As the nights draw in, the leaves turn golden brown and we begin swapping icy cocktails by the pool for copious cups of tea by the fire, it's a sure sign that autumn is on its way. There’s no better way to get excited for autumn than by planning a break where you can get outdoors and appreciate the season in all its colourful glory - and our favourite autumn walks are a great way to start.
The UK has so many spectacular landscapes worth exploring in autumn - from the vast expanses of East Anglia, where the world seems to open up in front of you, to Scotland’s soaring mountains and sleepy lochs. They become even more spectacular in the autumn months, as the trees adorn themselves with a kaleidoscopic range of golden and rusty hues.
One of the best ways to appreciate these landscapes is by walking. Perhaps it’s a long mountain hike you’re after, in which case Wales' Snowdonia National Park or the Scottish countryside might be on your wish list.
If you’re after something more leisurely, where you can amble along country lanes for an hour or two before returning to a snug pub hotel for a drink by an open fire, you might want to explore the delights of the Cotswolds.
So lace up your boots because we’ve picked some of our favourite places for autumn walks in the UK and selected some stunning hotels for you to stay at while you’re there. Whether it’s a romantic weekend away or a ramble with the family, there’s something for everyone to enjoy…
Trossachs National Park
Discover a magical landscape of forests, lochs and hills to the east of the wide blue waters of Loch Lomond, the UK’s largest freshwater lake.
Scotland's Trossachs really come into their own during autumn, when the sloping hills take on a rich patchwork of red, gold and brown, and the colours shimmer as they’re reflected in the glassy waters of Lochs Ard, Venachar, Achray and Chon.
It’s a paradise for walkers, who are spoiled for choice between gentler routes skirting the edges of the water or more challenging hikes up into the hills, where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the national park.
You can explore these tranquil landscapes on one of our brilliant craft breaks at Gartmore House, an 18th-century mansion set in 100 acres of private grounds in the Trossachs. This October, you can join a watercolour painting retreat, with plenty of free time between classes to wander in the beautiful Trossachs and around nearby Loch Lomond.
Alternatively, rest up after a day’s walking at the supremely comfortable Loch Arklet House, a traditional Scottish B&B right in the heart of the Trossachs. There’s a homely lounge and pretty gardens and terrace for relaxing, and hearty Scottish breakfasts are served each morning.
Is there anywhere in England as pretty as the Cotswolds? With its sleepy stone villages and rolling hills, it’s easy to imagine time has stood still here. Which makes it the perfect place to escape to for some serious peace and quiet - and excellent autumn walks. There are endless green fields for you to roam, and dreamy villages where you can stop for a local tipple next to a crackling fire.
To make it a trip to remember, check into Buckland Manor, a charming country house hotel near Broadway (with plenty of surrounding walks).
The breathtaking Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a whopping 186 miles long, and walking it from start to finish will take you past caves, islands, sea stacks and towering headlands - but you’ll need 10 to 15 days and plenty of energy. Most people choose to walk a section at a time and are often wooed by the beauty of the area, returning time and time again to complete the whole route.
One path that is challenging but rewarding is the Amroth to Saundersfoot section. If you time it well, you’ll be able to walk the entire route along the beach at low tide and spot fascinating geological features as you go.
After an invigorating day’s walk, you’ll be happy to return to a slick and comfy hotel, and there are many to choose from in the area. One of our favourites is the swanky Grove of Narbeth, conveniently located just 20 minutes’ drive from Amroth. This exquisitely decorated building is the top country house hotel in Pembrokeshire. Set in 26 acres of manicured grounds, it also has a three AA Rosette restaurant for refuelling in style.
Nestled in the foothills of the mighty Ben Nevis, the village of Inverlochy sits amid some of Scotland's finest scenery and is a popular spot for walkers. It’s located in Lochaber, a large and scenic Highlands area known as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ and loved for its majestic glens and fresh mountain air.
Of course, there are many invigorating and challenging walking routes that will take you up or around Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest peak. But there are more relaxed options too. One particularly beautiful route takes you between the Old Fort in nearby Fort William and Old Inverlochy Castle, along the banks of the River Lochy, where you can keep an eye out for otters, geese, and diving ducks. Old Inverlochy Castle is a now ruined 13th-century castle that was once witness to dramatic clan rivalries.
You can stay at Inverlochy Castle Hotel, which is rather different from the romantic crumbling ruins of the Old Inverlochy Castle. This is a handsome country house hotel on the banks of Loch Eil which manages to feel lavish yet comfortably intimate at the same time. Enjoy views across the loch from some of the bedrooms and of the leafy grounds from others. The Albert and Michel Roux Jr restaurant has three AA Rosettes and serves French-inspired, modern British cuisine.
The South Downs are mesmerising - a vast sea of green stretching down to the coast, with only a scattering of trees to break up the sweeping views out to the horizon. And it’s even more romantic at night, when the stars shine bright thanks to this rural region’s especially dark skies. It’s the kind of place where you can feel truly separate from the hustle and bustle of daily life – a great place to restore your energy before winter.
And what better base for a romantic walking weekend than a real castle? Amberley Castle is one of the UK’s most unique hotels, where peacocks roam the grounds, suits of armour line the corridors and huge fireplaces warm the rooms. You’ll be treated like royalty, too, with delicious tasting menus and elegant afternoon teas on offer.
Known as ‘Snowdon’s Arm’ for the way it stretches out into the sea from the edge of Snowdonia National Park – whose peaks provide a majestic backdrop to the scenery here – the Llyn Peninsula is dotted with sleepy fishing villages, busy seaside resorts, traditional farms, steep cliffs, rocky coves and wide sandy beaches.
Protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s an unspoilt stretch of Welsh countryside that’s wonderful for walking, whether on quiet rural lanes in-land or by joining the Wales Coast Path.
Immerse yourself in the landscapes here with a stay at Gwesty Ty Newydd, a handsome seafront hotel in the pretty little village of Aberdaron, which has one of the finest beaches on the peninsula. Enjoy views across the beautiful bay from the terrace, and dine on locally caught fresh lobster and crab in the restaurant, as well as homemade cakes at afternoon tea.
You can also explore Snowdonia National Park by steam train with Good Housekeeping next year.
Just as magical are the Kent Downs, a pretty patchwork of green fields tumbling from the outer edges of London all the way down to Dover’s famous white cliffs. In the autumn sunshine, the rusty browns of mature trees make a walk here extra atmospheric, while families and dog walkers will love rambling through quiet woods and past bubbling streams.
If you’re looking for a quirky, boutique place to lay your head after a day on the Downs, then book yourself into one of the funky rooms at The Woolpack Inn, in the tiny village of Wavehorne. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome and a hearty meal, with dishes that show off Kent’s tempting local produce, as well as wood-fired pizzas fresh from the oven.
If you’re feeling adventurous this autumn, head down to the south-west coast, for bracing walks along the cliff tops and afternoons exploring rock pools on the beach. It’s a fabulous landscape for family visits - and your pooch will love it too. The South West Coast Path is one of Britain’s most famous routes, made even more special when there’s an autumnal breeze lacing the air with the fresh scent of sea salt.
One of our favourite family and dog-friendly hotels is Fowey Hall, a hillside retreat where you can soak up sea views from the terrace, and enjoy tasty afternoon teas in the chic restaurant (with plenty of kids’ choices too!).
Just along the coast from Cornwall is Dartmoor National Park, a rugged and wild landscape of ancient woods, sweeping valleys and aromatic grass, heather and peat. On misty autumn mornings there’s a mesmerising feel to this vast expanse – Dartmoor is southern England’s largest area of open countryside, covering an incredible 368 square miles!
It’s also home to one of the UK’s finest country house hotels. Gidleigh Park is a glorious mock-Tudor mansion right on the edge of the national park, with an acclaimed restaurant serving inventive takes on classic British dishes, thanks to Michelin-star head chef Chris Eden. Stroll out through the delightful landscaped gardens onto the moorland, and keep an eye out for cute wild ponies on your way.
Calling all wildlife lovers – you’re in for a treat if you visit the Norfolk Coast AONB this autumn. As the weather turns colder, migrating birds flock to Norfolk’s skies on their journey south, soaring overhead in twisting formations. Don’t spend all your time with your head in the clouds though, because there’s plenty to see at ground level too. Woodland paths are scattered with fallen conkers, and out by the beach you might be lucky enough to spot seals gathering on the shore.
One of the best places to see them is Horsey Gap, just south of the AONB. For a brilliant stay nearby, check out Congham Hall, with its seductive modern spa, aromatic herb gardens and mouth watering restaurant menus.
Dorset is a real walkers’ paradise, where you can choose to take it easy with an afternoon stroll through the woods, or challenge yourself with a steeper climb up to one of the area’s famous ancient hill forts. It’s no wonder these landscapes inspired one of the Victorian era’s most famous rural writers, Thomas Hardy, who re-imagined the sleepy village of Evershot – and its charming old pub – as ‘Evershed’ in his iconic book Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
You can visit this scenic corner of England on a luxurious getaway at Summer Lodge, a five-star country house hotel on the edge of Evershot.
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