Autumn has distinct associations in England, conjuring images of digging out winter coats, replenishing firewood and following the birds south to sunshine and cocktails. The clocks go back and a reflective mood descends on the nation. It’s a shame that stunning regions such as the Lake District and the Cotswolds often lose out to warmer holiday destinations, because their lyrical landscapes and fireside hospitality offer a distinctly English antidote to end-of-summer blues.
Curling up with a good book in a stone cottage amid the hills of the Peak District, or striding across Exmoor with the bracken in shades of rust and fire, provides soul food only found in these parts. Whether it’s arranging discounted car hire or recommending and booking a hotel suite, our team will take care of your travel needs throughout the UK.
Please note, where local lockdown restrictions are in place days out should not be taken with mixed households.
From historic buildings with royal connections to the magnificent coastlines of Kent and Sussex, and ancient woodland, we can arrange autumn days out to suit your needs throughout the southeast – all within easy reach of London.
Capture the colours of autumn at Alice Holt Forest
Located within the beautiful South Downs National Park, Alice Holt Forest offers a number of walking and cycling trails surrounded by woodland, as well as child-friendly play and adventure experiences (due to the changing COVID-19 situation, please check for the current opening information). The area was once an ancient oak forest, providing the wood for the Royal Navy’s ships. Accessible by bus (starting and finishing in Farnham, Surrey), the forest stands at the start of the 50-mile Shipwrights Way.
Concierge tip: There is also a self-guided circular tree trail through the town of Farnham, taking you past landmarks including the 12th-century Farnham Castle Keep and Waverley Abbey.
Step back in time at Hampton Court Palace
The home of King Henry VIII’s Tudor court, this magnificent Baroque palace was originally built in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, before he fell out of favour with King Henry. Relive your Wolf Hall fantasies, from the grandeur of the Great Hall to the ingenuity of the Tudor kitchens, with 60 acres of gardens to explore – plenty of space for social distancing.
Concierge tip: Arrive in style via Thames River Boats, who organise circular trips taking in Westminster, Kew, Richmond and Hampton Court Palace.
Go on safari in Kent
Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve is the southeast’s largest wild animal park. The sprawling 600-acre site is home to over 900 animals including western lowland gorillas, lions, bears, and the largest herd of black rhino in the UK. Through our partnership with Port Lympne, you and your family can enjoy an exciting autumn day-out experience curated exclusively for concierge members. The package includes entry, a ranger safari tour, an animal encounter and a two course lunch with a hot or soft drink at Babydoll’s Restaurant.
Concierge tip: Contact us to discover the preferential pricing and to secure your tickets.
Walk along the White Cliffs of Dover
There are few sites more iconic in England than the famous White Cliffs of Dover. You can walk the clifftop trail to spots such as the South Foreland Lighthouse and St Margaret’s Bay (the closest point to France and launch pad for many a cross-Channel swimmer). The chalk cliffs – which rise to 350ft above the sea at their highest point – are part of the North Downs rock formation.
Concierge tip: Explore the magnificent and historic naval buildings in the beautiful seaside town of Deal at the start of the clifftop trail.
Explore the cobbled streets of Rye
The picture-postcard beauty of Rye’s steep, cobbled streets are well worth a day exploring, with commanding views across the surrounding countryside, stretching out to sea. The Rye Harbour Nature Reserve should be your next stop, as should the Grade II-listed 18th-century Lamb House, a haunt of King George I and the author Henry James. Grammar School Records, housed in an old school, is popular with vinyl hunters, and the impressive beach at Camber Sands is a short drive away.
Concierge tip: Climb the steep steps of the bell tower at St Mary’s Church for a unique view across the rooftops.
Take a private tour and enjoy afternoon tea at Cliveden House
Standing proudly atop chalk cliffs 200ft above a bend in the Thames, the Palladian mansion is surrounded by 376 acres of parkland, ancient woodland and immaculate gardens, which are now managed by the National Trust. We have partnered with the hotel to bring you an exclusive private tour of the house and gardens, followed by afternoon tea or a picnic with a half-bottle of Champagne.
Take in the bleak beauty of Dungeness
A windswept pebble peach overlooked by a nuclear power station may not sound all that romantic on paper, but this bleak, otherworldly landscape is a well-kept secret among converts – many of whom discovered it thanks to the late filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage, a Victorian fisherman’s hut that he converted into a living work of art, with its garden of hardy coastal plants, driftwood and stones. Several neighbouring fishermen’s huts can now be rented, and a narrow gauge steam railway terminates nearby.
Concierge tip: Climb the winding steps to the top of the old lighthouse (the cavernous internal space isn’t recommended for sufferers of vertigo) for 360-degree views across the Channel and back across Romney Marsh.
With the coastal counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex in its midst, the east of England comes up trumps when it comes to beautiful beaches, even in autumn. Cambridgeshire plays the heritage card, with art, culture, gastronomy and history aplenty – experiences we can help you discover.
Focus your binoculars at Holkham National Nature Reserve
A great day out for budding botanists, Holkham National Nature Reserve – stretching from Burnham Norton to Blakeney – is a nature-lover’s dream. There’s plenty going on this autumn for families, too, from deer walks and foraging courses to food trucks and spooky Halloween fun. Listen out for the seasonal call of the pink-footed geese, the screech of the barn owl and the distant crash of the waves hitting the sand at unspoilt Holkham Beach, regularly voted the UK’s best.
Concierge tip: Make sure you have binoculars (and cameras) at the ready: visiting seals waddle up on to the sand at Holkham Beach during autumn.
Take a food tour of Cambridge
When the seasons change, thoughts tend to turn to food, and Cambridge, with its international influences, has its fingers in many pies. Book a Taste Cambridge food tour and you’ll be tucking into Chelsea buns, Spanish tapas, Sicilian pastries and craft beer on a four-hour walking tour around the city. The three-and-a-half-hour Gin O’clock tour combines a visit to a gin distillery with 14 tastings; tacos, falafels and slow-cooked meats from a street market; and cake served with an elderflower cocktail.
Concierge tip: A moderate level of fitness is required to join a food tour; bring sensible shoes, a raincoat, and an umbrella.
From the mystical Pagan sites of Wiltshire and the Jurassic treasures of Dorset to the quiet coves of Cornwall and remote expanses of Exmoor, the southwest remains one of the most popular destinations for our members as we move into autumn and the colder months.
Take the Dartmouth Steam Railway
Live out your Enid Blyton fantasies by exploring seven miles of the autumnal South Devon coastline from Paignton to Kingswear on board a lovingly restored steam train. You can then cross the River Dart by foot-passenger ferry to the historic, scenic town of Dartmouth, before boarding a one-hour circular river cruise, taking in the local wildlife, including seals, herons, egrets, kingfishers and even dolphins along the way.
Concierge tip: Many of our members who have children choose to combine their day out on the railway with a trip to Paignton Zoo Environmental Park.
Look to the stars on Exmoor
The incredibly low levels of light pollution in Exmoor has meant that the national park is Europe’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. On a clear night in autumn and winter, many astronomical sights can be seen with the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars or a telescope will help you pinpoint planets, satellites and shooting stars with even more clarity. Now in its fourth year, the family-friendly Exmoor Dark Skies Festival will be taking place from 16-31 October 2020 with a packed programme of expert talks and guided night walks.
Concierge tip: For an introduction to stargazing, check out Exmoor National Park’s useful guide.
Midlands and Welsh Borders
Autumn is a time to explore, enjoy central England without the crowds, catch the odd Indian summer day, see the birds as they migrate south, and savour this bracing time of year.
Please note, there are local restrictions in place in areas of the Midlands – ask us for updates.
Romantic strolls in Ludlow, Shropshire
The poet John Betjeman called this medieval market town, with its hilly streets of grand Georgian townhouses, “the loveliest town in England”. You will soon agree as you wander the streets and lanes radiating from the market square, stopping at boutiques such as The Silver Pear, Cicchetti Bar for the best espresso this side of Milan, and watering holes from cosy inns to micropubs. All around are listed half-timbered buildings, overlooked by the bell tower of magnificent St. Laurence’s Church, which dates to the 11thcentury Norman conquest of England. Cross the River Teme and climb to Whitcliffe Common for sweeping views of the Normans’ other famous architectural contribution, Ludlow Castle.
Concierge tip: Trains run regularly from London Paddington, with a change in Newport.
Lazy weekends in the Cotswolds
This classic English area of rolling green hills, sprinkled with chocolate-box villages such as Blockley, Bibury and Bredon, is a popular getaway for politicians, models and pop stars. The UK’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it carpets Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and beyond with rare grassland, produced by the same limestone that gives the villages their golden hue. The Cotswold Way runs 100 miles southwest from the market town of Chipping Campden, allowing you to walk short sections between sleepy villages, beech woodland and ancient sites. That said, the good life is so palpable here that it’s tempting to just wander the high street, window-shopping and dreaming.
Concierge tip: Base yourself in a honey-coloured village and take leisurely trips into the surrounding countryside.
England’s diverse northwest hits its stride as autumn brings leaves from the trees in the Lake District’s woodlands, and from ancient ruins and holy sites to iconic buildings and stunning scenery, the northeast boasts some of the best landmarks and sights in the country.
Please note that due to local lockdown restrictions in the region, these days out should not be made with mixed households.
Visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (between tides)
Situated just a few miles off the Northumberland Coast, the sands and causeway connecting Lindisfarne to the mainline is cut off twice daily by the tide. The site of a 12th-century priory, Lindisfarne’s history as a centre of Christianity in the northeast dates back even further – it was ransacked by Viking raiders in the 8th century. It remains a place of pilgrimage to this day – both as the original home of the Lindisfarne Gospels, as well as for its rare nature reserve.
Concierge tip: Remember to keep up to date with the daily tides.
Autumn colours in the Lake District
Inspiration for William Wordsworth, John Ruskin, Beatrix Potter, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the Lake District is at its best during autumn, when the fells turn to gold, the waterfalls thunder and cosy tearooms beckon. It’s a perfect time to walk the famous trails, with a fresh nip in the Cumbrian air, frost in the morning shadows and leaves crunching underfoot. We suggest the seven-and-a-half-mile Hallin Fell walk from Howtown to Glenridding, which climbs the fell and follows the Ullswater lake via Silver Point headland and the Devil’s Chimney rock formation. It’s also possible to ride up and down the nine-mile-long lake on the Victorian-era Ullswater steamers.
Concierge tip: Take a look at The National Trust autumn activity suggestions throughout the Lakes
Read our guide for the best hotels to turn these days out into the perfect autumn break.