Christmas Markets with Wolsey Lodges
- Travel Guide
It would be easy to succumb to the long December nights, but the runup to Christmas brings a show of defiance. Across…Read More
There’s something about Autumn that feels almost magical. The sight of leaves changing colours – the warm golds and browns on the trees and the ground – is one to look forward to. And as the temperature falls to comfortable levels it’s easier than ever to head out and explore. But where are the best places to enjoy the spectacle from a UK or Irish Wolsey Lodges B&B this year?
The cooler months of Autumn are perfect for taking a good long walk, and the 65-mile Serpent Trail through the South Downs is one of the finest. This celebrates heathlands, an undervalued habitat occupying just 1% of the South Downs and globally rarer than rainforest. Since the 1800’s 80% of Britain’s heathlands has been lost, to agriculture and forestry, but there’s still plenty to celebrate. The Serpent Trail was created in 2005 and rerouted this year to explore the most picturesque landscapes of the greensand hills of Surrey and Hampshire. The whole trail covers 65 miles, waymarked and dotted with sculptures, so it’s not a walk to hurry. Highlights include heather in bloom, bilberries ready to pick, adders, sand snakes and Britain’s rarest reptile, smooth snakes. Unusually these give birth in September, so finding one would be something of an Autumn highlight, but you’re hardly likely to miss the calming serenade of Stonechats, woodlarks and Dartford warblers as you stroll through mellow autumn landscapes.
A natural base for any Serpent Trail walk is Langrish House in Petersfield. This is a magnificent 17th century mansion at the southern end of the Serpent Trail, with 12 guest bedrooms and extensive grounds. The walk is suitably serpentine and makes wide loops to east and west, finally finishing up at Haslemere, within easy range of Borough Court. This Wolsey Lodge is set in what is probably Hampshire’s oldest house, a beautifully-restored property with soaring ancient beams, lovely wood panelling, and bags of charm. With just three guest bedrooms the experience is private and serene and you can feel the history in every beam.
No guide to Autumn could be complete without a mention of the National Forest. This major regeneration project has just planted its 9 millionth tree in an attempt to repair many years of industrialisation and neglect. Rapidly greening a huge swathe of middle England it stretches from Burton on Trent to the Charnwood Forest and is already the largest forest in the UK, and the Autumn months see the native broadleaf trees at their colourful best. The only lodges that are actually in the National Forest are Breedon Hall and Horseshoe Cottage Farm, but Hrempis Farm is right on the edge.
At any time of year The Lake District is an outstandingly beautiful part of the country, and it has recently been recognised by UNESCO and listed as a World Heritage Site. The Autumn months see the Lakes at their best, as the woodlands and trees diversify into countless shades of browns, reds and golds. The glacial ribbon lakes set off the colours superbly, delighting walkers and photographers alike. Broadgate House is right on the southern borders of the National Park, a lovely property with glorious gardens and thrilling sea views. The house has – and I counted – 17 staircases (though most are very short), period fittings and countless little details that reflect its 18th century heritage. Even the wallpaper is of its era. There are loads of guest rooms here but few are let out to guests, meaning you get a whole floor to yourself, including bathrooms with free-standing rolltop baths and space to swing four cats at once. Just south of Broadgate House Challan Hall in Silverdale offers lake views and a lovely location, with walks to the sea across ecologically unique limestone pavements, where if you’re lucky you will find a rare slipper orchid as ospreys and kites soar overhead. Alternatively, combine visits to the lakes with a market-town experience and stay at St Mary’s Mount. Here there’s an acre of garden with views of Morecombe Bay but it’s still within easy walking distance of Ulverston, with its range of independent shops and restaurants. Nearby alternatives include Heads Nook Hall and Warwick Hall: both imposing country mansions near Carlisle, and both packed with character and period charm. Carlisle is within easy driving distance of the lakes, but ask your hosts and they’ll be sure to suggest great woodland sites for Autumn colour closer to hand: they might simply suggest you draw back your curtains and drink in the views from your bedroom window.
As the nights draw in it’s always tempting to light a fire and draw up a chair to enjoy a good book. And if you’re lucky enough to have a PG Woodhouse to hand you are likely to be tempted towards the Shropshire Hills. This is Jeeves and Wooster country, a rolling agrarian landscape at its absolute best in the Autumn months. There are also Wolsey Lodges here that would be perfect for an Emsworth; first among them perhaps the moated Upton Cressett Hall, but closely followed by the farmhouse comforts of Crow Leasow, and the rural charms of Upper Buckton and Court Farm in Church Stretton, Nearby you’ll also find The Old Vicarage, Huntlands Farm and Lower Wythall, all with Autumn colours that are very much their own.
If you can’t wait for your first experience of Autumn colours, head North. The leaves change earlier in the cooler climes of Scotland, and you’d be hard pushed to find more trees than in the Cairngorms National Park, the largest park in the UK. There’s also a Wolsey Lodge here: Lys na Greyne near the charming market town of Aboyne. On one side there is the National Park, while on the other you’ll find castles, including Balmoral Castle, Dunnottar and Braemar, Drum and many more, conveniently grouped along a Castle Trail, and all showing off the changing Autumn colours in their own unique ways. Alternatively, head for Scotland’s far North, to Blervie House in a sunny microclimate on the Moray Firth coast.
As international travel again becomes viable, don’t overlook Ireland. Woodmill House offers glorious woodland landscapes within its own grounds and the Slieve Bloom Mountains beyond, while Temple House has a thousand acres of its own private estate, with the changing colours of Autumn yours to experience in total privacy.
The last two years have been terrible for travel. Make the most of this ‘season of mellow fruitfulness’ by booking your next B&B break now.