SUMMER may be behind us, but autumn is waiting in the wings and it’s the ideal time to explore the UK crowd-free and at your own pace. If your holidays didn’t go to plan this year, or you just fancy another mini getaway, then now’s the time to pack your bags and escape the everyday.
Crisp days, bright skies and reddening leaves make for memorable Instagrammable moments, whether you fancy a remote road trip, a cycle-powered city break, an island bolthole or something completely different. Plus, by boldly going where you’ve never been before in the UK, you can discover the unexpected.
Autumn is perfect for watching baby seals in Wales or enjoying woody walks on the Game of Thrones trail in Northern Ireland. Or you can tickle your tastebuds by sampling single malt whisky in the Hebrides, traditional mead on Lindisfarne or oysters in Kent. Culture vultures will be spoilt for history and legends, but we can all wake up to wider horizons – the best thing about staying on a farm, in a cosy cottage or seaside hotel.
As well as recharging your own batteries, you’ll also be giving a boost to the UK’s hotels, restaurants, pubs and attractions. It’s easy to plan ahead by checking that where you intend to stay bears the We’re Good To Go mark, meaning it has all the necessary Covid-19 safety requirements in place. For more information on what to do when you arrive, VisitBritain’s Know Before You Go page has all the latest information about safe travelling in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
So what are you waiting for? Why not head to one of our suggestions below, or strike out on your own adventure – the UK is yours to enjoy…
On yer bike
The Tartan Bicycle Company’s Sky to Sea half-day guided bike tour takes you from the highest points of Edinburgh to the lowest. Go from Arthur’s Seat, with its panoramic views across the city, to the sea views at Portobello and down to the historic port of Leith. It’s a great way to see Scotland’s capital. tartanbiketours.co.uk, £45pp.
A 45-minute ferry crossing from Oban transports you to the Inner Hebrides. Mull, with its white sandy beaches, and the brightly coloured harbour front of Tobermory, is a true breath of fresh air. Book a warehouse tasting at the Tobermory Distillery and sample a wee dram or three straight from the cask. tobermorydistillery.com, £40 pp.
Hit the road
Get your kicks, not on Route 66, but on Scotland’s beautiful North East 250. It’s the ultimate Scotland road trip, taking you through the whisky distilleries of Speyside, the spectacular mountain passes of the Cairngorms National Park, the castles of Royal Deeside, the Granite City of Aberdeen and the picturesque seaside villages along the Moray Firth coast. Stop off and sample amazing seafood and spot the northern lights from a deserted beach along the stunning north east coastline. There are special places to stay along the way, from yurts and bothies to lochside hotels and cosy guesthouses. Visit northeast250.com for more details.
Coasting for foodies
If you want some beach served alongside your lunch, head to the Kent coast. There’s hip Margate for fish ’n’ chips and historic Whitsable for oysters. Work up an appetite with a coastal walk and bed down in the pretty seaside town of Deal. The Rose boutique hotel is romantic and pet-friendly. therosedeal.com, doubles with breakfast from £100.
Lindisfarne (not the band)
Holy Island, or Lindisfarne, off the Northumbrian coast is a magical place. A two-hour boat trip from Seahouses takes you to the former island home of monks and the 16th century Lindisfarne Castle, with lots of wildlife to spot on the way. Book Billy Shiel’s boat trips at farne-islands.com, £40pp.
There’s no better way to break up a packed trip to the capital than heading to London’s naval capital of Greenwich. A great place to wander, with open spaces, great views of The Thames, Greenwich Market and the Royal Observatory, plus you won’t want to miss calling in at the Old Royal Naval College. A backdrop for movies like Les Misérables, Cinderella and Pirates of the Caribbean, the recently restored Painted Hall is a spectacular sight featuring 200 figures including kings, queens and mythological figures. Go to ornc.org to book a visit.
Life in the fast lane
Feeling brave? Then why not get up to speed – say, 100mph – on the fastest zipline in the world? Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda, North Wales was once the largest slate quarry on earth. Now it’s home to Zip World’s Velocity 2, a breathtaking mile-long thrill ride where you fly across the quarry, 500m above the ground, taking in its bright blue lake and the spectacular Snowdonia scenery. There are also smaller zippers, quarry tours and a café for the less adventurous. Go to zipworld.co.uk (advance booking needed).
Going to the chapel
High above the Wye with views of the Black Mountains, Maesyronnen Chapel offers a total escape. Perfect for families, the former chapel sleeps four and has a log fire and cosy rooms. Take an outing to the Llanddeusant Red Kite Feeding Station to see these spectacular birds of prey up close. landmarktrust.org, four nights from £348; redkiteswales.co.uk, £5 adult, £4 children (check online for times).
For the ultimate autumn wildlife walk, Marloes Peninsula on the Pembrokeshire coast has a special draw. Around 150 Atlantic grey seal pups are born here from September to December. The best views of seals are from the Deer Park’s clifftop. Head to nationaltrust.org.uk/marloes-sands for walking routes and more breathtaking viewpoints.
Winter is Coming
Follow in the footsteps of Brienne of Tarth and Tyrion Lannister by touring filming locations from Game of Thrones. Take the Causeway Coastal Route, driving north from Belfast and follow the GOT Locations app. Viewpoint markers at some of the sites show scene photographs from the series.
Step back in time at the dock where the ill-fated ship was built and launched in 1911. The award-winning Titanic Experience is great for kids and adults alike. Both indoor and outdoor, it makes for a grand day out with special effects, animations and full-scale reconstructions. titanicbelfast.com, adults £19.50, children, £8.50. Under-fives go free. Advance, timed bookings only.
If you’ve been craving a fix of sea air, then Portstewart has two miles of golden sandy strand by the Atlantic Ocean. The dramatic beach is backed by tall dunes where there’s a circular walk. Wrap up for an outdoor seafood lunch at popular Harry’s Shack, right on the sand.
Plan your trip at visitbritain.com/escape