It’s the season for bracing autumnal strolls through the UK’s finest woodland – with a drink in a delightful country pub at the end of it.
Here are 15 of my favourite walks to whet your appetite…
1. Savernake Forest, near Marlborough, Wiltshire
Savernake Forest in Wiltshire, pictured, has Europe’s highest concentration of 1,000-year-old trees in what is Britain’s only privately owned forest
The only privately owned forest in Britain, Savernake boasts Europe’s highest concentration of 1,000-year-old trees in its 4,500 acres. The estate, owned by the Earl of Cardigan, dates back to Saxon King Athelstan. Henry VIII wooed local girl Jane Seymour on woodland walks here.
Tree tops: Wander among England’s oldest oaks, tallest chestnuts and the longest tree avenue: Capability Brown’s four-mile ‘Grand Avenue’ of beeches. Star attractions include the 1,000-year-old Big Bellied Oak and the hollow Duke’s Vaunt Oak, which once had a door, lock and could ‘shelter 20 boys inside’.
Relax and revive: At The Three Tuns, Great Bedwyn, with its open fires. Look out for Wiltshire ham and real ale brewed nearby (tunsfreehouse.com). Nearby Westcourt Farm, with Savernake oak ceiling beams, offers double B&B rooms from £85 a night (westcourtfarm.com).
2. Waterfall Country, Pontneddfechan, Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons has Britain’s biggest concentration of waterfalls. One of them is the 89ft Henrhyd Falls, pictured
Three mountain rivers create Britain’s biggest concentration of waterfalls among the broad-leaved woods, including the 89ft Henrhyd Falls.
Tree tops: The south-west section of the Brecon Beacons National Park is so damp that it’s categorised as a Welsh rainforest.
Relax and revive: Warm yourself by the log fire at the Red Lion at Penderyn, enjoy beer and cider from casks, and tuck into Welsh lamb and Brecon venison (redlionpenderyn.com). Practise your Welsh spelling at Sgwd Gwladys cafe nearby. Double B&B rooms cost from £60 a night in this converted village tourist office (sgwdgwladys.co.uk).
3. Hobby Drive, Clovelly, Devon
A stroll down Hobby Drive provides walkers with views of Clovelly’s tiny harbour, pictured
Clovelly Court’s wealthy owners created a winding, romantic carriage ride 200 years ago. Today it forms a spectacular three-mile walk through cliff-top woods to the coastal hamlet of Bucks Mills. Enjoy sunsets and spotting Clovelly’s tiny harbour 400ft below.
Tree tops: The stone bridges along the tree-lined ‘drive’ were built by Napoleonic War PoWs.
Relax and revive: Enjoy the catch of the day at the fishermen’s ‘Snug’ bar (clovelly.co.uk). Spend the night at the Red Lion Hotel – double B&B rooms from £160.
4. Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
The Forest of the Dean has one of Britain’s biggest oak forests, which covers more than 40 square miles
Hilly woodland paths are punctuated by outdoor sculptures, including a huge stained-glass window hanging from trees.
Tree tops: One of Britain’s biggest oak forests covers more than 40 square miles between the Wye and Severn rivers. Dean gets truly wild in parts, so look out for boar.
Relax and revive: At The Miners in Sling (theminerssling.co.uk). Local Steven Jenkins left to work with Gordon Ramsay, then returned to run this pub, which also has double B&B rooms from £85.
5. Brede High Woods, near Battle, East Sussex
Brede High Woods is older than the site of the nearby Battle of Hastings. Here you can spot deer, dormice and newts
Explore woods older than the site of the nearby Battle of Hastings. This was once the site of a gunpowder factory.
Tree tops: Spot fallow deer, dormice, newts, glow worms and ultra-rare flea beetles that live only in this part of the UK.
Relax and revive: Chickens roam outside The Red Lion in Brede (redlionbrede.co.uk), while inside bare brick walls and beams are decorated with tankards and old prints. Food includes Sussex seafood platters. Stay in a converted farm worker’s cottage at nearby Ewhurst Green. Double B&B rooms cost from £100 (cloudsbedandbreakfast.co.uk).
6. Epping Forest, London
Epping Forest, pictured, is a 12-mile ribbon of mixed woods. It is protected and maintained by the City of London Corporation
Queen Victoria visited this 12-mile ribbon of mixed woods and declared it ‘The People’s Forest’. Epping has been protected and maintained by the City of London Corporation since.
Tree tops: Explore highwayman Dick Turpin’s hideout and meander past more than 100 ponds, many formed by misplaced Blitz bombs.
Relax and revive: Tuck into hearty pies at the Green Man, an ivy-clad pub in Old Harlow. Double B&B rooms cost from £45 (chefandbrewer.com).
7. King’s Wood, near Ashford, Kent
King’s Wood is near Ashford in Kent. It is home to a herd of 300 fallow deer and sculptures made from forest materials
Bears, wolves and robbers once prowled this wood leaving Canterbury pilgrims so terrified they waited on the edge to form large groups to travel through. The dangers have gone, so follow the paths safely through a hilly forest of beeches, chestnuts and pines.
Tree tops: Highlights include a herd of 300 fallow deer and sculptures made from forest materials.
Relax and revive: Relax at the family-run Flying Horse in Boughton Aluph and enjoy Sunday roasts under beamed ceilings (flyinghorseinn.co.uk). Rooms at the inn cost from £50 a night.
8. TyrRel’s Wood, near Pulham Market, Norfolk
The thatched roof Crown Inn at Pulham. It is close to TyrRel’s Wood, near Pulham Market, Norfolk
Explore woods which date back to the Ice Age, spotting trees paint-marked for felling. Don’t worry though – the wood was bought and saved from the chop by enthusiasts from the Woodland Trust.
Tree tops: You’ll spot scattered sallow, silver birch, field maple, common lime and ash. Patches of bluebell, wood sorrel and pyramidal orchids also appear. And there is a single mature black poplar tree – now rarely found in the wild.
Relax and revive: Duck inside the Crown Inn, a classic thatched pub by the church on the village green at Pulham (thecrowninn-pulham.co.uk). The pub has beamed ceilings, cosy armchairs and roaring fires. The Tudor-framed Old Bakery has five rooms from £75 a night B&B (theoldbakery.net).
9. Roseberry Topping, Cleveland
Roseberry Topping in Cleveland, pictured, has thick forest that surrounds the base of the ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’
Thick forest surrounds the base of ‘the Yorkshire Matterhorn’. Geologists say every step up through the woods in this Jurassic landscape represents 5,000 years of geological time.
Tree tops: Take paths through kissing gates to spot roe deer, tawny owls, woodpeckers and exotic funghi among oak, ash and sycamore trees. Scramble to the Topping viewpoint to see Captain Cook’s monument to the south.
Relax and revive: The King’s Head Inn in Newton under Roseberry was recently judged one of Britain’s best family pubs. Stay in 17th Century cottages alongside and get packed lunches and your boots cleaned after a day’s walking. Double B&B rooms cost from £99 a night (kingsheadinn.co.uk).
10. Aira Force waterfall, Ullswater, Lake District
Wooded gorges and the ‘Tree Trail’ winds up to England’s most famous waterfall, Aria force in Ullswater
The ‘Tree Trail’ winds through deep wooded gorges leading to England’s most famous waterfall. Wordsworth was inspired to write a poem after this woodland walk.
Tree tops: In the 1780s, the Howards of Greystoke Castle landscaped around the waterfall, planting half a million trees and building tracks, footpaths and bridges.
Relax and revive: The Brackenrigg Inn & Brewery in Watermillock is a whitewashed coaching inn making its own beer and offering Cumberland sausages and mash. Double B&B rooms from £81 (brackenrigginn.co.uk).
11. Padley Gorge, Longshaw Estate, Derbyshire
A section of Padley Gorge in the Peak District. Paths follow splashing streams across mossy boulders
This steep wooded Peak District valley, recommended by the BBC’s Countryfile programme, is particularly colourful in autumn. Paths follow splashing streams across mossy boulders.
Tree tops: Among the oaks and birch trees, look out for scores of millstones, relics of once-thriving outdoor workshops.
Relax and revive: The Fox House Inn is a cosy, dog-friendly pub high on the moors. Double B&B rooms cost from £71 (vintageinn.co.uk).
12. Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
Legend says Robin Hood hid inside a tree called the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, pictured. It’s now the UK’s biggest oak – it sheds 150,000 acorns a year
Stop beside the Major Oak, a huge gnarled tree that has been here since the Viking era. Legend says Robin Hood hid inside and it’s now the UK’s biggest oak – it sheds 150,000 acorns a year.
Tree tops: Today our most famous outlaw’s domain is equipped with marked trails, a cafe, visitor centre, maps – and even Robin Hood-inspired archery lessons.
Relax and revive: Warm your hands by open fires at Forest Lodge Hotel at Edwinstowe. Enjoy local cask ales in the bar and roasts in the wooden-beamed restaurant. Bedrooms overlook the church where Robin is said to have married Marion. Double B&B rooms cost from £80 (forestlodgehotel.co.uk).
13. Cragside, Northumberland
Cragside in Northumberland, pictured, has 40 miles of marked footpaths. Pine trees make the paths green and crunchy all year
Wealthy Victorians Lord and Lady Armstrong planted seven million trees around their mansion. Today the woods provide sanctuary for a healthy red squirrel colony.
Tree tops: Pine trees make Cragside’s 40 miles of marked footpaths green and crunchy all year.
Relax and revive: The 300-year-old Three Wheat Heads Inn in Thropton serves homemade soup with hunks of crusty bread – and throws in superb woodland views for free. Double B&B rooms there cost from £73 a night (threewheatheads.co.uk).
14. Galloway Forest, Dumfries and Galloway
Galloway Forest, pictured, is the UK’s biggest forest and has scores of trails, including a three-hour circuit of Loch Trool
The UK’s biggest forest has scores of trails, including a three-hour circuit of Loch Trool, with loch, mountain and waterfall views.
Tree tops: Robert Bruce’s 1307 victory at Battle of Trool is commemorated by a huge boulder. The tiny Scots army lured larger English forces along lochside paths then rolled boulders down, knocking many into the water.
Relax and revive: Whitewashed House o’ Hill Hotel in Bargrennan is the only inn within the forest. Dine on venison, while B&B rooms cost from £95 (houseohill.co.uk).
15. Crom, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Some of Europe’s oldest yews are the highlights of more than 1,000 woodland acres on Upper Lough Erne’s shores
Some of Europe’s oldest yews are the highlights of more than 1,000 woodland acres on Upper Lough Erne’s shores. ‘The Ladies Walk’, through golden oaks planted 300 years ago, is a local favourite.
Tree tops: Hides let wildlife-spotters see otters, pine martens and migrating waterbirds, while romantics explore castle ruins.
Rest and revive: Amid crackling fires and stone walls, enjoy hearty roasts at Seven Horseshoes in Belturbet. B&B rooms cost from £84 (thesevenhorseshoes.com).