from the Chatsworth House car park and its mostly country lanes and field paths with some steep steps as you near the village of Edensor. Stop for a cup of tea in one of the village’s lovely tea rooms before heading back.
Learn more at: Chatsworth website
Low Wood, Wastwater, Cumbria
Low Wood is one of the Lake District’s best-kept secrets. Those visiting Wastwater often start at the Wasdale Head end of the lake, closer to Scafell Pike, but starting at Low Wood instead affords the most spectacular views up the lake towards Scafell, England’s highest mountain. Some say it’s one of the best views in the entire Lake District. On a still autumn day, the sight of the changing hues perfectly reflected in the water will stop you in your tracks.
Learn more at: The Lake District
Blean Woods near Canterbury, Kent
This charming woodland has five trails to choose from, catering to walkers of all types. Avid hikers will relish the 25-mile Big Blean Walk; then there’s the more restrained 8-mile jaunt past ancient oak trees. Visitors with reduced mobility, wheelchairs and pushchairs can enjoy the one-mile Wildart Trail, which takes you past sculptural works of art created from local, natural materials. The area is also a National Nature Reserve managed by the RSPB and home to nightingales, woodpeckers and nuthatches. Come autumn, keep an eye out for the red and white spotted fly agaric toadstools. They may be pretty, but they are poisonous – look, but don’t touch!
Learn more at: Explore Kent
Feeling inspired to get away this autumn? Take a look at our recommended accommodation. From country hotels to self-catering cottages, there’s a place for every budget.