Ah autumn, that time of year where the leaves turn vivid red, the jumpers come out and the pumpkin spiced lattes return. The Cotswolds is a gorgeous part of the UK to visit anytime of year, but in autumn some places really come into their own.
We got together with some of the region’s best bloggers to put together this guide to some of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds during the autumn months.
Time to put on those walking boots and get out in that autumnal fresh air!
If there is one thing to do in and around the Cotswolds this autumn, it’s to get outside and experience the autumn colours. One of the best places to do this is Westonbirt Arboretum, just outside Tetbury.
Westonbirt Arboretum, managed by The Forestry Commission, is really worth a visit all year round. However, it’s at its absolute best in autumn. The 600-acre site contains over 18,000 shrubs and trees and is home to a huge variety of rare and exotic plants and trees. The Old Arboretum is a dog-free area and is a museum of trees. The Silk Wood is dog-friendly and is more of a traditional working woodland. In both areas there are plenty of places for children to play and have fun, and each one has a seasonal trail in order for you to see the best that Westonbirt has to offer.
Westonbirt Arboretum has always been famous for its maple species, and the highlights during autumn have to be the Acer Glade in The Old Arboretum, and the Japanese Maple collection in Silk Wood. Here you will be able to see the most amazing riot of autumn colours, from burnished gold to the brightest reds.
Westonbirt Arboretum is very popular during the autumn, so you can find yourself queuing to park, and to get something to eat. However, even at its busiest, the arboretum still feels quiet and tranquil. It is the perfect place to be able to enjoy autumn in the Cotswolds at its very best!
Slimbridge Wetland Centre
Slimbridge Wetland Centre is a great destination to visit in autumn. Found on the banks of the River Severn’s estuary in Gloucestershire, its extensive network of ponds and streams make it a haven for migratory birds. Many of these birds choose to spend the winter in Slimbridge, making the colder months one of the best times to visit. Additionally, the autumn foliage is spectacular in many places around the sanctuary.
In autumn you’ll find the ponds chock full of all sorts of ducks, swans and geese, among other birds. You can buy special bird feed if you want to get up close to them. As you walk around the wetland centre you’ll also see playful otters and other smaller mammals, such as voles and mice.
And if you love flamingos then you’ll want to check out the flocks at Slimbridge – this is the only place in the world where you can see all six flamingo species!
Slimbridge is ideal for families with young children too – they’ll love getting up close to amphibians and more in Toad Hall, and there are two outdoor and one indoor play areas to choose from. Make sure you go out on a Wild Safari walk with a park warden to get a more in-depth look at the environment, or take a Canoe Safari too (both weather dependent and run from March to October).
One of our favourite local spots to head to in the autumn is Bourton-on-the-Water. Bourton is a very pretty and charming spot year round, especially when the leaves begin to turn and the crowds of summer tourists have long gone. We love walking along the River Windrush which runs through the centre of the village, stopping to feed the ducks and enjoying a delicious cream tea at one of the many quaint coffee shops.
My boys will often happily just play Poohsticks from the bridges, although their favourite place to explore is the model village, a one-ninth scale replica of Bourton. They literally crawl around on their knees looking into the little shop windows, Cotswolds stone houses and churches. We’ve also spent memorable day at Birdland in Bourton, which I thoroughly recommend to families (you can buy cheap tickets with Tesco Clubcard vouchers). It’s a fun day out for kids, although it seems strange to see flamingos, pelicans and penguins in the Cotswolds!
One of my favourite spots for autumn colours is Batsford Arboretum, near Moreton-in-Marsh. While it’s not as well known as its county cousin, Westonbirt, it covers over 56 acres of spectacular leaf displays.
The arboretum’s landscaping is mostly thanks to Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford. If his name rings a bell, it’s because he was grandfather to society darlings the Mitford sisters, who lived at Batsford during the First World War.
Freeman-Mitford worked overseas and became an expert on Chinese and Japanese culture. These influences are still very much present as you stroll through the grounds. Stop a while at the Japanese rest house and spot imported bronze statues of Buddha and two Japanese deer.
One of my favourite spots to photograph is the Japanese bridge, where the water reflects the colours of the surrounding trees. It makes me feel like I’m in a living Monet painting.
After the Mitfords left, Batsford Arboretum fell into disrepair. However, one of the most recent owners, the second Lord Dulverton, restored it to its former glory. He introduced collections of maple, oak, birch and magnolia, along with other rarities. It is these trees that provide the fiery reds, oranges and yellows that astound me each autumn, alongside showy displays of vibrant berries.
Looking for more Cotswolds inspiration? We’ve also put together a round up of some of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds – all year round! If you’re after some more ideas of things to do in the region, be sure to check it out!
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Image credit: All images for each destination were taken by that guest blogger.