As autumn gets underway, Britain’s forests, parks and gardens come alive with a dazzling display of colour. Here are 10 of the best places to experience Keats’ ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.
Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire, England
The National Arboretum at Westonbirt is set ablaze with colour from late September to November. It’s one of the most important collections of trees in the world and has over 18,000 trees and shrubs. Don’t miss their collection of Japanese maples which is spectacular this time of year. To keep up-to-date with what looks the best when, check the Autumn Watch section of the Westonbirt website.
Hever Castle, Kent, England
Join the gardeners at Hever Castle and stroll around the 38 acre (15 hectare) lake at Anne Boleyn’s childhood home as the leaves turn from green to gold and red. You’ll see a vast range of deciduous and evergreen trees and seasonal joys like fungi, edible berries, hazelnuts and conkers as well as the bird boxes that house owls, robins and woodpeckers.
Stourhead, Wiltshire, England
Visit one of the world’s finest 18th-century landscaped gardens and see elegant vistas highlighted with burnished leaves and rusty hues. Explore Stourhead’s numerous classical and gothic follies and take in the reflection of golden leaves on the lake. The views that open up as you explore the site are especially glorious in autumn as the leaves of native beech and oak form a backdrop for displays of more exotic trees and shrubs.
Exbury Gardens, New Forest, England
Exbury Gardens in the New Forest National Park is a 200 acre (100 hectare) site comprising a unique collection of trees and shrubs. The autumn displays here are, without a doubt, some of the best around. Enjoy the striking russet colouring of the waterside maples, deciduous azaleas and the numerous varieties of dogwood that you’ll find on the Autumn Trail. Be sure to ride on the garden's dedicated miniature steam railway too, and take in your surroundings in style!
Kew Gardens, London, England
Relax in the famous Kew Gardens (just 20 minutes from Central London), where you can see autumn flowering crocuses, colchicums and hardy cyclamen and some of the world's rarest plants. This year there are also guided autumn walks around the enormous 300 acre (120 hectare) site and tree identification sessions. And don’t forget to experience the exhilarating Treetop Walkway where you’ll be right up in the golden canopy with fantastic views across the gardens.
Dawyck Botanical Garden, Near Peebles, Scotland
Make the short journey from Edinburgh and join an Autumn Magic Tour on 17 October to see the ripening fruits and fungi at one of Britain’s most colourful arboretums. See crimson crab apples, shining acorns and the rusty red of Dawyck’s famous beech trees. Don’t miss the Japanese katsura tree which, in early autumn, fills the air with an unmistakable caramel scent.
Faskally Forest, Perthshire, Scotland
The owners of Faskally Forest created this ‘model forest’ in the 19th century and it’s chock full of beautiful specimens that are at their blazing best during the autumn. Join the Trail Blaze event on 24 or 29 October for a guided walk around some of the highlights of this area known as ‘big tree country’. If you’re around in the evening you can visit the Enchanted Forest, a sound and light show that brings the autumn forest to spectacular life.
Powis Castle and Garden, Welshpool, Wales
Dusky pink Powis Castle looks at its best on bright autumn days and the gardens around it are equally special this time of year. Join the gardeners between 1 September and 4 November for autumn rambles to see the best of Powis’s elegant grounds. Look out for the voluminous clipped yews and elegant planted terraces that contrast beautifully with the bronzes, browns and golds of the woodland wilderness.
Green Castle Woods, near Carmarthen, Wales
Green Castle Woods include three separate semi natural ancient woodlands alongside newer areas of meadow and native forest. Two of the woodlands are principally oak, the third is very variable with birch, ash, alder and willow, so the mix of autumnal colours is particularly good. If you want the classic British autumn experience, native forest like this is hard to beat. To find more woodland areas in the UK check out the woodland trust website.
Mount Stewart House, County Down, Northern Ireland
Explore one of the National Trust’s most unusual gardens on 20 October with one of Mount Stewart’s experienced guides on an autumn walk. The gardens of Mount Stewart are considered of international importance and support many exotic plants because of the warm climate of Strangford Lough.