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 during the autumn season.
Hever Castle, Kent, England
Join the gardeners at Hever Castle and stroll around the 38-acre 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.
Kew Gardens, London, England
Relax in the famous Kew Gardens (just 20 minutes from central London), where you can see autumn flowering crocuses, colchicums, hardy cyclamen and some of the world's rarest plants. Take a guided tour around the enormous 300-acre site and enjoy tree identification sessions. 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 see the ripening fruits and fungi at one of Britain’s most colourful arboretums. SAdmire 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. 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 trees to life in spectacular style.
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.
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 at that time. Look out for the voluminous clipped yews and elegant planted terraces that contrast beautifully with the bronzes, browns and golds of the woodland wilderness.
Exbury Gardens, New Forest, England
Exbury Gardens in the New Forest National Park is a 200-acre 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!
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 Britain check out the Woodland Trust website.
Mount Stewart House, County Down, Northern Ireland
Explore one of the National Trust’s most unusual gardens with one of Mount Stewart’s experienced guides on an autumn walk. The house's gardens are considered of international importance and support many exotic plants because of the warm climate of Strangford Lough.