Exploring The UK's Top Autumn Getaways
The UK is home to numerous fantastic tourist destinations, many of which are perfect all year round. In this article we focus on 20 great getaways and places to visit in the autumn months; we’ll look at cosy country retreats, fantastic shopping destinations, annual events, and a few unusual attractions with quirky appeal. All are readily accessible by car, and perfect for couples, families and solo travellers alike!
An almost perfect blend of historic Britain and modern convenience, the thriving city of York is a perfect getaway destination. The historic Minster is world-renowned while the Shambles offers a very special shopping experience; old timber-framed houses lean over narrow cobbled walkways and streets filled with super local businesses and unusual attractions. Jewellers, gift shops and thriving boutique stores sit alongside vintage outlets and there’s even a Harry Potter shop, with a magical array of gifts. Fantastic shopping can also be found at the Designer Outlet Mall, just a couple of miles from the city centre. The city is served by an efficient park and ride service to keep congestion low.
History lovers should head to the Jorvik Viking Centre, which celebrates the city’s ancient status as a Viking capital. The National Railway Museum is also a must-visit attraction, offering the best in historic and modern locomotives, carriages and railway memorabilia – it’s great for the kids too, and you can even step onboard a Japanese “bullet train”.
The city hosts numerous festivals, with a notable Autumn event being the annual Food and Drink festival held each September. This ten day event showcases local and world class cooking, with numerous mini-events and demonstrations to boot. Halloween is celebrated with a fun, week-long catalogue of attractions held across the city, ideal for scare-lovers! The famous York Christmas markets also begin in mid-November and are among the country’s finest. If you wish to venture outside the city, this area of North Yorkshire is filled with great places to go; from the wonderful Castle Howard stately home to the nearby charms of Harrogate and Ripon, the city and surrounding region make for a wonderful break from everyday life.
Few spa towns have the imposing grandeur and worldwide fame of Bath. Its healing mineral waters have been the focus of visitors for more than two thousand years; the ancient Roman baths remain a key attraction for their historical importance and the impressive preserved architecture, while the Thermae Bath Spa is open to the public – it’s a natural thermal spring and Britain’s only accessible spa of its type.
The city is also home to wonderful architecture – the Georgian city streets and curved Royal Crescent are must-see points of interests, while the centre is home to modern shopping centres and a large array of local boutiques and shops. There are numerous galleries, museums and places of interest, together with several international-class sporting venues and concert halls. It’s within driving distance of many of Britain’s finest attractions, including Stonehenge and Longleat, with its magnificent house, maze and safari park.
Each Autumn the city hosts a famous food festival, the Great Bath Feast. There are cookery schools, tasting sessions, talks from the culinary world’s biggest names, and plenty of offers and events at Bath’s many great eateries. The city caters for all types of cuisine year-round, and is a foodie’s delight.
While it is often reserved as an idyllic summer holiday destination, Cornwall is a great place to visit out of peak season, thanks to its inspiring scenery, dramatic moorland and wealth of coastal attractions. Falmouth is a great place to visit and affords a wonderful backdrop with its bustling harbour area and the overlooking splendour of Pendennis Castle, which dates to the 16th Century.
Food and drink lovers make for Falmouth in their droves each Autumn, thanks to a pair of iconic festivals. The annual three day beer festival is held each October and allows guests to sample close to 250 local and national beers and lagers, alongside dozens of ciders and other ales. It is one of the region’s most important events and is followed by the yearly Oyster Festival. Also held in October, this event lasts over several days and is a true Cornish attraction; it heralds the start of the annual oyster dredging time, and showcases local food and crafts.
Falmouth has much to attract visitors. It offers splendid, clean beaches such as Maenporth and Swanpool and numerous coastal trails. Nearby Trebah Garden has an exotic array of plants and trees. Pendennis Castle itself is a worthwhile attraction, thanks to its well-preserved ramparts and walls, and sees around 100,000 visitors annually.
The quiet coastal region around North Cornwall is home to many lovely holiday homes and great countryside, but each November it comes alive thanks to the Blues, Rhythm and Rock Festival. Held for three days each November, the festival was formerly held at Ilfracombe but located to Bude in 2018. The event has attracted major names from the music world including Focus and Wishbone Ash, with around twenty acts appearing across the three day festival.
The town of Bude is a charming place to visit, filled with excellent restaurants and a wide array of local shops and businesses. Bude is also the gateway to some of North Cornwall’s most dramatic cliffs and coastline, with magical coves and beaches dotted around the region. The South West Coast Path runs along the coast and provides one of England’s finest walking routes, full of incredible vistas and places to explore.
Britain’s south coast is home to many wonderful destinations, but few can rival cosmopolitan Brighton. Famed for its magnificent beach, splendid Regency period architecture and array of events and places of interest, the city and its surrounds are a great place to spend a few well-earned days. The Palace Pier is a notable attraction, along with the famous Royal Pavilion and the marina. There’s also the glass pod i360, which allows incredible 360 degree panoramic views across the English Channel and the south coast from a height of 450 feet.
Brighton is also famed for its wide variety of shops, from independent boutiques to designer brands. “The Lanes” area offers quirky outlets and local shops selling a huge array of produce and gifts. The city is also home to numerous great bars and restaurants and is famed for its nightlife. A short drive takes you to nearby places of interest such as the Seven Sisters Cliffs and the fabulous South Downs.
October also sees the annual rock music event “Mammothfest”. Certainly the largest hard rock festival in the South, the open air event allows local bands and new talent to play alongside world famous established giants of rock and metal. Should your tastes be more sedate, head to nearby Proud Country House, a restored manor property located in Stanmer Park just ten minutes from the city.
This North Wales gem has been a holiday destination of choice for a very long time, but it continues to offer new experiences and attractions even for those who have visited many times. Just across the Menai Straits from Bangor lies a magical isle, whose golden sands, idyllic seaside villages and charming countryside never fail to delight. Newborough Beach offers miles of clean golden sands with breathtaking views across to Snowdonia, while a coastal walk takes hikers and casual walkers on a magical journey through mystical forests, cliffside villages and splendid parkland.
The island has many hidden properties such as the popular Plas Newydd and the private estate at Plas Cadnant, with 200 acres of beautiful countryside. Beaumaris offers quirky shops, a bustling harbour and castle ruins which are well worth a visit, while a short drive provides access to the fantastic sands at Benllech or Trearddur Bay. There’s a Sea Zoo, dramatic coastal vistas with lighthouses and nature reserves, while Holyhead is a busy ferry port providing access to Ireland.
A stay in the Welsh capital offers access to a modern, vibrant city steeped in a thousand years of history and tradition. At the heart of Cardiff lies the castle, which dates to Roman times and was expanded into a magnificent protective structure in Norman times. More recently it has acquired wartime shelters, gothic architecture and provides a remarkable mix of styles and influences. Visitors can enjoy climbing the medieval keep, gaze upon the Roman wall and explore luxurious rooms and apartments within.
The city is a vibrant destination, with every possible shopping and entertainment experience on offer. There are world class sporting venues for soccer and rugby, dozens of theatres and galleries to explore, and your restaurant and nightlife options are enormous. Food lovers will enjoy the walking and tasting tours that take place each Friday and Saturday, providing a great way to see the city while enjoying the best of Welsh local produce and cuisine. Families and folk seeking quiet space amidst the daily hustle and bustle should head for Bute Park, a large parkland area nestled within the city. There’s an arboretum, lots of flora and fauna to enjoy, and great facilities for the whole family.
This North Yorkshire coastal gem offers one of the UK’s most dramatic headland sights – the magnificent gothic abbey that stands watch over the mighty cliffs and steep streets that lead down to the town’s harbour. Whitby Abbey is said to be the primary inspiration for Bram Stoker’s tale of Dracula and it’s easy to see why: the gothic ruins have a haunting and imposing feel, with almost 1,500 years of history steeped in its stones. The adjacent church and graveyard add to the eeriness and lend the town a truly mythical feel.
Whitby’s steep coastal paths and local walks offer unrivalled views, while the town is home to numerous winding streets filled with great shops and local galleries. The busy harbour and seafront is a great place to wander, and there are ample cafes and restaurants to refuel after a brisk walk. October sees various annual festivals and events including a seaside vintage fair and a wartime railway event which includes the chance to travel on board heritage railway engines and steam trains.
Heading out from Whitby, the coastal routes offer access to many other fantastic small towns and villages, including nearby Saltburn with its famous seafront and the magnificent Robin Hood’s Bay. The coastline offers access to hundreds of miles of walking routes, while the North York Moors are a great place to explore on foot, by car or by local train.
If it’s an unusual getaway you seek, why not head for the inner sanctum of Robin Hood’s world with a trip to Sherwood Forest? The nature reserve spreads across more than 450 acres and is filled with ancient trees and woodland, including veteran oaks which date to the year 1500. Nestled deep within the Forest are various holiday homes, including the luxurious Sherwood Hideaway lodges, a terrific place to get away from it all.
The immediate region around Sherwood Forest is filled with walking trails and places to explore, while Thoresby park has an art gallery, cafe and craft shops. The parkland also boasts a nearby golf club, Ollerton Watermill and it’s not too far to venture into Nottingham with its modern shopping and entertainment facilities.
Isle of Skye
As the largest of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is a remote yet charming destination, full of Celtic wonder and incredible scenery. It boasts a truly captivating coastline, dramatic mountains, and is home to several important sights and places of interest. Chief among these is the lochside splendour of Dunvegan Castle. It has been the home of the Clan MacLeod chiefs since the 13th Century and has been continuously inhabited longer than any other castle in Scotland. This magnificent castle and estate are great for exploration. Revel in the ancient history that seeps from every rock and enjoy the many treasures on display, from paintings to the sacred Fairy Flag, a banner used in times of war.
From the castle, visitors can take a boat ride onto Loch Dunvegan. There are fishing trip and cruises to enjoy, along with a seal colony. There are also various holiday cottages served by a handful of shops and cafes. If you’re in search of another magical place, seek out the Fairy Glen, which is surrounded by farmland and contains waterfalls, rock formations and small hills – truly a world of its own. The island is also home to the world-renowned Talisker whisky distillery. Located at Loch Harport, the visitor centre and distillery offer tasting tours between April and October and of course sells a range of its famous products.
Kop Hill Climb Festival, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire
Motoring enthusiasts and those seeking a bit of quirky fun should check out the annual Kop Hill Climb charity festival, which has been running for a decade and pays homage to the classic hill climb events of the early 20th Century. Located at the leafy, charming town of Princes Risborough, the September event has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for good causes, and combines genuine motoring fun with the chance to get up close with many vintage and classic cars from all eras. The event itself sees around 500 cars and motorbikes attempt to climb the steep hill, which has inclines of 1 in 4 in places – for some of the older cars, even reaching the top is challenge enough, let alone do it in the fastest time!
Exhibits regularly include celebrations of classic cars, and other aspects of motoring history, while funfairs and a live stage offer plenty of entertainment for the whole family. The festival itself spans two days, but single day is plenty to see most of the sights. A visit to this charming area of the country also allows you to enjoy the historic town and strike out for the Chilterns and nearby Aylesbury. Coombe Hill allows uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside and has lots of on offer including some fantastic walks.
Scotland’s biggest city is of course a great place to visit throughout the year, with a myriad of terrific modern attractions set alongside hundreds of years of history. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the city’s finest attractions – dating to 1901, the family-friendly centre offers more than twenty galleries crammed with exhibits and displays on all manner of subjects, from wildlife to art to ancient and contemporary history. Another unusual point of interest is Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, which is dedicated to the life and work of sculptor and mechanic Eduard Bersudsky.
The city is home to several world class football grounds which can be toured, and there’s the huge Pollok Country Park, which provides an extensive green space within the city; the park is Green Flag accredited, meaning it reaches the highest standards of quality, and has numerous attractions and things to do. Glasgow also has world class shopping facilities and many other free attractions including the Botanic Gardens, Strathclyde Country Park, the cathedral, the Riverside Museum and much more.
October sees an annual month-long celebration of one of Scotland’s finest architects and designers, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and the autumn months are filled with events – there are food shows, musical events (including the famed Glasgow Cathedral Festival), arts and drama, and a November Christmas Fair at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC).
Located in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Kingsbridge is an amazing destination for those who enjoy the outdoor life. There are many miles of great walking trails through the town itself as well as the verdant countryside and on the region’s South West Coast Path. Beaches are scattered around the immediate area, with Salcombe and Slapton in particularly well worth a visit to enjoy the sands and stroll amidst a relaxed atmosphere. Watersports lovers are also in their element, with year-round windsurfing, sailing and surfing all catered for.
Kingsbridge also offers an enjoyable shopping experience, with local produce, independent boutiques and shops and lots of antique and gift outlets threaded about the town. There are numerous thriving cafe bars and restaurants to enjoy, and out of season the town quietens down, allowing you to relax in its welcoming environs. There’s a miniature railway, parks and gardens and lots of hidden secrets to discover!
There are plenty of organised events to enjoy through the Autumn months, with the intriguing three days of “DadFest” each September alongside fortnightly farmers markets, Halloween craft and costume workshops, and evening beach activities.
Northumberland is home to rugged coastline, glorious beaches and several remarkable towns and villages. Chief among them is the medieval town of Alnwick, famed for its iconic castle which has been a stand-in for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter film series. One of the country’s most popular visitor attractions, the inhabited castle dates to around 1100 and has been restored and renovated on several occasions. It attracts close to a million visitors annually, and a visit in the autumn months allows you to enjoy special events including a week of Halloween celebrations – these include ghost tours, spooky evening events, a knight school and birds of prey exhibitions. With its preserved state rooms and year-round exhibits, Alnwick Castle is a tremendous attraction.
The Alnwick Garden adjoins the castle and offers the chance to sample afternoon tea or enjoy an evening meal in a luxurious treetop setting. The town has many thriving stores, including great bookshops, cafes, gift shops and independent boutiques filled with local wares. Bailiffgate Museum offers an insight into a thousand years of Northumberland life, while there’s a playhouse and galleries to while away the hours.
Nearby parks and beaches offer much in the way of restful space, and stargazers will revel in the astonishing clarity that can be found at Northumberland International Dark Sky Park. This protected region spans some 570 square miles and offers numerous opportunities and ideal spots for examining the wonders of the galaxy and the overhead Milky Way. The Leonid meteor showers take place in November and are fantastic to observe from this region.
Dating back some 2000 years, the city of Exeter is one of the oldest and most interesting settlements in the UK. The city’s ancient heritage is best enjoyed through a wealth of popular attractions and events, including red Coat Guided Tours, the Underground Passages and by inspection of the preserved Roman walls. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum is home to many exhibits which celebrate the city’s past and present, including some artefacts that date back two millennia.
The city also boasts a wonderful medieval cathedral, which dates to the 12th century and includes Norman and gothic architecture among its many stylings. There’s a 500 year old astronomical clock, a wide array of historical documents to observe and many beautiful tombs. Exeter boasts diverse cultural influences, best reflected in the range of cafes and restaurants that can be found at every turn. If you’re seeking some retail therapy, the West Quarter offers many local outlets and boutiques alongside artisan eateries and independent shops.
Each October the city also takes on a Germanic vein, thanks to the two day Oktoberfest celebration that takes place at the castle. The venue plays host to a wide range of German beer and food exhibits, allowing you to sample the best in international foods and beverages.
Windermere and Grasmere
The Lake District is one of the country’s most beautiful and popular destinations. It has long been a haven for artists, walkers and outdoorsy types, but offers a huge amount to explore across the world heritage site. Windermere is among the most visited areas and it’s not difficult to understand why. The fabulous lake itself – the largest in England at over ten miles long – offers cruises, boating tours and its surrounds include several beautiful houses and estates to explore. Brockhole visitor centre is chief among the attractions here; there are more than 30 acres of gardens to wander round, bike hire is available, and you can charter a boat or just relax in the welcoming restaurant.
A short hop then takes you onto Grasmere, once the home of poet William Wordsworth and now boasting many visitor attractions in his name; you can explore Dove Cottage, where he reportedly wrote many of his poems, visit his grave at the local church, and meander along the lake shore towards Rydal. The Wordsworth Museum is also filled with treasures and memories of the iconic English wordsmith.
In 1999 Wigtown was officially declared as Scotland’s National Book Town, and every year since there has been an international book festival held there each September. The town itself is remarkable, essentially just a few paved streets filled with numerous bookshops and literary places. Tucked away in a quiet region of Dumfries and Galloway, Wigtown has become something of a mecca for the literary-minded, with scores of visitors arriving daily to enjoy the enormous selection of new and used books, and to take in a unique part of Scotland. The festival attracts thousands of visitors who can sample around 150 events spread over the ten days, while there are loads of entertainments and things to do for families and children.
Alongside the annual festival, the town provides a gateway to a beautiful, unspoilt region of the country, with the Solway close by for watersports enthusiasts, and Galloway Forest Park to explore. There are lots of enchanting places to stay, and the larger town of Stranraer isn’t too far away.
Prescott American Autumn Classic, Cheltenham
For two days each October, the English spa town of Cheltenham plays host to a very American style affair, the Prescott Autumn Classic. This motoring event is a celebration of the very best in modern and classic American motoring, from Pontiacs, Mustangs and Cadillacs to the latest in custom motorbikes, drag cars and Corvettes! The hill climb is an integral part of the action, with many different categories and competitions, while there’s a lunchtime parade of all the vehicles on show.
Aside from the motoring action, the festival provides lots of typically Stateside entertainment, such as Vegas Showgirls, live music from jive bands and rock groups, a daring “wall of death” attraction, and all manner of other loud and brash shows. It’s family-friendly, great fun and perfect for petrolheads and casual car lovers alike.
Away from the show itself, Cheltenham has loads on offer, from great entertainment and shopping to a wide range of restaurants and vibrant nightlife.
Scotland’s capital is a remarkable city, boasting all manner of historical sites and places of interest. There are few more enjoyable places to spend a few days, from the searing majesty of the castle to the myriad of delights available down the Royal Mile. However if you’re visiting in the Autumn, why not take in the three day Edinburgh Craft Beer Experience which takes place in November. With more than twenty breweries represented across three floors of the Assembly Roxy, there’s sure to be a drink or two to suit most tastes. The festival celebrates the best of thousands of years of Scottish brewing history as well as guest ales and beers form the rest of the UK. There will even be beer themed classes and workshops for those wishing to learn more.
After sampling a tipple or two, why not take in the great shopping and entertainments on offer throughout the city. Camera Obscura is a notable attraction, along with the impressive Scott Monument, Holyrood Palace and of course the array of designer shops and department stores which line Princes Street. The Royal Yacht Britannia is a great recent addition to the list of sights, while a walk up Calton Hill will not only allow great views but also access to various memorials and historic monuments.
London Cocktail Week
It’s almost impossible to list the thousands of sights, delights and attractions available in the nation’s capital, and there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy. If you like a tipple, or even if you just enjoy a fun spectacle, why not head to the city in October for Cocktail Week. The area around Brick Lane is turned into a festival village. More than 300 bars offer a wide range of cocktails and exotic drinks, while there are pop-up shops, entertainments and a vibrant night scene. There are tours, cocktail making events, masterclasses and much more to savour. It won’t be the only activity to enjoy on your visit to London, but it’ll be among the most enjoyable and atmospheric.