Best UK locations for capturing Autumn landscapes
October 14, 2021
Four landscape photographers share their tips and recommendations on where to capture the best autumnal scenes in the UK
Ross is one of the UK’s best-known professional landscape photographers, and the author of several best-selling landscape photography books, including The Art of Landscape Photography. He co-runs Dawn 2 Dusk Photography, which specialises in landscape photography workshops. Visit www.rosshoddinott.co.uk.
Golitha Falls, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
Golitha Falls is a steep-sided wooded valley and a National Nature Reserve. It is located a short drive from the village of Minions with access to the reserve via minor roads from the A38, A30 and B3254. The car park is just north of Draynes Bridge and you can grab a drink or something to eat at nearby Inkie’s Smokehouse.
Once parked, follow the path along the River Fowey and you will discover various viewpoints of the river as it flows and cascades through the valley. The woodland is mostly beech and looks spectacular in late October and early November when autumnal colour is typically at its best.
A bright, but overcast day is best for shooting woodland interiors. Attach a polarising filter to reduce glare and reflections from shiny foliage. An exposure of roughly a second is a nice length for rivers and waterfalls – being long enough to create motion, while retaining texture and interest in the water. This is also a good spot for fungi, so take a close focusing lens and study the woodland floor for subjects.
Derwent Water, The Lake District, Cumbria
The Lake District is one of the most photogenic areas in Europe and is arguably at its best during autumn. Located close to Keswick (a great place to stay while exploring the area), Derwent Water is one of the area’s photographic highlights.
The east shore in particular is full of picture potential and is easily accessible. Park in the large Lakeside pay and display car park, walk past the Theatre By The Lake and explore the boat landings – a ‘classic’ Lake District scene.
There are photogenic wooden launches that you can use as foreground interest in your scenes, and attractive rowing boats grounded on the shore (during high season).
Cat Bells Mountain makes an impressive backdrop in wideangle views and during autumn the trees and mountainous backdrop are a blend of warm yellow and orange hues.
A short walk away at Crow Park, is a wooden gate and fence that provides good subject matter when partly submerged by high water. Walk to Friars Crag too and explore the views south to the jaws of Borrowdale. It is best to visit on a cool, misty autumnal morning, when mirror-like reflections provide added interest and symmetry… and there are also fewer people about getting in the way!
Bolderwood, New Forest, Hampshire
From late October until early November, leaves turn to gold and a wonderful array of fungi emerge on decaying tree stumps and fallen branches. Therefore, it’s worth carrying a versatile range of focal lengths, including a macro or close-up attachment.
One of my favourite spots is Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive, which leads from the A35 (Lyndhurst to Christchurch Road) past the Knightwood Oak to Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, where there is a large car park and facilities. Dotted along this drive are other car parks.
Look for shapely, gnarled, and interesting-looking ancient trees that you can use to harness your composition. Early morning and late evening will often provide the most dramatic and warm light.
Bowerman’s Nose, Dartmoor National Park, Devon
A short distance from the B3387 that leads from Bovey Tracey to Widecombe-in-the-Moor is Bowerman’s Nose – one of Dartmoor’s most distinctive and photogenic outcrops. There are a few parking places along the minor road that runs from Houndtor to Langstone Cross in Manaton, close to the tor.
However, the road is narrow and rough in places. Instead, I suggest you park at Houndtor car park and walk to Bowerman’s Nose, which will take you approximately 30 minutes.
This location works well in autumn, when the bracken carpeting the surrounding moorland is golden brown. Warm, evening light is best at this time of year, together with a dramatic sky. A 24-70mm wideangle zoom is a great focal range for this location and a Cloudy white balance will help exaggerate those beautiful autumnal hues. Don’t forget your tripod!
Jeremy is one of the UK’s most respected landscape photographers and is known for his eye-catching panoramas, moody black & white landscapes and dark, dramatic images of castles and ruins. He is the author of Landscape, his highly acclaimed first book, and is in great demand as a speaker, writer, and workshop leader. www.jeremywalker.co.uk.
Birks of Aberfeldy, Scotland
The small town of Aberfeldy sits on the banks of the River Tay, about 30 miles northwest of Perth. Just to the south of the town and within walking distance is the Birks of Aberfeldy, a steep gorge with a fast-flowing river surrounded by birch, ash, and oak trees. The golden hues and tones are perhaps best seen in late autumn, although this is of course dependent on Mother Nature.
There is a car park at the site, just off the A826 although there are no facilities, and a well-marked circular path follows the river. Caution should be taken in the autumn as fallen leaves can make the footpath slippery.
The Falls of Moness can be glimpsed through the undergrowth and you’ll find a bridge crosses over the top of the falls. Possibly not the easiest waterfall to shoot, with better views of the river available nearer to the car park.
Savernake Forest, Wiltshire
Savernake Forest is approximately 4,000 acres of mixed woodland dominated by broad leaf trees, perfect for autumnal colours. Situated south-east of Marlborough in Wiltshire, it is easily accessible by car with plenty of room for parking, especially along the Grand Avenue.
Public footpaths and bridleways criss-cross the Grand Avenue allowing for numerous routes of exploration and is an ideal starting point as there are views along the road (more of a gravel track really) as well as the paths and tracks running in all directions.
There are also some mature oaks, a few of which are over 1,000 years old. Because the forest contains a variety of species of tree it is good for autumnal colour right the way through the season, but the oaks will be some of the last trees to lose their colour. Misty mornings are the classic time to visit but late afternoon with the setting sun filtering through the canopy can also be a delight.
Coed-y-Brenin, North Wales
Five miles north of the town of Dolgellau lies the forest of Coed-y-Brenin, covering some 9,000 acres and encompassing the rivers Mawddach, Eden, Gain and Wen. There is a visitor centre where there is a charge for parking; but free parking with toilet facilities, some exceptionally large fir trees and access to the boulder-strewn river can be had if you turn off the A470 at Ty’n y Groes towards the river – parking is just over the bridge.
Although fir trees dominate the area there is plenty of colour with broad leaf trees scattered throughout the area and numerous paths lead into the woods. A mile east of Dolgellau there is a short walk called ‘The Torrent Walk’ and although not really part of the Coed-y-Brenin forest, is well worth a visit.
Waterfalls flow through deciduous woodland with a footpath on both sides of the valley, the south side giving better access to the river. Your best bet is to park in the layby on the B4416 just 100 yards south of the junior school. This whole area is best visited in mid-autumn before the trees become too bare.
Wareham Forest, Dorset
Wareham Forest consists of over 1,000 acres of heathland, marsh and forest. Although mostly consisting of pine woodland there are pockets of broad leaf trees scattered throughout the area but don’t let this lack of deciduous trees put you off.
On a frosty or damp morning mist can hang around in the sheltered heathland and forest for a considerable time. Beams of golden light filtering through at sunrise is a Wareham Forest classic.
The main areas to visit are Bloxworth Heath, Decoy Heath and Gore Heath, all with ample parking. Miles of public paths, forestry tracks and bridleways give easy access to the woods which are at their best in the early morning, veiled in a layer of mist or fog. Pine forests can be shot at any time of year, but autumn brings with it the added bonus of bracken, glowing gold in the morning light.
Justin is a professional landscape photographer best known for his atmospheric images of East Anglia. He runs landscape photography workshops both in East Anglia and around the UK. Author of the best-selling location guidebook Photographing East Anglia, Justin is currently working on a new guidebook, Photographing Essex. www.justinminns.co.uk.
Lynford Stag, Thetford Forest, Norfolk
Thetford Forest is the largest man-made lowland forest in the UK and although it is predominantly Corsican pine, there are some beautiful areas of broad-leafed woodland scattered through the forest such as this one opposite Lynford Stag. A 70-200mm lens (or similar) works well in the forest.
The longer focal length serves to both compress the distance between trees, creating a wall of colour, but also makes it easier to avoid distracting bright areas of sky in the composition. It is all about the autumn colour here so try and visit when the colours are at their peak.
The timing varies but usually early November in the mild climate here. Lynford Stag is a parking area on the A134, 5 miles northwest of Thetford (postcode IP26 5DE). Cross the road at the northern end of the car park and wander into the beech trees just north of the track.
Wyming Brook, Peak District
Tumbling through a wooded gorge in a series of cascades, Wyming Brook is a great autumnal location, particularly the first section which flows through deciduous woodland. A circular polariser filter is invaluable here for reducing glare from the wet rocks and leaves, resulting in richer colours.
For silky-looking water, experiment with ND filters to slow the shutter speed, although with light levels low amongst the trees, the 1-2 stop reduction in light from the polariser may be all you need.
With white water flowing amongst dark rocks, contrast can be a problem so overcast days when the light is even are best especially in mid-autumn when there are plenty of leaves still on the trees with a good coating of fallen leaves adding colour on the ground.
Wyming Brook is 5 miles west of Sheffield. From the bottom of the car park on Redmires Road (postcode S10 4QX) go right down to the stream, cross using the stepping stones and head left alongside the stream. The path can be slippery so wear good boots.
Loughton Camp, Epping Forest, Essex
Loughton Camp is a tiny but attractive part of Epping Forest’s 6,000 acres of woodland. There are many interesting viewpoints among the slopes and embankments which are the remains of a 2,500-year-old Iron Age fort now populated with beech trees.
Use foreground trees to frame the view or shoot a panorama to take advantage of the compression effect of a longer focal length while capturing the full width of the scene. Beech trees are slow to turn so mid to late autumn is best, either an early misty morning or on a bright overcast day.
Epping Forest is just off junction 26 of the M25. From the Mount Pleasant car park on Epping New Road (IG10 1JD) follow the main path on the right for 650m then turn right at the yellow-arrowed marker post. The path isn’t clear but head west through the trees and after 100m you’ll arrive in an open area of beech trees.
Flatford is a pretty hamlet by the River Stour, celebrated in the paintings of John Constable. But photogenic as this cluster of thatched cottages is, it is the river we are interested in here. Winding its way through cattle-grazed meadows, the river is dotted with old, twisted willows and oaks.
Isolating one or a group of these trees and building a composition around it can be effective, using reflections if it is calm or perhaps the receding curves of the river to add depth. Dawn is the best time to visit when the river and meadows are often shrouded by mist. It is these conditions as much as the changing colours of the trees that make this a great autumn location.
Flatford is 10 miles southwest of Ipswich. From the National Trust pay and display car park (postcode CO7 6UL), walk down the hill to the village, cross the bridge and turn right through the gate into the field and follow the path along the river.
David took up photography in his teens, teaching himself the dark arts of developing and printing in the chemical era. He specialises in landscape photography in Northern Ireland and is keen to promote the variety of stunning views in such a small area. See more of his work at www.davidnixonphotography.com.
The Mourne Mountains sit 30 miles south of Belfast. This range of granite mountains contains the highest peak in Northern Ireland. There are many trails and tracks year-round that provide unlimited photographic opportunity.
For those not wishing to put on hiking boots, there’s still scope for picture taking and often spectacular sunrises can be enjoyed from Tyrella beach around the bay or closer by from Murlough Nature Reserve.
Access is easy and facilities are never very far away. The area has that ‘away from it all’ sensation no matter what season and in autumn the heather and russet tones of the undergrowth can be very attractive.
Glens of Antrim
Shaped by glaciers during the Ice Age, the nine glens are best reached by taking the spectacular Antrim Coast Road. Glenariff sits above Waterfoot. Within the 2,500 acres of the forest park lie several waterfalls which are at their best in autumn when the foliage turns golden.
Ess na Crub sits at the lower end of the park. Follow the riverside wooden walkway up along the gorge, pausing at the top to take in the view of the cascading Ess na Larach.
Tollymore Forest, Northern Ireland
Tollymore was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland. Covering 1,600 acres it lies at the foot of the Mourne Mountains just outside Newcastle, a seaside town 30 miles south of Belfast.
There’s plenty of space for camping, hiking, horse riding as well as photography. Over the recent years this area has become popular as a film location, notably featuring in episodes of Game of Thrones. But for photographers the forest comes alive in autumn.
Down along the Shimna River which runs through the centre of the park, particular highlights include the Hermitage, a stone-built room set high above the river; the stepping stones, a great spot when the river is in full flow and a number of stone bridges, some more than 200 years old. Being so densely wooded you can shoot all day, but ideally when overcast to reduce contrast.
Ards Peninsula and Strangford Lough
Viewed from Scrabo Tower, sitting on a volcanic plug at the head of the lough there are uninterrupted views to Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Mourne Mountains. Autumn brings increased chances of low-lying morning mist covering the peninsula and compensates for the energetic short walk from the car park.
A driving loop from Scrabo down the peninsula takes you past Greyabbey and its ruined 12th-century abbey, the National Trust’s Mount Stewart, on to Portaferry and a short ferry crossing to Strangford with Castle Ward set high up above the village.