Top Ten UK Trails for Autumn Walking

Summer might be the overall favourite time of year to walk the Great British countryside, but the cooler months definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. Autumn brings a change in the landscapes, when the regional flora erupts into colour, abundant wildlife can be observed and the shorter days offer dramatic lighting. When it comes to choosing a trail that showcases the very best that the season can offer, finding the perfect walk can be tricky.

Below are ten of our favourite trails to enjoy as autumnal walks. We offer a range of customisable itineraries for all of these trails, so you can choose the perfect walking holiday to suit you.

1. Cotswold Highlights Trail (Devised by Contours)

Top 10 Autumnal Walks:The Cotswold Highlights Trail is a circular walk taking in some of the finest landscapes and settlements in the Northern Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a fantastic region to enjoy all year round, however when autumn sets in, it takes on a more magical ambience. The low, bright sunlight illuminates the villages’ cobbled streets and honey-coloured stone buildings, adding to the already tranquil, quaint atmosphere.

The countryside itself also erupts into colour; the best example of this is at the Batsford Arboretum in Moreton-in-Marsh, where the mass of trees change with the season, offering up a dramatic display of red and gold flora.

2. Derwent Valley Heritage Way

Top 10 Autumnal Walks:The Derwent Valley Heritage Walk is a fabulous trail through the heart of the Peak District National Park.

One of the most spectacular autumn displays on offer along this trail takes place at Chatsworth, where you are likely to find red deer roaming the grounds of Chatsworth House. At this time of year the stags compete for mating rights with the females, which leads to fierce rutting battles that are a marvel to witness at a safe distance. The sounds of their intimidating roars and clashing antlers can sometimes be heard across the grounds, so if you are lucky to be in the area at the right time, you’re in for an amazing natural show.

3. Coleridge Way

Top 10 Autumnal Walks:Over 51 miles, the Coleridge Way wanders inland through the Quantock Hills and Exmoor, with stunning views of the Somerset coast over Porlock and at Lynton.

These are the landscapes that inspired Samuel Coleridge, and we're sure they'll inspire you too! You'll wander over rolling hills clad in purple heather and through sheltered birch woodland, alive with birdsong.

The Coleridge Way is a brilliant walking holiday, busy in autumn as wildlife hurry to stock up for the winter. The red deer rut begins at this time of year, and you may well hear the stags bellowing as they stake out their territory.

The walk is a challenging one, too, so the cool breezes are a blessing on those difficult climbs.

4. Cleveland Way National Trail

Top 10 Autumnal Walks: The Cleveland WayThe Cleveland Way is a great walking route that takes in both wonderful inland scenery and breath-taking coastal views. Not only is this popular National Trail less busy during the autumn season, but the moors that it passes through burst into colour as heather blossoms across the hills. The swathes of purple plants add a great vibrancy to the inland section of the walk before it transforms dramatically as you reach the coast.

The Cleveland Heritage Coast is brilliant for spotting migrating birds at this time of year, while the gothic town of Whitby prepares for its annual festival at the end of October — an event well worth attending if you’re interested in local lore and magnificent attire!

5. South Lakes Short Break (Devised by Contours)

Top 10 Autumnal Walks:The Lake District National Park is renowned for being one of the best areas for walking in the UK, however some of the more demanding trails can prove tricky in less-than-perfect weather conditions.

The South Lakes Short Break is perhaps the best walking route to enjoy over an autumnal weekend in this fantastic region. Not only is this walk one of the least strenuous Lakeland walks available, but it also passes through a number of quiet villages, allowing you plenty of opportunity to enjoy a cosy country pub meal beside a roaring fire.

The open landscapes of the Lake District are also fantastic for stargazing, so pack some warm clothing and enjoy the views!

6. Somerset Coast Path

Top 10 Autumnal Walks:Part of the ongoing England Coast Path National Trail developments, the Somerset Coast Path sets off from Weston-super-Mare and travels along a fantastic Jurassic coastline to Minehead.

Even though most people choose to enjoy coastal walking during the summer months, there is no shortage of beauty and great sights to take in when the weather begins to cool. Contours team member Richard has walked the Somerset Coast Path during autumn and was amazed at how gorgeous the scenery was at the time. In particular, he found that the areas surrounding the River Parrett and Steart Point were alive with various birds and other wildlife preparing for winter, and enjoyed spotting and identifying them along his journey.

7. Wye Valley Short Break (Devised by Contours)

Top 10 Autumnal Walks:The beautiful Wye Valley in Wales is a tranquil setting filled with wonderful scenery. The mixture of quiet riverside paths and high viewpoints make this a spectacular walking region, with plenty of amazing views to take in.

Our circular Wye Valley Short Break meanders along both sides of the River Wye, taking in wonderful, far-reaching views throughout. As the weather turns cooler, the many fantastic forests of the valley change their colours and come alive with birdsong and scampering mammals, making this trail a real delight to wander along during the autumn season.

8. Northumberland Coast Path

Top 10 Autumnal Walks:The Northumberland Coast Path travels north from Cresswell to Berwick-upon-Tweed, taking in a wealth of fantastic coastal views along the way. One of the highlights of this walk is visiting the sacred Holy Island of Lindisfarne and exploring its magnificent church.

During the autumn season, this coastline offers the perfect place from which to witness thousands of birds take part in their annual winter migrations, making this a great trail option for wildlife enthusiasts. For those seeking out breath-taking views, this east coast setting is home to some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets, particularly when the days are shorter towards the end of the year.

9. Rob Roy Way

Top 10 Autumnal Walks:Meandering through the heart of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, the Rob Roy Way tells the story of Scotland’s famous outlaw as it winds along drovers’ trails and through mountain landscapes.

By choosing to walk the Rob Roy Way during autumn, you can follow the story of Rob Roy McGregor through an atmospheric landscape of autumnal colours and dramatic low lighting, which only adds to the unique experience.

Another great reason to walk the Rob Roy Way in autumn is Pitlochry’s annual Enchanted Forest event, in which the woods come alive at night with spectacular displays of sound and light. This incredible event is very popular, so be sure to book early to avoid disappointment.

10. North Downs Way

Top 10 Autumnal Walks: the North Downs WayThe North Downs Way boasts some of the most scenic and historic countryside in England.

Choose the Canterbury route and explore Canterbury Cathedral as you wander in the footstops of Chaucer's pilgrims, or pick the Folkstone route and wander beneath the White Cliffs of Dover.

Full of historic sites, from prehistoric long barrows to impressive Tudor carvings, the North Downs Way offers plenty of places to explore. And during the autumn months, the long chalk ridge of the North Downs presents stunning windswept views over the English hills and coastline.

Originally published 22/07/19

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