The long summer days are behind us and the colder weather is moving in, but Autumn is still a fantastic time to explore the UK. From windswept, dramatic coastlines to atmospheric countryside, here are some of the best half term breaks, staycations and city breaks in the UK this Autumn.
Autumn, traditionally known as the shoulder season, is an amazing time for a short break in the UK. The cooler, wetter weather starts to move in but hasn’t quite reached the bad levels of winter yet with many cold but bright and sunny days lasting well into October and even part of November, the summer crowds have long disappeared – especially from coastal regions – so places are less crowded and often cheaper, the national traditions around Harvest time, Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night all start to bring communities together with unique festivals and traditions, and the lure of a roaring fire in a traditional pub awaits after a long day exploring the changing seasons in the open countryside.
If you are planning an Autumn break in the UK but aren’t sure where to go, these are some of the best destinations to take in the Autumn colours and changing seasons.
Llandudno is one of North Wales – and the UK’s – most popular seaside destinations, full of old fashioned charm and nostalgia, with beautiful Art Deco architecture, fish and chips on the pier and some spectacular coast to explore if you can tear yourself away from the charming town itself. It really is one of those special places you find yourself falling for very easily, and it is easy to see why it has repeatedly been given accolades from best seaside town to the top trending destination in 2022. It’s no real surprise that during the summer months it can get extremely busy, but here is a relatively local secret, with Seal pup spotting season, Autumn events like the annual firework display. cheaper prices and less crowds, the best time to visit Llandudno is in the Autumn!
York is famous for its Christmas markets, but with that renown comes a lot of crowds, and high prices! What most people don’t know is that York’s famous cobbled streets are just as beautiful lined with the golden hues of Autumn as they are with Christmas decorations, and you can visit the famous shambles, the many cafes and tea rooms, including the world famous Betty’s Tea Room and of course the shops without the huge Christmas rush. Plus, if you visit near the end of October the historic attractions go all out for Halloween!
One of the North West’s most famous seaside resorts, Blackpool’s heyday is definitely behind it, but every year people flock to the small resort town after the summer season ends for the annual celebration of the Blackpool Illuminations. Known colloquially as ‘Blackpool Lights’, the illuminations were first started in 1879 and has been a childhood tradition for the entire region since then with over six miles of traditional lights, festoons and tableaux running along the entire length of the promenade. You do have to wrap up warm because strolling along the waterfront at night can get cold, but there is nothing so quintessentially British as this! The switch on dates do change slightly from year to year, but the generally run from the beginning of September through to the end of the year.
Coniston, Lake District.
Coniston Water is an iconic UK destination in the lake district that is absolutely swamped with tourists during the summer months, but visiting in September through to November when the crowds disappear lets you take in more of the beautiful scenery, watersport activities like SUPing or lakeside boasting is still available until winter sets in, and the traditional pubs and restaurants are even more inviting with an open fire after a day of hiking Old Man Coniston (that’s a huge Fell, by the way, not some poor unfortunate local!). As an extra bonus you can usually get a great price on the local cottages and B&Bs outside of October half term.
One of the UKs best city break destinations all year round, Liverpool really pulls out all the stops in the shoulder months between summer and Christmas. Apart from still being able to take advantage of all the free museums, world heritage sites, obvious shopping and world class foodie and nightlife hotspots, there are countless things to see, do and keep you entertained indoors if the weather gets a bit too wet and windy, and annual festivals like the River of Light fill the gap until the Santa Dash and Christmas Markets arrive.
Tatton Park in Knutsford, Cheshire is a National Trust property and one of the most intact historic estates in the UK with a Tudor Hall, A Neo Classical Mansion, landscaped gardens and a deer filled forest. Every September people flock from all over the county to the Harvest Festival, where they go all out with traditional crafts and a country fair complete with a brass band.
After that you can escape back to Roman Britain in the city of Chester, and when you aren’t shopping in the rows you can walk the ancient Roman walls of the city and take in any one of the Roman tours led by a Roman Legionnaire!
In the small village of Canons Ashby is the Grade 1 listed Tudor Manor House Canons Ashby House, run by the National Trust. The house and gardens are a stunning location to visit and extremely popular during the summer, but for those that visit in September the entire grounds, house and church are decorated to celebrate the local Harvest Festival. The trail is just a pound to walk around.
Swansea And The Gower.
Coupled with a city break in the modestly cosmopolitan Swansea, the Gower Peninsula makes for an ideal Autumn break, with some of the most dramatic and spectacular coastlines in the world already taking on a whole new persona when the wind and storms come in, and there is nowhere better to view it all from than a cosy fireside B&B. If you do want to brave the weather, Autumn is a perfect time to go dolphin and sealion spotting with a responsible boat tour , and the wind makes the waves at this international surfing hotspot even more exciting for adventure seekers!
Breamar, Scottish Highlands.
Breamar is a small, picturesque village in the Cairngorms National Park right at the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Apart from the fact that Autumn is the perfect time to hike in the Scottish Highlands in general, with the mild weather and changing seasons washing the already dramatic scenery with an explosion of seasonal colour, September is also the time for the Breamar Highland Games, known locally as the Breamar Gathering, a Scottish national tradition where you can expect a lot of kilt wearing and caber tossing!
Eden Project, Cornwall.
The Eden Project was originally built as a marker for the new Millennium in 1999, but is now considered to be one of Britain’s modern architectural wonders and is an absolute must see day out in the UK. The distinctive biomes have become famous worldwide and have a range of ecosystems to explore and wonder around, including the famous jungle canopy, as well as providing a focus on conservation education. As the colder weather rolls in throughout Autumn there is no better time to enjoy the tropical biome atmospheres, and there are always plenty of unique plant themed events around Halloween.
Shrewsbury is a beautiful part of the world to spend some time in at any time of the year, but the real highlight in Autumn – especially around Halloween – is Shrewsbury prison, England’s very own entry on the worlds most famous dark tourism sites! The prison is an essential part of the darker side of UK heritage and offers a unique glimpse into prison life, from the late 18th Century with tours exploring the history of Georgian and Victorian prison and the last prisoners to be sentenced to death here, as well as running numerous ghost tours and escape rooms in one of the most celebrated haunted hotspots in the UK!
The Perthshire highlands are another part of the UK that is just a stunning explosion of colourful countryside in Autumn, but one of the main reasons to visit at this time is for the Enchanted Forest, a unique Autumn festival and one of the UKs premier light and sound shows. Every year Faskally Wood is transformed into a giant playground of light and is truly spectacular. Tickets do go very quickly though as crowds are carefully managed by Forestry and Land Scotland.
Brecon Beacons National Park.
The Brecon Beacons lie in the heart of south Wales stunning countryside and is a beautiful part of the world to visit at any time of the year, but the Autumn season turns it into an adventure lovers paradise! The weather is mild, so you can hike from Pen Y Fan to the black mountains or horse riding or mountain biking in Grwyne Fawr Reservoir without the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, the river rapids are more intense for anyone who loves Kayaking or Canoeing, and there are a ton of locations where you can go caving, gorge walking or simply have a rest and enjoy the wildlife in the fresh country air.
Edinburgh is a fantastic city break destination all year round, but with more than its fair share of haunted and spooky locations Halloween is the perfect time to visit! Immerse yourself in horror with one of Edinburgh’s famous ghost tours, enjoy the jump scares at the Edinburgh dungeon, head to Edinburgh Castle for some unique tales of murder and torture or head to the vaults for a glimpse into the cities dark past. One of the best reasons for visiting Edinburgh at Halloween though is the Samhuinn Fire Festival, a local celebration deeply rooted in Edinburgh’s community and celebrates the ancient Celtic tradition of the transition from Summer to Winter. Just head to the top of Caltons Hill at Halloween and you can’t miss the costumes, fire dancers and music!
Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Hadrian’s Wall is one of the UKs most impressive historical attractions. Stretching over 73 miles from Wallsend on the east coast of England, to Bowness on Solway on the west coast. It was once the final frontier of the Roman Empire, built to defend Roman occupied England against the wild Celtic Picts. Now it is one of the most important Roman remains in Britain and one of the most iconic features of northern England, serving as one of the UKs premier hiking trails, and Autumn is the perfect time to hike it! The weather is usually mild with plenty of villages, pubs and B&Bs to stay in along the way.
The small market town of Lewes in Sussex holds the largest bonfire celebrations in the UK every Guy Fawkes night in November, and is renowned as the bonfire capital of the world. Celebrating Guy Fawkes night, where the entire country celebrates the night Guy Fawkes almost blew up parliament (whether they celebrate the fact he got caught or the fact he almost succeeded is up for debate) is such a big deal in this town the celebrations last all day and night and people come from all over the county and beyond to see it. There are a total of seven different societies in Lewes putting on different processions and fireworks celebrations, with dozens of smaller societies bringing in more local celebrations and traditions too.
The UK truly is a year round destination and there is always something to see and do no matter what the season is. Even if you have been to some of these destinations before, the changing seasons often give travellers a whole new experience, so get out there and experience some of these destinations in the Autumn.
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.