British Travel | 26th September 2023
11 of the best autumn breaks in the UK
Fall in love with the UK this autumn
Autumn is a magical time of the year to enjoy a luxury weekend break in the UK...
When the countryside transforms into a tapestry of russet and gold and the cooler temperatures provide the perfect conditions for walking and spotting wildlife from rutting stags to red squirrels.
Whether you want to sip whisky in front of a roaring log fire, get your wellies on for a stomp through crunchy leaves, or watch whales and dolphins, we’ve handpicked ten of our favourite autumn breaks in the UK…
1. Whisky & wildlife
When it comes to truly great autumn holiday ideas, Scotland offers a wealth of opportunities for cosy retreats in breathtakingly beautiful countryside. And for whisky lovers, there’s no better time of year for a tour of the finest distilleries in the land. You’ll find many big brands and boutique producers in the capital, Edinburgh, to the Isles of Jura or Harris, and dotted around the land. But to truly raise your spirits, head to the home of The Macallan —the mighty single malt magicians —in Speyside, where you can enjoy a guided tour of the distillery and taste the amber liquid.
And for a double measure of whisky and wildlife, autumn breaks in Ayrshire are hard to beat. In this beautiful region, you can fill your days with field sports and the majestic sight of rutting red stags and sample the national liquor when the autumn sun goes down.
Where to stay: Glenapp Castle, an award-winning luxury hotel in Ayrshire, offers a wealth of country sports such as deer stalking and pheasant shooting, as well as fishing and falconry. And in addition to fine dining, it’s renowned for its excellent whisky tasting experiences. The hotel’s whisky connoisseurs will invite you to sample an array of different whisky styles from the Scottish lowlands, to the highlands.
2. Autumn leaves
For the chance to skip through autumn leaves on a fresh-air adventure, the glorious Cotswolds are top of the pile. Whether you explore the rolling countryside and quaint golden-stone villages by car or on foot, you’ll soon discover what makes this region such a popular holiday retreat. And the Westonbirt Arboretum is the very best place to see the countryside in its full autumnal splendour — and support conservation projects while indulging in a spot of forest bathing.
This national arboretum is home to 2,500 species of trees from around the globe with experiences for nature lovers of all ages. Here, you can take a journey up into the canopy on the STIHL TreeTop Walkway, or stay on terra firma and explore 17 miles of paths through the forest. The arboretum is split into three key areas. Dog-friendly Silk Wood; the central Downs, and dog-free Old Arboretum.
Where to stay: Soak up the delights of the season and unwind in the sauna at Calcot & Spa, a five-star hotel that offers sophisticated weekend breaks in the UK for couples. Picture elegant guest rooms with fine dining and spa treatments on tap.
3. Medieval magic
Seeking a sweet little autumn break in the UK that’ll transport you to a bygone era? Make your way to the lovely haven of Lavenham in Suffolk. Lavenham is one of the best-preserved Medieval towns in the UK, with more than 320 beautiful Grade II-listed timber framed buildings, many of which are protected by English Heritage. Granted ‘market status’ by Henry VIII, it became a thriving centre for the wool trade, and by 1524 Lavenham was ranked the 14th richest town in the country thanks to the famous Lavenham Blues cloth.
Today, you’ll discover a charming farmer’s market on Sundays, curiosity shops and traditional pubs —and a wealth of attractions on your doorstep, including The Talbot Trail, a a series of 14 statues around Sudbury, the Suffolk vineyards, and stately homes such as Kentwell Hall and Helmingham Hall Gardens.
Where to stay: Tuck yourself away in Tudor splendour at The Swan at Lavenham, a stunning 15-th century hotel with cosy nooks and roaring fires — as well as a delightful spa —located in the heart of this charming town.
4. Red squirrels
Poole in Dorset is one of the best places for a weekend break in the UK at any time of the year, but if you fancy catching sight of rare red squirrels this autumn, Brownsea Island is a hive of nut-gathering activity. The largest island in Poole Harbour and a National Trust wildlife sanctuary, Brownsea Island is a haven for red squirrels and as the leaves transition to hues of red and gold, the island becomes a living canvas of autumnal beauty.
Pack a picnic and meander through woodlands and meadows, where you can catch glimpses of these endearing creatures darting through the undergrowth and scarpering up to the treetops. Thriving natural habitats, including woodland, heathland and a lagoon, have also created lush habitats for a huge variety of birds, including the Sandwich tern, and you’ll also spot peacocks and hens.
Where to stay: Within an easy drive of Poole, you’ll find The Priory Hotel, a luxury Grade 11-listed retreat situated on the banks of the River Frome in Wareham. Picture inglenook fireplaces, hearty food and a warm welcome.
5. Spa time
Sometimes all you really need is a restorative weekend spa break. The UK boasts some of the very best luxury spa hotels in the world, all offering a tempting selection of treatments and a wide variety of wellness facilities and programmes. For inspiration for a restful British escape, peruse our Wellness Collection featuring PoB’s most stunning spa hotels.
Whether you’re in the mood for a city break or a rural escape, you’re sure to find a spa hotel that hits the spot, but in the autumn months, there’s something extra lovely about taking a spa weekend in a countryside hotel where you can sip your herbal teas in front of a log fire.
Where to stay: For weekend spa breaks with a botanical theme, The Elms Hotel & Spa in Worcestershire is sure to melt your heart. This boutique manor house which offers award-winning fine dining is also home to The Greenhouse Spa — a very chic sanctuary for R&R.
6. Highland games
Feeling feisty? Make haste to Braemar for the ultimate Highland fling. This mighty little town is world famous for the annual Braemar Gathering and Highland Games and is one of the most delightful destinations you could ever discover for an autumn break in the UK.
Surrounded by the majestic Grampian Mountains and woodland scenery in the Cairngorms National Park, it’s a paradise for walkers and climbers. If you’re seeking an adrenaline high, take your pick of 24 Munros (mountains over 3000 ft high) or explore more 65 miles of high-level walks and cycle routes of varying length and difficulty. The 17th century Braemar Castle stands on the edge of the town, while eight miles away you’ll find Glenshee, home to the largest ski centre in Scotland.
Where to stay: Arguably one of the most characterful hotels in Scotland, The Fife Arms offers superlative five-star service in a former Victorian coaching inn that’s ideally situated in the Cairngorms National Park.
7. Potter about
If your idea of heaven is hunting down antiques and curiosities and discovering arty hangouts, there’s a little place in Pembrokeshire that’s perfect for weekend breaks in the UK for couples. The quaint little town of Narberth has a wealth of Welsh charms: its thriving high street is packed with independent shops and cute cafés, and you’ll find a full calendar of local events from arts fairs to live music. Known for its arts scene, it's a great place for finding unusual art works, as well as high quality artisanal fayre.
The town is also your gateway to the glorious Pembrokeshire Coast National Park that stretches inland along the banks of the River Cleddau — and the gorgeous Pembrokeshire coastline with its many walking trails is within easy reach.
Where to stay: The very best of Welsh hospitality awaits you at the Grove of Narberth, a celebrated luxury country house hotel with award-winning restaurant in a prime spot in the Pembrokeshire countryside.
8. Cider tasting
Indulge your taste buds in the heart of Somerset, where autumn's harvest brings forth a delectable treat: cider. Now’s the time to wander through the county’s picturesque orchards, where apple-laden trees are picked and the fruit is transformed into liquid gold.
There are numerous farms that offer charming cider tasting and tours, including Sheppy’s Cider Farm where you can also taste delicious local cheeses. Or visit the home of one of the big brands such as Thatcher’s Cider based at Myrtle Farm, where you’ll learn about how they’ve been making cider in Somerset for over 115 years.
Where to stay: Autumn weekend breaks at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa in Bath offer visitors the best of two worlds —a cultural city break that’s within very easy reach of the peachiest Somerset countryside and cider tasting adventures.
9. Dolphin watching
Did you know that it’s possible to spot migrating whales and dolphins off the Yorkshire coast? Pack your waterproofs and binoculars and make your way to the harbour village of Staithes. From here, you can set sail on one of the many boat trips, including the Seabirds and Whales Twilight tour —a four-hour guided adventure to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
Late summer is the best time to spot minke whales but bottle-nosed dolphins are now seen all year round on the coast, and in increasing numbers. And if you’re a bit of a twitcher, there’s bird life galore — Arctic Skuas, Great Skuas, Long-tailed Skuas, Sooty Shearwaters, and Atlantic Puffins to name but a few.
Where to stay: Check into the Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa, a Mediterranean-inspired retreat tucked away in the Yorkshire market town of Helmsley that invites guests to feast on fabulous food and have a whale of time in its chic spa.
10. Wild swimming
The ethereal beauty of the Lake District reaches its zenith in autumn, where placid waters reflect the fiery foliage adorning the landscape. And if you’re ready to dive into the invigorating world of wild swimming, this is arguably one of the most inviting destinations for dipping your toe in for the first time. While all the Lakes have pretty places where you can take the plunge, Lake Windermere is arguably the best with four top wild swimming holes frequented by aficionados.
In addition to its many health benefits, wild swimming is a unique way to connect with nature's elements. Traverse mirror-like lakes, feeling the thrill of the chilly water against your skin while surrounded by the symphony of falling leaves.
Where to stay: Look no further than Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, a stunning hotel in Windermere. Unwind in your own private spa lodge and dine in the Michelin-starred restaurant, SOURCE at Gilpin Hotel.
11. Beach break
When it comes to combining beachcombing with a history tour, the picturesque island of Jersey offers a multitude of experiences for a great autumn weekend break in the UK. As the summer crowds disperse, the island reveals its quieter charms and autumn temperatures are perfect for cultural tours and sightseeing.
Wander on golden sand around stunning bays and immerse yourself in Jersey’s rich heritage. Must-see attractions include the imposing medieval Mont Orgueil Castle and a tour of the thought-provoking Jersey War Tunnels, where you can learn the true story about life on the island under the German occupation during World War 11. Then explore the charming streets of the capital, St. Helier, famous for its fabulous jewellery, boutique shopping and waterfront bars and restaurants.
Where to stay: For breathtaking ocean views, decadent dining and first-class beachside facilities, The Atlantic is one of the very finest hotels on the island, offering memorable escapes for families and couples.