Woodland strolls are the perfect way to unwind at the best of times, but during the vibrant autumn months the bursts of orange and red really make them something special. Chiara Bullen shares her favourite woodland walks at this time of year, from relaxing strolls to tricky trails that help you make the most of the season.
Minnowburn Woods, County Down
A perfect escape from the bustling hub that is nearby Belfast, these spirited woods are also close to the Terrace Hill sculpture trail which features unmissable works of art. If the turning leaves aren’t enough to amuse any children brought along, there’s a ‘Natural Play’ trail implemented by the National Trust which runs parallel to the well-known Giant’s Ring circular walk.
Dun Na Cuaiche, Argyll
You’ll need to pay for access to the Inveraray Castle carpark for this walk, but this steep woodland trail offers unbeatable views of the changing scenery of Inveraray and Loch Fyne. Cross Frew’s Bridge into the forest and follow the path heading diagonally right into the woods. There are kiln ruins to pass before beginning a moderate ascent and you’ll eventually be rewarded for your climb when you reach the old 18th Century watchtower.
Glenmore Forest, Aviemore
Surrounding Loch Morlich (also known as the highest beach in Britain) are the luscious pine, birch and alder woods of Glenmore Forest. A trail from the visitor centre will take you through the heart of the ancient forest, allowing you to soak up the autumn scenery. Uath Lochans is to the south of the forest – the shimmering lochans amongst the changing trees are a must-see.
The four waterfalls walk is spectacular year-round, but exploring the trail during autumn is something else. Start at the Gwaun Hepste car park for a route that leads you to Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr and Sgwd-yr-Eira on the River Mellte. Pack your waterproofs and be prepared for some challenging sections!
Dodd Wood, Lake District
There are a vast variety of forest trails to enjoy through these woods, some of which will take you up to Skiddaw. From family friendly routes to enjoy the wildlife and Douglas firs to the Dodd summit trail, there’s something to suit all here. Red Squirrel feeding stations are scattered throughout and you can spot the shy creatures year-round.
Haldon Forest Park, Exeter
If you want to enjoy the crisp autumn woodlands in all their glory in ways other than simply walking and enjoying the views, Haldon Forest features popular cycling trails and offers orienteering courses for anyone wanting to get up close and personal with the area. There’s also a Discovery Trail which is full of tidbits about the local environment.
Gwydyr Forest, Conwy
In the heart of Snowdonia lies this fascinating forest steeped in mining history. Waymarked trails will help you explore the many trails, nearby lakes (which were all created to serve the mines) and find the Swallow Falls. To reach the latter, the Ty’n Llwyn trail will be your swiftest route. To enjoy a quiet stroll through the autumn leaves away from the beaten track, follow the Pont y Pair trail.
Grizedale Forest, Lake District
This forest is home to eight waymarked walking trails – from the easy Riding Wood trail to the challenging Silurian Way. A sculpture trail makes for a fun challenge trying to find them all, and mountain bike hire availability will allow anyone to whizz through the forest if they wish.
Acharn Forest, Stirling
This sprawling forest is home to a Victorian cave known as the ‘Hermit’s Cave’ that offers a spectacular view of the mighty Falls of Acharn. After an easy climb up the main trail (eventually leading to the Hermit’s Cave) you’ll be treated to views of Ben Lawers and the village of Acharn which are stunning in the autumn months.
Blean Woods, Kent
These woods feature an eight-mile trail that takes you into the depths of the trees and presents a great opportunity for bird spotters – keep an eye out for nesting birds such as nightingales and woodpeckers. Gain access to the waymarked trails from the carpark north of Hicks Forstal Road.