Autumn is arguably the most beautiful time of the year. When the trees turn red and gold, the sky a crisp blue, and the ground is blanketed in a carpet of fiery leaves, spending time outside is more rewarding than ever. But as the temperatures drop and the days draw in, it can be tempting to hide away inside – so if you want to make the most of the Great Outdoors, it’s good to have a few activities in mind.
With that said, here are 10 things to do outside this autumn that can help you get plenty of fresh air and exercise (and have some fun while you’re at it!).
1. Forage for berries
Autumn is the season for harvesting and foraging. At this time of year, many delicious berries start to ripen: from fat, juicy blackberries to bright red hawthorn berries.
Foraging in parks, hedgerows, and woodlands is a lovely way to spend time outdoors this autumn – and it also means you’ll have a plethora of berries to use in your cooking.
While blackberries and hawthorn berries work well in jams (and the latter can be used for sweet or savoury jams), other seasonal berries, like sloes and elderberries, make delicious drinks. Elderberries can be used to make a healthy cordial, while sloe berries famously make fabulous gin. They also make seriously flavoursome jellies and sauces.
Another perk of foraging for berries in autumn is that you can give your culinary creations away as thoughtful Christmas presents. There’s something special about receiving a jar of homemade jam as a gift, or a bottle of inky-blue sloe gin!
If you’re going foraging this autumn, just be sure to do it responsibly – making sure you stay safe and within the law. Have a read of the Woodland Trust’s foraging guidelines to find out more.
2. Visit a pick-your-own farm
In a similar vein, you could also go apple, plum, and pumpkin picking this autumn. The difference between these two activities is that while berries can be easily foraged by wandering through local parks or woodlands, to pick apples or plums, you’ll probably need to visit a pick-your-own farm.
There are many pick-your-own farms across the country; just search online for ones near you, or check out this article from The Guardian to see some of the best UK farms for autumn produce.
If you pick plums and apples, you’ll have an abundance of fruit to use for chutneys and preserves – which also make wonderful gifts! You can use apples to make your own homemade cider too.
If you have grandchildren, taking them pumpkin picking is a fun and memorable way to spend time together – though you don’t need kids in your life to enjoy this classic autumn activity! Once you’ve picked your pumpkin, you can get into the seasonal spirit by carving it and then using the leftover flesh in some delicious autumnal pumpkin recipes.
3. Head to the coast
Going to the beach is an activity we associate with summer – but autumn is also an ideal time to visit the coast.
In the summer months, most beaches are noisy and crowded, and if you’re after some peaceful solitude on the sand the chances are you’ll come up short. But in autumn, when kids are back at school and many beaches are totally deserted, it’s a different matter entirely.
Watching the waves crash on an empty beach, or enjoying a strenuous walk along a coastal path, is a wonderful way to reconnect with nature and enjoy some quiet reflection. If you’re interested in wildlife, you have a much better chance of spotting birds, animals, and marine life now the crowds have gone – and if you have a dog, now’s the perfect time to let them off the lead to splash around.
If it gets cold, you can warm up with some fish and chips or a hot chocolate – and dark skies and blustery winds just make it feel more atmospheric!
Retreating to a cosy pub to enjoy a hearty meal after a bracing coastal walk is also a uniquely satisfying autumnal experience. Just be sure to wrap up!
4. Visit an arboretum or garden
Being among nature has many benefits, both physical and psychological. But there’s something a bit magical about walking in the trees – so much so that it’s actually a respected Japanese relaxation technique called shinrin yoku, which translates as ‘forest bathing’. Forest bathing is catching on in the UK now too, and there’s no better time to try it than in autumn.
To make the most of autumn’s beauty – and to see just how spectacular the colours of the changing leaves can be – why not visit an arboretum? Though the most famous arboretums are Westonbirt, Batsford and the National Memorial Arboretum, there are many beautiful arboretums and botanical gardens all across the country – and you can check out some of the best over on Countryfile.
If you don’t have an arboretum near you, the chances are you’ll still be within pretty easy reach of a gorgeous garden. There are gardens owned by the National Trust with shops, cafes, toilets, and accessible walking trails – and sometimes a historic house to visit too – so you can always make a day of it. But equally, there are many smaller lawns and gardens you can visit too that are just as lovely.
To find out more, have a read of our article, 11 beautiful gardens to visit in the UK.
5. Go birdwatching
If you’re interested in birds, you’ll be pleased to know that autumn is one of the best times to go birdwatching.
This is the season of bird migration, which gets underway at the end of summer and continues until November. Around 17 million migrant birds land in the UK during their migration, either staying for the winter months or just passing through on a longer journey.
There are many migrant birds you can spot in autumn; from the pinkish Scandinavian waxwings to the stocky knot birds who’ve come from the Canadian islands, and the striking redwings, who hail from Iceland, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Siberia. To find out more about migrant birds you can spot in the UK, check out this article by National Trust.
Norfolk is perhaps the best place in the UK to go birdwatching in autumn, as each October, around a third of the world’s population of pink-footed geese temporarily make their home here. There are many other rare birds you have a good chance of spotting here too, from the yellow-browed warblers to the red-flanked bluetails, all of which come from the east and migrate to Norfolk in autumn.
6. Have an autumn picnic
Picnics might be synonymous with summer, but just like going to the beach, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy this relaxing outdoor activity in autumn.
You might even find that you prefer picnicking in autumn to summer, too; the cooler temperatures mean fewer bugs and heartier food, and the scenery is often far more spectacular.
To plan the perfect autumn picnic, it’s important to be prepared. Though the skies might be dry and blue, the grass is often wet, so you may want to bring camping chairs and tables, or use a waterproof picnic mat. It’s also important to make sure you don’t feel cold, so dress warmly and bring extra blankets, hats, and scarves just in case the temperature drops.
What you eat and drink on an autumn picnic should differ from summer too. Keep beverages in flasks so they stay warm and think about tasty seasonal drinks like chai tea, pumpkin spiced coffees, or even mulled cider. If you want some more ideas, have a read of our article; 9 delicious hot drinks that will warm you up on a cold day.
Similarly, the food you bring should also be different from summer. Light, fresh salads are great when it’s warm, but autumn tends to warrant heartier variations, like three-bean or spiced couscous salads. Classic picnic fare like pies, tarts, sandwiches, and sausage rolls still work well (even better if they’re warm!), and cake is a must!
7. Go on a photo walk
If you’re interested in developing your photography skills – or if you’re just looking to get creative – why not think about going on a photo walk?
Not only are photo walks fun ways to get some exercise, but they’re great for getting a new perspective on your surroundings. And, in autumn, when nature is continually changing and vivid colours blaze around you, it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo.
You can choose to stroll around your neighbourhood and see how different things appear when you’re looking through a viewfinder – or you can head into more rural areas to take advantage of the magnificent autumn scenery. Wherever you choose to go, you might want to check out the AllTrails app; just enter the name of your destination and the app will suggest pretty trails you can follow. There are also plenty of ideas in our article; 14 of the best autumn walks in the UK.
As you walk, you can let your mind and eyes wander, and snap anything that grabs your attention, or alternatively, you can have a theme in mind. You could have a natural theme, like different coloured leaves, acorns, trees, and berries, or you could choose a more urban theme, like people wearing hats and gloves, frosty windows, or reflections of autumn colours on glass.
Whatever theme you choose – if you even choose one – you’ll probably find that time slips away when you’re this focused. Plus, finding creative inspiration while getting exercise outdoors is a wonderful way to spend a few hours this autumn.
The days getting shorter isn’t something most of us look forward to – but there’s a big perk to longer nights: stargazing outside becomes far more accessible and enjoyable.
With darkness hitting earlier, you don’t have to stay up late to get an incredible view of the night sky – and autumn evenings are usually still warm enough that you can spend a few hours outside (wrapped up warmly, of course!).
Autumn is the start of the dark sky season, so you have far more chances to marvel at the stars and the ghostly glows of far-off planets… and perhaps even glimpse the aurora borealis. You might think you have to head to the far north to see the northern lights, but recently this spectacular light show has been visible from dark sky reserves in the south of the UK, like Exmoor and South Wales (though, your best chances are definitely in Scotland!). Check out this article from the National Trust to find out more.
While specialist equipment like binoculars and telescopes can certainly make it easier to stargaze, you don’t need them to appreciate the beauty of the night sky or see many of the most magnificent stars and planets. Wrap up warm, pack a flask of hot tea or cocoa, and head to your nearest dark sky area – or just sit in your garden or local park and see what you can see from home.
To find out more, have a read of our article; An introduction to stargazing.
9. Visit a farmers’ market
Some of the most beautiful, delicious, and nutritious vegetables are harvested in autumn – which is handy because at this time of year many of us look forward to cooking warming, restorative meals. And while you can always buy veg from the shops, there’s something lovely about buying it directly from farmers themselves, when the vegetables are fresh and still coated with a dusting of soil.
In recent years, farmers’ markets have seen a resurgence in the UK, and autumn is definitely the best time to visit one; not only can you take your pick of heartier autumn veg like squash, greens, and root vegetables (perfect for those nourishing stews and casseroles!) but it’s a visual feast too: the vivid oranges, reds and greens of the produce will soon get you excited for cooking up a storm.
There are now more than 550 markets across the country and while many are covered, some of the best are outdoors, so you can enjoy the autumn sunshine as you browse. To check out some of the best farmers’ markets in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, have a read of this article by Rosemary and Porkbelly, or to find the nearest farmers’ markets and food events near you, head over to Artisan Food Trail.
10. Do some gardening
If you’re a gardener, you probably already know that autumn is a special time of year. If you grow veg, it’s time to collect the last of your crop, and if you’re hoping to plant new flowers and shrubs, now’s the time to do so – before the earth becomes hard and cold!
Spending an autumn afternoon in your garden isn’t only a great way to get some fresh air and gentle exercise, it’s also an enjoyable and meditative activity.
One of the most important autumn gardening activities is protecting tender plants. Tender plants aren’t native to the UK, so they can’t withstand chilly temperatures and can become damaged during the winter months. In autumn, you can protect these plants by moving them into greenhouses or the home, wrapping them in insulating materials, or adding mulch to the roots of certain trees and shrubs to stop the ground from freezing.
If you have a lawn, you should also rake it regularly to make sure your grass stays healthy. If it’s covered by leaves, grass can’t get enough light or air, and can become susceptible to disease. Autumn is a good time to give your grass a final cut before frost hits too.
There are also many flowers and vegetables you can plant during the autumn months. If you want to have flashes of colour in your garden throughout winter, why not plant some winter pansies? If you’d like to have tulips come springtime, you need to make sure you plant them by November! Plus, it’s not too late to get hardier veggies into the ground, like spring cabbages and garlic.
Head over to the gardening section of our website to find out more about autumn gardening jobs.
Though it can be tempting to hole up inside when autumn rolls around, it’s important to make the most of the outdoors before winter hits. Autumn is one of the most magical times of the year – the period when frost is in the air but the days are crisp and pleasant, and the leaves turn brilliant shades of crimson and gold.
Whether you’re a foodie who’s passionate about quality produce and cooking, a wildlife enthusiast who loves to be among nature, or just someone who’s looking to try something new, there are many autumnal activities that won’t only get you out and about, but will also have you looking forward to the months ahead.