As the weather turns crisp and the days grow shorter, there are few things more pleasant than a brisk autumnal walk, crunching leaves underfoot, through the Great British countryside. Here at BIRD HQ, we’ve compiled a list of our very favourite seasonal strolls, so read on for your weekend inspiration, sorted:
There’s nowhere quite like the Yorkshire coast for fresh air, friendly locals and gloriously tacky memorabilia. My favourite walk begins in Robin Hood’s Bay, which is every bit as quaint as it sounds – a tiny, colourful town of winding, steeply sloping streets lined with wonky cottages. From the beach, head up, up, up on to the clifftop, where you begin a winding walk north to Whitby. The path takes in green fields and rocky shorelines, taking around 3 hours to complete at a stroll. Your arrival in Whitby is heralded by the stark silhouette of Whitby Abbey. Literature lovers will be familiar with Dracula’s connections to this quirky seaside town, but for those seeking to up the kitsch factor, there’s always the fabulously low-budget Dracula Museum… Reward rumbling tummies by heading to the Magpie Café for the best fish and chips in town, washed down with Yorkshire tea and squeaky white bread-and-butter, as is tradition. If you’ve any room, head to John Bull for some tooth-breaking luridly-coloured rock and comedic confectionary – the giant chocolate fish is a particular highlight.
Image: Kathy Medcalfe
In my three years in Exeter University, Dartmoor became my favourite place to escape from the stress of dissertation deadlines and looming final exams. Perhaps the most famous walk on Dartmoor, the Teign Valley Classic Circuit takes walkers on a 3 and half mile journey through the National Park, high above the River Teign, offering breath-taking panoramic views and a true on-top-of-the-world feeling. The walk starts at Castle Drogo, a beautiful Grade I listed building and the last castle to be built in England, and descends down through the woodlands towards Fingle Bridge, a narrow packhorse bridge thought to date back to the 17th century. This is the ideal spot for a family-favourite game of pooh-sticks, and a midway home cooked meal or cream tea at the idyllic Fingle Bridge Inn. After re-energising, following the path back up along the river, through the towering oak trees and over the suspension bridge takes you back towards the castle.
Image: Alex Nail
Growing up in Edinburgh, there’s no shortage of options for a weekend walk. Starting off in the new town, my favourite Sunday stroll always begins with a trip to Stockbridge farmer’s market for a steaming brew. Cuppa in hand (and gloves in tow… it is Scotland after all), you’ll wind your way along the cobbles, worn smooth by the footsteps of millennia, and navigate past the screeds of shoppers on Princes Street, before ascending the Mound towards the jewel in Edinburgh’s crown: the castle. Once at the top, always be sure to stop for a moment to take in the view, stretching beyond Stockbridge down to Leith, Barnton, South Queensferry and beyond onto the hazy roofs of Fife. Next, take a left onto the Royal Mile and continue right down to the Scottish Parliament and one of my favourite buildings, Holyrood Palace. From here, head straight on and begin the climb up Arthur’s seat. The path is gradual, the climb easy and the views beautiful. Once at the top, on a clear day, you can see virtually the whole city and beyond, from the Pentland hills in the west to the silky beaches of East Lothian in the east, the waves crashing into the Berwick Law in the distance. A contrast of old and new, it’s hard not to get lost in the city’s skyline, a maze of prickly spires, shimmering domes and asymmetric Georgian roof tops; a window into the city’s rich history.
Image: Walk Highlands
The White Horse Trail of Wiltshire is one of the most famous walks in this quintessentially rural county, winding across rolling downs and wildflower fields on a 90 mile trail between its eight ‘white horses’. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon is the Alton Barnes White Horse stretch of the trail, which takes you on a seven mile loop along the banks of the Kennet and Avon canal and up onto the crest of Woodborough Hill, the highest point in Wiltshire. Perched up on the lofty downs, the views to the south and west are truly spectacular. Directly below looms the chalky silhouette of its white horse, etched into the hillside, alongside a crumbling hill fort and a spattering of thistle-covered barrows. End the walk with a hearty Ploughmans lunch of local cheese, ham, pickles and crusty bread at the Barge Inn, a traditional watering hole hidden away on the banks of the canal and renowned for being the ‘world headquarters’ for the Crop Circle phenomenon.
Image: Hawk Homefinders
If I don’t have time to escape the city, I can’t think of a better way to spend a crisp, cold autumn day than exploring Hampstead Heath. Growing up in London, this has always been the place to breathe fresh air into my lungs; be it a Christmas day stroll or summer in the swimming ponds, but my favourite time is without a doubt when the whole 320 hectares turns auburn and the first chill of winter hits the air. It’s easy to find untrodden corners and new routes around the park, but for the iconic “blow the cobwebs away” walk, enter the Heath on the Highgate side, passing Kenwood House and the ponds and make the steep climb up Kite Hill (aka Parliament Hill). From here, you can look out over London and take in the city in all its glory, safe in the knowledge that you’re totally removed from the hustle and bustle. Then it’s down through the trees of East Heath and out into pretty Hampstead Village. The historic Holly Bush pub is the ideal pit stop for a post-walk drink and bite to eat, so find a cosy corner in one of its many candlelit snugs and ease yourself slowly back into city life.
Image: Matthew Maran