AS autumn arrives, with its vibrant red and golden leaves, it’s impossible not to feel excited by the colours, smells and unexpected surprises of the season.
Just because the days are shorter, there’s no reason not to get out and discover a whole new side of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that you might never have noticed.
From grand gardens and windswept beaches, to castles, art exhibitions and romantic getaways, there’s still time to book a mini break or a big day out so you can enjoy the best the UK has to offer.
Wherever you visit, look for the big green tick – it’s the mark that says “We’re Good To Go” and shows that hospitality venues are complying with Government and public health requirements. Also check out the regularly updated guidance on VisitBritain’s Know Before You Go page to find out exactly what restrictions and measures are in place in each of the four nations to keep you safe.
So, it’s time to put away the box sets, pull on your wellies and get ready to star in your very own season three of 2020 – glorious, golden autumn.
Stuck for ideas of places to visit? We’ve got some great suggestions…
An octopus’s garden?
At low tide in the village of Borth, just along the coast from Aberystwyth, the sea reveals a secret – an ancient forest, dating back to 1500 BC, preserved in peat under the waves. Legend says it’s the remains of the ancient kingdom of Cantre’r Gwaelod, which was protected by a dyke called Sarn Badrig. One night, as they feasted, drunken Prince Seithenyn forgot to close the gates, allowing the sea to sweep in. As you kick your heels on the shore, see if you can hear the ghostly church bells that are said to ring out in times of danger as you explore. Find out more at visitwales.com.
Reach for the stars
A car park might not sound like the most glamorous place to spend an evening, but what if you could literally see stars and enjoy plenty of romance there? Surprise your partner and stop off at one of the seven sites in Pembrokeshire recommended as top stargazing sites by the National Trust. With low light pollution, Pembrokeshire is one of the UK’s twinkliest counties and, on a clear night, you can see the Milky Way. For stargazing tips, visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/best-stargazing-sites-in-pembrokeshireltrust.org.uk.
Who needs to go abroad when you can marvel at the majesty of maples from Japan and cypress from Florida at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which is welcoming visitors on its autumnal tree trail and offering a handy downloadable map at botanicgarden.wales before you go. It’s the perfect place for an invigorating outdoor walk, admiring the leaves and colours. Then you can head back to one of the many local hotels and B&Bs for a warming tipple.
P… p … pick up a pumpkin
The practice of carving ghoulish faces into orange orbs originated in America but it has also become tradition in the UK – you just need the perfect pumpkin. Bag a beauty at family-run Scaddows Farm in Derbyshire then share your creepy creation on Scaddows’ Facebook page. It’s spooky fun for all ages and perfect for creating impressive Hallowe’en nightlights you can leave on your doorstep – just add candles.
Eye in the sky
Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, the “Gherkin” and other impressive City buildings, Buckingham Palace and the Royal Parks… see them all and more from a pod on the London Eye. It’s guaranteed to make you feel proud you stayed for a short break at home this year. Visitors should book ahead, from £24.50, at londoneye.com. Afterwards, stroll along the romantic Southbank and choose from an array of restaurants and bars.
Thrills and spills
Storms are something to be celebrated in autumn, and there’s few places better to witness Mother Nature in all her glory than watching the waves roll in at Cornwall’s top surfing spot: Fistral Beach in Newquay. There’s no need to worry about sea breezes if you sign up for a three-night Storm Watching package at the beach’s famous Headland Hotel – you can cosy up in front of the fire indoors and safely enjoy the scene from the top of the cliff overlooking it all. Packages are available from November 1, headlandhotel.co.uk.
Head tae Tayside
The V&A Dundee opened in the UK’s first Unesco City of Design in October 2018 and is housed in an extraordinary 8,000sqm building, designed to resemble a Scottish cliff face on the River Tay. And now there’s even more space to enjoy the exhibits as, in line with Covid regulations, visitor numbers are limited. Pre-booking is required, both for the Mary Quant retrospective (from £6; until January 17, 2021) and for a free general admission ticket at vam.ac.uk/dundee.
Chances are you’ll have the pristine white sands and amazing views all to yourself if you visit Sanna Bay on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in the Highlands. The sand is so soft and the water so clear you could be in the Caribbean, and on good days you can see across to the Small Isles of Muck, Eigg and Rum and the Isle of Skye. It’s the perfect spot for a long dog walk or a picnic, and there are places to stay nearby if you decide to make a weekend of it.
Edinburgh is beautiful for a day trip or short break, but are you brave enough to delve into the murky world of the Old Town’s dark and dangerous past? Mysteries, murders, creepy tales of the bodies buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard and a glimpse into the haunted underground vaults – you’ll be amazed at what you can uncover on one of the city’s underground ghost walks. Led by locals in costume, these award-winning tours are spookily perfect for Hallowe’en – an entertaining fright night for people of all ages. Adults from £12, book in advance at cityofedinburghtours.com.
Walk with giants
Millions of years ago, cooling lava created one of Ireland’s most impressive otherworldly natural attractions. Just over an hour from Belfast, the Giant’s Causeway is made up of thousands of basalt columns that you can climb for impressive Atlantic Ocean views. Legend has it that the causeway was formed so two giants from Scotland and Ireland, who had challenged each other to a fight, could meet. Walking the stones at this Unesco World Heritage site is free, but there’s a fee for parking and entering the visitor centre. Book ahead at nationaltrust.org.uk/giants-causeway – tickets are released every Friday.
Dolphins and dunes
If two miles of golden sand, ancient dunes that reach up to 30m high and a Games of Thrones connection sound like your cup of tea, head to Portstewart Strand in County Londonderry. Try to spot whales, seals and dolphins from the beach or walk along and watch busy fishermen along the Bann Estuary. The dunes are a butterfly and wildflower hotspot – but you might recognise them as the Dornish coastline where Jaime Lannister and Bronn came ashore.
Fishing for compliments
Portavogie in County Down is a quaint fishing village with a busy little harbour from where the New Quays restaurant offers a pick of the daily catch. With cod, hake, lobster and the prawns for which Portavogie is famous on the menu, plus views of the sea, it’s a pescatarian’s paradise and well worth checking out.
Find more inspiration at visitbritain.com/escape
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