Touring England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland is a trip of a lifetime in any season, but in autumn it can be especially spectacular. Landscapes not only include endless greenery, soaring mountains and countless castles, some in mysterious ruin and others impeccably preserved but in the fall, colorful foliage too. While you can tour this region anyway you like, if you have the time, you might want to make it a road trip, flying into London and then making your way through the English countryside, through Wales and north to Scotland, before venturing across the Irish Sea to the Emerald Isle.
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The Cotswolds, England (Nearby Hotels)
The Cotswolds region of England is made up of gently sloping, vibrant green hills dotted with countless sheep and some of the prettiest villages in England, looking as if they’ve stepped out of the pages of a fairy-tale. Their English charm predominantly spans the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, while also reaching into parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, and is the largest of the 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales. There are many enticing villages, including more lesser-known spots like Stanway, Stanton and Snowshill, but even the famous places like Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water are unlikely to be crowded this time of year. While it may be a little chillier this time of year, it’s also a wonderful time to enjoy cozy fireside pub sessions.
The Wye Valley, Wales (Nearby Hotels)
The Cotswolds Region is just east of the border of Wales. Travel to the Wye Valley and you’ll be awed by the magnificent scenery, officially known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with countless opportunities for picture-postcard photo-ops. This area is also home to the monastic ruins of Tintern Abbey which dates back to the 12th century and is said to have inspired poems by William Wordsworth and Lord Tennyson among others. One of the greatest monastic ruins of Wales, the present-day remains are a mixture of buildings that cover a 400-year period between 1131 and 1536. While little remains of the original buildings, the vast windows and later decorative details displayed in the walls, doorways and soaring archways, are a sight to behold.
Snowdonia National Park, Wales (Nearby Hotels)
Snowdonia National Park is northwest of the Wye Valley and home to the biggest mountain in Wales, at 3,560 feet tall. It’s filled with some of the country’s most stunning landscapes, with nine mountain ranges, forests, lakes and valleys. This popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers also offers the chance to experience the region’s long human history by visiting Neolithic burial cairns or Roman Forts. If you want to take a break from being behind the wheel, the scenic nine-mile journey on the Bala Lake Steam Railyway that runs along the shores of Bala Lake offers incredible views and the opportunity to watch for the lake’s resident “monster” known as “Teggie.”
The Lake District, England (Nearby Hotels)
England’s Lake District lies northeast of Snowdonia and is filled with incredible scenic beauty. Under autumn light it’s even more breathtaking. It’s also a top destination for gentle strolls and more challenging treks, with countless lakes surrounded by gold and ruby covered hills. Cumbria may be the best of the best, home to Grizedale Forest Park, with its green pines and copper beech trees framing mountain views. There are many cozy pubs in the area for ducking into for a glass of local ale or cider as well, like the Kirkstone Pass Inn.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland (Nearby Hotels)
Your next stop is north of Glasgow, Scotland: Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. This is one of the largest national parks at 720-square-miles, and one of the most beautiful, renowned for its breathtaking mountain scenery and more than 20 lochs, the most famous being Loch Lomond with its crystal clear waters immortalized in song. Soaring mountains loom to the north, while a scattering of islands are dotted along its south end and picturesque villages like Luss line its western shores. Take a walk through Argyll Forest Park with its ancient trees, tranquil lochs and abundance of wildlife. Ben Arthur is also set within the park, often referred to as “the Cobbler,” one of Scotland’s most popular climbs.
Bridge of Orchy, Scotland (Nearby Hotels)
Just a short drive north, the Bridge of Orchy is a village deep within the Highlands, characterized by towering mountains, ancient castles and whisky distilleries. The West Highland Way, popular for walkers, linking Milngavie, just outside Glasgow, to Fort William in the Highlands, passes right through the village a stroll on a beautiful autumn day where you might catch the reflection of the larch trees in the still waters of the lochs.
Cairngorms National Park (Nearby Hotels)
Northeast of the Bridge of Orchy, Cairngorms is the largest national park in the U.K., and a true mountain wilderness home to five out of six of Scotland’s highest peaks, and four out of 10 of the highest in Britain. It also boasts some of the most impressive lochs and rivers, native forests, farmland and moorland, as well as being abundant in wildlife. Keep an eye out for reindeer, wildcat, pine marten, golden eagle, deer and badger. Walks are popular here, including the walk around Loch Muick and the trek to the top of the nearly 4,300-foot Ben Macdui.
Wicklow Mountains, Ireland
Hop on a short, inexpensive flight to Dublin to explore some of Ireland’s best fall foliage. Autumn in the Wicklow Mountains is a special treat with frequent blue skies and trees covered with a brilliant golden hue. This is an amazing area for hiking as well as exploring historic sites like Glendalough, one of the most important monastic sites in the country, founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. If a storm happens to roll in, just duck into one of the countless pubs and enjoy the warmth of a crackling fire with of pint of Guinness.
Killarney National Park (Nearby Hotels)
Killarney National Park in County Kerry is home to the most extensive covering of native forest remaining in Ireland, which means lots of color. A drive here will take you through a magnificent backdrop of coniferous and deciduous trees, with the autumn light showcasing the and ever-changing sky that reflects off the lakes. It’s also the season to watch the red deer rutting.