Forests and woodlands are the lifeblood of our planet, each providing a habitat for a wide variety of creatures.
The UK is home to a number of ancient woodlands and forests and the golden-hues of autumn make it the perfect time to visit Britain’s spectacular woodlands and forests for an autumn walk.
How many forests are there in the UK?
Britain has 1.40 million hectares of forest, including all Forestry Commission, Forestry and Land Scotland, Natural Resources Wales, Forest Service woodland, according to the latest report by Forest Research, which was released in June 2019,
The report estimates that the total area of woodland in the UK is estimated to be 3.19 million hectares as of 31st March 2019. This represents just 13% of the total land area in the UK, 10% in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland.
Why do leaves change colour?
In the cooler autumn months we see fewer sunlight hours which reduces the need for chlorophyll in leaves in autumn. As the pigment breaks down, the xanthophylls and carotenes become more visible, producing a stunning array of yellow and red hues.
Best woodlands to visit in the UK for autumn colour
Here is a selection of the best woodlands to visit in the UK during the autumn months.
Best forests and woodlands to visit in Scotland
Loch Katrine, Stirlingshire
Loch Katrine is a spectacular woodland which extends through remote country for some eight miles and is overlooked by craggy hills at its southern end, it’s a place of great beauty – particularly in the vibrant autumn months. Take an autumn walk to enjoy the views at their seasonal best.
Glen Affric, Highlands
Glen Affric is arguably one of the Scottish Highlands’ most beautiful glens. With its lochs and rugged mountains, it is also one of the largest remnants of the pine forest that used to cover much of Scotland. For centuries the flanks of the glen were blanketed with birch, rowan and magnificent Caledonian pines. Today it is a fascinating woodland to explore and spot wildlife.
Crinan Wood, Argyll & Bute, Scotland
A small remnant of the Atlantic oakwoods which once covered the western fringes of Britain, Crinan Wood is as close as you’ll come to temperate rainforest in the UK. Trees are mainly oak and silver birch, but look out too for a great variety of ferns and lichens. Spectacular views of Jura to the west and Mull to the north.
Best forests and woodlands to visit in England
Grizedale Forest, Lake District
Situated near Coniston Water in the Lake District, Grizedale Forest consists of ten square miles of natural woodland. Famed for the many sculptures by internationally renowned artists, using natural materials such as stone and wood, made in response to the forest landscape. The autumn colours can be discovered on an extensive network of walking and cycling trials, offering spectacular trips deep into the forest as it turns deep shades of red and gold in autumn.
Lumb Brook Valley, Warrington, Cheshire
A series of connected but different woodlands consisting of both ancient woodland and mixed conifer and broadleaved woodland. Mature trees are mainly oak, silver birch, beech, sycamore and Scots pine. woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/lumb-brook-valley/
Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Extensive tract of oak, beech and sweet chestnut (among many species) forest most famous – these days – for its feral wild boar population. Look (and listen) out for rutting fallow deer or just admire the fabulous colours.
Lydford Gorge, Devon
The deepest gorge in the South-west with a 30m waterfall. Oak trees predominate. Look out for dippers and grey wagtails down by the river. www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Best forests and woodlands to visit in Wales
Devil’s Bridge Falls, Aberystwyth, Wales
An ancient sessile oak woodland surrounding spectacular 100m waterfalls. Downloadable nature trails and walks available on the website, look out for red kites as you enjoy the beautiful autumn colours. devilsbridgefalls.co.uk
Coed y Brenin Forest Park, Snowdonia
Covering 9,000 acres of woodland and river valleys, Coed y Brenin Forest Park has 50 well-marked mountain-bike, walking and running trails. The rivers Afon Mawddach and Afon Wen run through the forest and wildlife species, including red kite, otters and British deer species can be spotted in the forest.
Best forests and woodlands to visit in Northern Ireland
Lough Navar Forest, County Fermanagh
Sitting high above Fermanagh’s lakes is Lough Navar Forest. Made up of conifer and deciduous tree species, the trees have grown to a great height and shield a hidden complex of bog, heath, open water and rich limestone grassland.