Best British woodlands and forests to visit for autumn colour

The changing of the autumn colours in the UK's forests and woodlands is one the most magical seasonal spectacles. Here is a selection of the best British woodlands and forests to visit in autumn.

© Anne Rowe

Forests and woodlands are the lifeblood of our planet, each providing a habitat for a wide variety of creatures.

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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?

Autumn leaf against a sunny background, Getty
Cooler weather and less sunlight sees leaves transformed into a colourful array of reds and yellows/Credit: Getty Images

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

A blustery autumnal day at Loch Katrine the source of much of Glasgows drinking water.The loch is a scenic attraction in the Trossachs area of the Scottish Highlands
The loch is a scenic attraction in the Trossachs area of the Scottish Highlands and is particularly beautiful in the autumn/Credit: Getty Images

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

Bridge at Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands.
Bridge at Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands/Credit: Getty Images

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

Crinan wood, Scotland,geograph-6160714-by-Richard-Webb
Crinan Wood in Scotland has sweeping views of the Argyll coastline © Richard Webb for Geograph and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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

View of Grizedale forest in the Lake District in autumn/Credit: Getty Images
Weatherlam and The Old Man of Coniston in autumn viewed across Grizedale Forest/Credit: Getty Images

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

Woodland in winter/Credit: Ian Greig, Geograph
Lumb Brook is home to a number of mature tree species/© Copyright Ian Greig, Geograph and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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

A view of the River Wye from Symonds Yat on the border of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire/Credit Getty Images
Enjoy spectacular autumn colours along the River Wye from Symonds Yat in the Forest of Dean/Credit: Getty Images

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

White Lady waterfall in Lydford Gorge, UK in autumn scenery
White Lady waterfall in Lydford Gorge, Devon/Credit: Getty Images

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

Devils Bridge Falls, Ceredigion, Wales/Credit: Getty Images
Devil’s Falls famous old bridges sit on top of the other with a rocky gorge with beautiful waterfalls below/Credit: Getty Images

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

View across Coed y Brenin forest in Snowdonia/Credit: Getty Images
View from Precipice Walk in Snowdonia overlooking Barmouth and Coed-y-Brenin forest/Credit: Getty Images

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

Lough Achork in Lough Navar Forest/ Credit: Daniel Graham
Approximately, 30% of Fermanagh is made up of lakes and waterways, such as Lough Achork in Lough Navar Forest/ Credit: Daniel Graham
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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.

Banagher Glen, County Derry

Banagher Glen, County Derry/Credit: Getty Images
Banagher Glen, County Derry/Credit: Getty Images
Banagher Glen in Northern Ireland remains an untouched forest from deforestation thanks to its location on a steep ravine, which makes access for tree felling a challenge. As a result, the oak, ash, hazel, hawthorn and holly trees provide an excellent habitat for wildlife, including red squirrels.