Autumn is a wonderful time of year to take a country walk in Britain, when a moist nip in the air makes leaves glow against the gray sky and walkers are assured superb views of a green and pleasant land. Not to mention the ultimate reason to go on a long walk: entering a warm, cosy pub at the end for a well-deserved pint and meal.
A walk beside the River Wharfe is a favourite at any time year, but autumn brings out the best in the riverside woodland, especially in the area known as the Strid, near Bolton Abbey. Here, the river forces its way through a narrow rocky gorge and hurries down a series of waterfalls, with dense bushes and overhanging trees giving the whole place a slightly jungly feel. Bolton Abbey is popular in summer, so an autumn visit avoids the crowds. If you make an early start, there may be a mellow mist on the field leading down to the stepping stones across the Wharfe. The walk following the river upstream takes place on easy paths through the woods beside the Strid; cross at the next bridge near Barden Tower then walk back down the other side of the river to your start point.
Head for the nearby village of Burnsall, where the centuries-old Red Lion provides a friendly welcome. You can dine in the more formal restaurant, where the menu features locally farmed beef, and specials such as breast of wild mallard or pheasant from neighbouring estates, or go for bar food such as cottage pie or sausage and mash in the relaxed wood-panelled snug (mains from £10).
Make it happen
The nearest train station to Wharfedale is Ilkley, northwest of Leeds. It is then six miles to Bolton Abbey.
Glen Affric, Scotland
Glen Affric has long been acclaimed by walkers, climbers, writers and artists as the most beautiful glen in Scotland - and it's all thanks to the trees. Affric has a good share of deciduous woodland and conifers but even more special are stands of Caledonian pine - remnants of the great native forest that once stretched across the region. Autumn is the best time to visit, when the leaves turn their ochre and russet tones echoed in the moorland and mountain landscape beyond. Plus by late September the plagues of midges have disappeared. For the best taste of the Highlands, there are several waymarked walking loops from the Forestry Commission car park at Affric Bridge.
For a well-earned meal and drink after your hike, just outside the glen is the delightfully ornate Victorian estate village of Tomich, where the former shooting lodge is now the welcoming Tomich Hotel. The style here is equally Victorian, unashamedly retro, and full of Highland icons from stag heads and fishing prints on the wall to local salmon and, of course, haggis on the menu. The bar has an inviting log fire, and an equally enticing selection of malts (mains from £9).
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Glen Affric is about 10 miles west of the tip of Loch Ness, easy to reach by car via Cannich. The nearest station is Inverness, about 25 miles away. Start and end Affric Bridge Distance One to five miles
Norfolk, as Oscar Wilde once famously said, is flat. That includes the coast, making it ideal for gentle walking. Autumn weather adds drama to the landscape, as skeins of geese and swans fly in to escape their usual Arctic territories, taking advantage of local bird reserves. A good coast walk starts in the village of Brancaster Staithe. Head east and follow the path along the top of the grassy sea-wall for panoramic views inland across meadows and marshes, and out across the beaches and sand-dunes to Holkham Bay. Go for as long as you feel, then return by the same route.
A great spot for post-walk sustenance in Brancaster Staithe is the White Horse, a traditional brick-and-flint pub with airy conservatories overlooking the marshes, and a cosy bar inside for those chilly autumn days. Specialities in the restaurant include local mussels (really local - from the creek at the end of the pub garden), as well as other seafood, while the bar has a great range of local beer (again, really local, from the neighbouring Brancaster Brewery), alongside East Anglian classic Adnams ale (mains from £11).
Make it happen
The nearest train station is King's Lynn, about 20 miles from Brancaster Staithe. Many towns and villages along the North Norfolk coast, including Brancaster Staithe, are served by the Coasthopper bus.
Brecon Canal, Wales
Walks along canal towpath have the added interest of historic navvie-built architecture - bridges, locks and aqueducts - as well as gaily painted narrowboats chugging by. The Brecon Canal passes through the tranquil rural scenery of the Brecon Beacons. In autumn, leaves in the canal-side trees turn to red and gold, reflected in the mirror-like water on a windless day. Start in Brecon, and follow the towpath to Brynich Lock, where the canal crosses the river on an aqueduct (you could also start the walk here). It's another three miles along the canal to the village of Pencelli.
Our favourite pub in this area is the White Swan at Llanfrynach, just off the canal between Brynich and Pencelli. With wood burners and leather sofas in the bar you can escape any autumnal nip in the air, then enjoy an evening meal in the restaurant, where the menu celebrates Welsh meat, including venison (mains from £12).
Make it happen
Abergavenny is the nearest rail station, while coaches arrive from Cardiff.
The article 'Our favourite autumn walks' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.