For lots of people the autumn is the very best time of the year to get out and explore the UK’s many forests. After showing the first new shoots of life during the spring, and coming into full bloom in summertime, it’s only in the autumn that we get to enjoy the beautiful reds and golds of the turning leaves. It’s also a time of year when fewer people are out and about – perfect for a leisurely and relaxed day out. So dig out your walking shoes or boots and get ready to explore our top five.
New Forest, Hampshire
The New Forest sizably spreads over three counties - Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset – and is notable for being the largest area of pasture, heathland and forest in the south east of the country. There’s also so much to see and do there that one visit will never be enough. Besides the woodland walks where you might spot a deer or one of the region’s famous wild ponies, the area’s other attractions include Beaulieu, home of the National Motor Museum.
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Bordered to the west by the River Wye and Herefordshire to the north, the Forest of Dean is beautiful, unspoilt and very atmospheric too. There are cycle paths to tackle as along with well-signposted walkways – one of these scenic walks even features a sculpture trail. For a taste of mystery head for Puzzlewood; the ancient woodland near Coleford that’s said to have been the inspiration for Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Faskally Wood, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland
Faskally Wood forms part of the Tay Forest Park, which was largely a man-made effort during the 19th century – although some of the trees that you’ll find there are over 200 years old. As a special autumn treat, Faskally Wood is magically transformed into The Enchanted Forest with a music and light show that’s not to be missed. Also nearby is the picturesque and tranquil Loch Dunmore, which you can cross over an ancient timber bridge.
Tollymore Forest Park, Co Down, Northern Ireland
Tollymore was once the home of the Irish Lord Clanbrassil, who set about creating a forest park with a number of unusual trees. There’s also a number of follies to explore, so once you’ve seen the giant redwoods, monkey puzzle and eucalyptus trees it could be time to explore a barn designed to look like a church, or one of the many man-made grottoes. There are also more traditional trees including oaks whose predecessors from the estate were used to make the interiors of the Titanic, which was built in nearby Belfast.
Grizedale Forest, Windermere, Cumbria
The best way to explore everything that the Grizedale Forest has to offer is undoubtedly to hire a car in nearby Carlisle, so you get the benefit of the scenic drive. The forest is near to Coniston Water and Hawkshead, and offers both peaceful and thrilling days out. For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground there are autumn activity trails. But for the more adventurous there’s a ropes course with Tarzan swings and ziplines – the perfect way to get yourself up amongst the autumn colours.
So don’t just stay inside this autumn. Get out and explore some of the UK’s most glorious and ancient locations – you’ll certainly be glad you did.