If that school hymn is anything to go by, Autumn is the best time of year. School’s in session, which means the staycation hotspots are devoid of noisy kids running about. Nature is at its most beautiful, with landscapes dappled by autumn leaves. And of course, there’s none of the sapping heat of summer (and no winter frostbite either) – just a bracing chill to the air. Here are the days out to make the most of Autumn:
Horse-riding in The New Forest
There’s nowhere better to witness Autumn unfold than a forest and The New Forest, an hour and a half by train from London Waterloo, may be the best in business. It’s full of fiery oak and chestnut trees, and if you go deep enough in, you’ll reach clifftops overlooking The Solent. Brockenhurst is often considered a good base – you can borrow a pony from Brockenhurst Riding Stables, and take it down bridleways and coastal paths. Rural pubs with crackling fires are a good way to round off the day. There are many of these, but the Three Tuns – with its thatched roof, wooden beams and view out onto paddocks – is a safe bet to warm your toes before heading home.
Boating the Serpentine & Knightsbridge
Spend the morning taking a pedal boat down the Serpentine, and watching the sun glint off the water. For lunch, sit outside at The Serpentine Lido Cafe, and grab one of their excellent burgers (which use HG Walter beef) and a beer. The tree-lined paths which lead you up to the bridge makes for a great afternoon stroll before heading back towards Knightsbridge, just behind the park. Finish the day at Instagram-obsessives’ favourite cafe – EL&N, which is pink and kitsch. Or if you’re feeling knotted up, get a massage from the best in business – the Mandarin Oriental’s luxurious spa has treatments such as Oriental Qi, developed with experts in Chinese medicine.
Afternoon Tea at Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park has become a surprise hit with Londoners flocking to understand something of their history, whilst gaining respite from the city at this huge country pile. Gaining fame through the likes of The Imitation Game and Enigma, the venue is known as the centre for WWII codebreaking, but it’s not just for maths or history nerds. Afternoon tea has now resumed, so make sure you book in for sandwiches and sweet treats – staff are said to be especially attentive and the venue is in need of visitors following a glut over the pandemic.
Caneoing the Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Broads are a couple of hours from North London, and consist of a maze of rivers, with rivulets to get lost in – helpful to take your mind off a global pandemic. You can hire a traditional wooden sailboat from the likes of Little Ships, replete with a toasty ‘galley’ kitchen. If you’re feeling active, the little village of Wroxham is a good place to pick up some kayaks from The Canoeman. Psyche yourself up for the trip with a coffee from the River Kitchen while watching the locals, then kayak upstream to the Rising Sun pub on the banks of Cotishall, where you can reward your efforts with generously-portioned pub grub.
Retail therapy in King’s Cross
There’s a side of King’s Cross which many who’ve lived in London for years never see, following its recent revamp. Lunchtime can be spent wandering down the canal, which is lined by trees dropping their leaves all the way down to Camden, fun for boat-spotting the likes of The London Bookbarge. For those craving the indoors or retail therapy, there are local boutiques and a mini-mall inside St. Pancras, where wealthy Parisians mill around before catching the Eurostar,. In the evening, make reservations at Caravan or one of the restaurants in lit-up Coal Drop’s Yard. For a fancy end to the night, you don’t have to book a room to experience the grand St Pancras Renaissance Hotel – it serves up sumptuous cocktails at its very own George’s Bar – which is evocative of Victorian glamour, and run by Marcus Wareing.
Apple-picking in Surrey
Autumn is the time to go apple-picking, and Garsons Farm, in Esher is 150 acres of orchard, pumpkin and general crop-heaven. After you’ve worked up an appetite gathering fruits and vegetables, you can eat at The Bear, a trendy pub nearby with a spacious beer garden. Spend the afternoon basking in the fading sunlight in Claremont Landscape Garden, before heading home early to bake an apple pie for dinner – fruits of your labour and all that…