Can you feel that crispy air and that pleasant smell of gingerbread latte? That’s autumn friends!! After almost five years living in the UK, I admit that autumn is absolutely my favourite season. In fact, Autumn here looks like the perfect season: the foliage is so intense to appear almost fluorescent, air is crispy but not freezing and you can still enjoy staying outdoor without scarf and heavy boots, shops are fall-decorated looking super cute, cafes always have a special autumn threat and the weather is generally good! Indeed, compared to other seasons, I noticed the weather in autumn is generally less rainy and humid offering the best opportunities for local day trips.
Here are five of the best things to do to enjoy autumn in the UK at its best!
1- Photograph the foliage in Wiltshire
When i visited this place for the first time, about two years ago, I didn’t expect so much beauty and intense colours. I was totally blown away by this place and promised myself to return with a decent camera (the first time I went, I had only my phone with me! Argh!). It took me almost two years to be able go again on a weeked, but I finally made it! Stourhead is a historical estate located in the Wiltshire countryside at the source of the river Stour. The property stretches on 2,650 acres including a village, gardens, a mansion and woodland which are now partially owned by National Trust.
Historically, the property belonged to the Stourton family for more than 500 years until it has been sold to different families in 1715. The last buyer, Henry Hoare (who acquired the estate in 1717) demolished the old mansion to build the first British villa with a Palladian style. The garden, opened for the first time in 1750 and was entirely designed by Henry Hoare II (nicknamed as “the magnificent”) to look out of a painting. In effect, you’ll need just a ten minute walk around this park to feel immediately transported in time. Exotic trees and different architectural styles were combined together to create a timeless atmosphere. The lake works as a focal point from where is possible to admire the Greek-inspired temples from different perspectives. The Stourhead estate is beautiful all-year-long but during autumn is even more incredible as the garden displays one of the most beautiful foliage of all the country. Colours are so vivid that look almost fluorescent, ranging from strong yellow to purple all across the garden, with a spectacular view all over the main lake. The main points of interest in the garden (and best photo spots are):
- The Upper Garden Gate
- The Gothic Cottage
- The Temple of Apollo
- The Turf Bridge
- The Pantheon
- The Temple of Flora
Reaching Stourhead without a car can be quite challenging because the park is far from any inhabited centre and the nearest stations are Warminster or Gillingham. From there, you should probably take a bus. We drove from East Midlands and it took slightly more than 3h to reach it. If you are not member of National Trust there is an entrance fee of £16.60 plus £4 for the parking. The best time to visit during the autumn period is probably mid-afternoon because the sunlight is less strong and the foliage is more vivid. I particularly enjoyed the golden hour around 5 pm, which in my opinion offer the best opportunities for amazing fall shots. After 5 pm, you will see a plunge in temperatures and you can become a little chill. The best thing to do to complete your day trip is warm yourself with a delicious afternoon tea at the Spread Eagle Inn situated after the exit gate. The tea cost around £5 and the scones are very good! If you want to catch the foliage, the best period to visit Stourhead in autumn is from the last week of October to mid-November.
2 – Pumpkin picking in Leicestershire
There isn’t anything that feels more autumn than pumpkin picking! Since we moved to the UK, this became a sort of annual tradition for us because it’s funny, photos opportunities are great and can we talk about how delicious is the pumpkin cake? Moreover, Alessio’s skills in carving are exceptional! UK is full of amazing places where to go pumpkin picking, but our favourite one is the Cattows Farm. Here you can find a great choice of pumpkins and relax in the nice tea room nearby the patch. Cattows Farm is situated in Leicestershire, so it’s very convenient if you live in the East Midlands. Each year, from the 1st of October onward, the farm opens to public the patch for the event “Pick your own pumpkin”. Pointless is saying that the earliest you go, the major is the chance to find your perfect pumpkin(s). Last year we went at the end of October and all the best pumpkins were already gone (do not underestimate also the weather conditions). It was hard to find our pumpkin. This year, however, we went during the first week of October and the patch was full of amazing colourful pumpkins of all types and dimensions!
3 – Deer watching in Shropshire
I think that deer are a perfect symbol of autumn! They are silent majestic creatures designed often as protectors (long before Harry Potter discovered that a stag was his patronus!). I always loved deer and living in the UK given me the opportunity to observe these beautiful animals in different seasons. I would say that autumn is a great season to watch deer as some of the species, like the Fallow deer (pictured), are in their rutting season. Ergo, they are very active because pursuing their females. You can witness also spectacular fighting among the stags with large antlers in competition.
This means also that you have to take extra precaution and stay as far as possible because during the rutting season, deer can be very aggressive, especially around the female exemplars. A great place where to watch undisturbed deer in their natural environment is Attingham Park. This is a 18th century mansion currently administrated by National Trust. Deer are “permanent residents” of the park for more than 200 years. The mansion hosts a beautiful collection of Italian pieces of art belonged to Thomas, 8th Lord Berwick and the peculiar staircase born from the genius of John Nash, architect of the amazing Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The price to access Attingham Park is £ 12,50. I want to highlight that when going deer watching is very important to not approach or feed them in any way. Deer are in their natural environment and human incursions may damage their group dynamics and be harmful to you. So stay away and invest your money in a good telezoom!
4 – Walk into fairyland Cotswolds.
Cotswolds villages are beautiful at any season of the year, but in autumn you can see the best colours and fairytale atmosphere. The most picturesque villages you can visit are Bibury, Castle Combe, Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton on the Water.
Cotswold is a beautiful rural area or the UK that extends across different counties. I hope to dedicate single blog posts for each of the villages in the future. Anyway, what you can expect is to be immerse in a fairytale timeless atmosphere. Most of the villages have medieval origins and some of them still preserve their original buildings. Houses are built in a peculiar yellow limestone that you can see only in this area of England. The villages stretch for about 102 miles going from Warwickshire to Bath. During peak period of visitors (spring, summer and autumn), it is advisable to visit during the week as most villages are very tiny and became crowded during the weekend.
5 – Experience the Diagon Alley’s vibes in York
What is autumn in the UK without a visit to York? I think that York, with its medieval streets and hundreds of nice shops is the perfect city to wander around autumn and winter. The photogenic street known as Shambles is a surviving jewel of the Middle Ages, documented already in the Domsday Book of 1086 and now home of numerous restaurants and souvenir shops. Impossible to not see the similarities with a packed Diagon Alley at the start of the wizards’ academic year.
In this regard, last year an amazing Harry Potter-themed shop opened right in this street. Paying a visit to it during the weekend is a kind of mission impossible as people queue outside for a long time! However, you can always wait or admire the amazingly decorated window!
If you visit York during the last week of October, you will assist the passage of seasonal decorations from Halloween/Autumn to Christmas/Winter. Don’t be surprised to see Christmas lights and pumpkins at the same time or shy Christmas trees waiting to be lightened as a part of the city’s festive decoration. In fact, the last week of October is crucial to a rapid change of decorations. This have to pass unnoticed to the thousands of York visitors. Like the seasonal change in Hogwarts, York’s passage from autumn to winter happens as if by magic in the space of a night. Among the many things to do, do not miss the occasion to visit the York Minster, the St. Mary’s Abbey and gardens, the Barley Hall, and the Treasurer’s House. Furthermore, walking is the best option to enjoy autum in York as you will see many shops properlu decorated and enjoy a unique festive environment.
North of England can be a little bit chilly at this time of the year so you will probably search for a place where to warm your afternoon. A very nice coffee shop we found during our visit was Wheldrakes. Situated just a little out from the main touristic area, this place has a very good selection of tea, coffee and cakes! Furthermore, if you go on a weekend is the most perfect choice because all the coffee-shops and tearooms around the Shambles area tend to be super crowded and without space for seating.
That’s all friends! Thanks for reading this mini guide to the nicest places to see during autumn in the UK! You will find below a map helping you visualise where these places are located. I know we are going towards Christmas but you can take note for next year and be ready! Furthermore, you are still in time to catch the last foliage at Stourhead and see the deer in Shropshire! Enjoy!