1. Foraging in the Forest of Dean: Gloucestershire
On the edge of the ancient Forest of Dean, Tudor Farmhouse makes for an atmospheric autumn bolthole, with 20 cosy, characterful bedrooms, open fires and a restaurant serving up food sourced from within a 20-mile radius. This autumn the hotel will be offering guests the chance to join its in-house forager searching for wild garlic, berries, mushrooms and herbs in the surrounding woodland. The hotel’s head chef will then cook up a gourmet lunch using the foraged ingredients.
• Overnight packages from £300 per couple, including a foraging session, lunch and dinner (tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk)
2. Notte Bianca in Valletta: Malta
For one night every October, the streets of Valletta are given over to a colourful celebration of music, dance, theatre, visual arts, literature and digital arts. Streets and piazzas are transformed into open-air galleries, theatres and concert-venues, museums and palaces throw open their doors – and it’s all free of charge. This year’s Notte Bianca falls on 6 October but if you can’t make that date, there will be cultural events happening throughout autumn as Valletta finishes its year-long stint as European Capital of Culture in style (valletta2018.org).
• A three-night stay at the recently renovated Hotel Phoenicia costs from £797pp, including flights, with Kirker Holidays (kirkerholidays.com)
3. Wilderness walking: Scottish Highlands
The Highlands are arguably at their finest in autumn when the midges and tourists have departed and the russet-red moors put on a vivid show of colour. Soak it up at a leisurely pace on a short walking break with Wilderness Scotland, which takes in the Plodda Falls, a trail through the Great Glen along the shores of Loch Oich, and the woodlands of Glen Affric.
• The Autumn Highlands trips run throughout October and cost £1,150pp (based on two sharing), including four nights’ accommodation in an eco-friendly boutique hotel, meals, transfers from Inverness and the services of a walking guide (wildernessscotland.com)
4. A woodsman’s cottage: Suffolk
It would be hard to conjure up a more romantic autumn bolthole than Hex Cottage, a thatched former forester’s home – off-grid and candlelit – set in woods overlooking its own meadow. The cottage is on the Wilderness Reserve, a vast rambling estate, home to an ever-growing collection of glamorous holiday cottages. The list of activities on offer is seemingly endless: go fishing or boating on the lakes, cycle around the grounds, try your hand at archery or clay-pigeon shooting, learn bushcraft skills or book a bonfire experience (£30pp) and watch the sunset while enjoying mulled wine, marshmallows and hot chocolate.
• Weekends in Hex Cottage from £650 (wildernessreserve.com)
5. Apple harvest and cider making: Devon
From learning traditional woodland coppicing techniques to helping the rangers behind the scenes on grand country estates, the National Trust offers plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and active this autumn on its working holidays. At Killerton House in Devon, 7-13 October, volunteers can help the rangers harvest apples, and learn how to use a 19th-century press to make cider.
• Cost is £150, which includes six nights’ bunkhouse accommodation and all meals (nationaltrust.org.uk)
6. Hiking and house party: Spain
Georgina Howard has been hosting house-party style walking and cultural holidays at her guesthouse in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees for two decades. The Baztan Valley is a stronghold of Basque mountain culture and the autumn walking week, which runs from 5-12 October, coincides with an ancient mushroom festival. The week includes leisurely guided walks through mountain pastures and white-washed villages, a wine-tasting seminar and a private Basque music concert. Each evening winds down with three-course meals around the farmhouse table. There are self-guided and guided walking options.
• Costs range from £649 to £895 per person, plus €250 payable on arrival. This includes full-board en suite accommodation (no single supplements), all restaurant meals, and transfer from Biarritz airport (pyreneanexperience.com)
7. Wine tasting in Tuscany: Italy
The rolling vineyards of the Tre Rose estate in Tuscany produce the renowned Nobile di Montepulciano, the first wine in Italy to receive DOCG recognition. At the heart of the estate lies a medieval hamlet which has been converted into a charming country hotel. Guests at the Borgo Tre Rose can take guided tours of the estate and enjoy tasting sessions in its cellars or restaurant, where wines are paired with local specialities, such as chicken liver pâté, homemade pappardelle pasta and Pienza pecorino. Elegant bedrooms ooze Tuscan style with terracotta floors and wood-beamed ceilings. Sign up for cookery lessons, riding, mountain biking or venture out to Cortona, Pienza and Montalcino.
• A seven-night stay, booked with Sunvil, costs from £770pp (based on two sharing) on a B&B basis, including flights and car hire (sunvil.co.uk)
8. Food festivals in Normandy: France
From September the towns and villages of Normandy host a series of mouthwatering food festivals. Hop on a ferry to Honfleur for its Fête de la Crevette (6-7 October), a weekend of food stalls, sea shanties and sailing events celebrating the port’s maritime heritage and its speciality, the shrimp. The action then moves inland to Rouen for its Fête du Ventre (13-14 October), Festival of the Stomach, and sees the streets around the Place du Vieux Marché transformed into an open-air restaurant and food market. Normandy is cider country and it will be flowing freely at the Fête de la Pomme, du Cidre et du Fromage in the village of Conches-en-Ouche (28 October) which attracts 35,000 visitors for its farmers’ market, folk music and pop-ups.
• For a full list of festivals see bit.ly/normandyfoodfests. Sawday’s has a great selection of accommodation in Normandy
9. Medieval house stay: Monmouthshire
Llwyn Celyn is one of the finest surviving examples of a medieval hall house in Wales and, from the end of this month, will be available to rent as a holiday cottage thanks to the Landmark Trust, which has restored the 15th-century building to its former glory. Use it as a base to explore the evocative ruins of Llanthony Priory – the house was once part of the Augustinian priory’s estate – or to explore the many hiking and biking trails of the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons.
• Sleeps eight, from £880 for four nights (landmarktrust.org.uk)
10. Cycling in the Julian Alps: Slovenia
Sign up for Inntravel’s five-day Shadow of the Julian Alps cycling holiday in October and you’ll see Slovenia’s autumn colours at their peak. Beginning on the shores of Lake Bled, the self-guided itinerary takes in Bled Castle, the waterfalls and rapids of the Vintgar Gorge, meadows dotted with traditional hayracks, ancient forests and villages. The six-night trip is graded as moderately challenging.
• From £798pp in October, including hotel accommodation, some meals, cycle hire and luggage transfers. Flights to Ljubljana are extra (inntravel.co.uk)
11. Explore the Camargue: France
Known for its black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos, the Camargue comes alive in autumn when thousands of migrating birds descend on the area’s shallow lagoons. Base yourself at the charming Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus in nearby Arles for visits to the town’s impressive Roman monuments and bird-watching and horse riding excursions in the Camargue National Park.
• Doubles from £152 a night (nord-pinus.com/en). Ryanair has flights to Nîmes, 25km from Arles, from £20 return (ryanair.com)
12. Autumn sun in the Algarve: Portugal
For a last dose of sunshine before winter sets in, head to the Algarve, where the searing heat of summer has mellowed and the olive and wine harvests are in full swing. The Pensão Agrícola is a rustic but stylish boutique hotel in a restored farmhouse surrounded by orchards of orange, fig and almond, which opened three years ago and has been quietly seducing its guests ever since. If you can tear yourself away from the terrace, small heated pool and delicious home-cooked meals, the pretty town of Tavira is nearby, as are the deserted beaches of the Rio Formosa Delta.
• Doubles from £173 per night (i-escape.com)
13. Autumn aurora: Swedish Lapland
Jukkasjärvi, 200km north of the Arctic Circle, has become a hub for winter activity breaks, but a new package from tour operator Discover the World will show off the region’s autumnal charms. Based at Icehotel 365 (the year-round guesthouse which has been built at the site of the famous winter-only Icehotel), guests can experience the autumn colours on a river rafting trip, go on a Northern Lights safari (autumn is a prime time to spot them), or join a Sámi guide on a foraging excursion to learn how berries and plants are used in Sámi cuisine. In the evenings sip frozen cocktails in the Icebar (kept chilled year-round) before enjoying an eight-course tasting menu of traditional Swedish dishes.
• From £634pp for three nights on a B&B basis including flights and transfers. The Chef’s Table tasting menu costs from £169pp (discover-the-world.com)
14. Off-grid glamping: Dorset
Not quite ready to say goodbye to the summer? Get together a group of friends and head to this new off-grid glampsite in deepest Dorset. The Gathering Camp is a collection of four shepherd’s huts and a large communal living hut with a campfire and a wood-fired hot tub for star-gazing. The sleeping huts are insulated and double-glazed, with woodburners to keep things cosy. Deer and badgers are regular visitors to the camp and the owners Ali and Adam will take you to meet the resident herd of red deer on request. The camp sleeps a total of 10 adults and children aged over five.
• From £500 a night (canopyandstars.co.uk)
15. Design hotel in Port de Sóller: Mallorca
For an antidote to end-of-summer blues, check into the Bikini Island and Mountain Hotel, Mallorca’s newest design bolthole. Surrounded by orange groves and olive tree plantations, the adults-only hotel opened last month in Port de Sóller. Hammocks, rattan furniture and colourful woven rugs lend a bohemian, summery vibe but this place works equally well for an autumn escape with the beautiful Tramuntana mountains on the doorstep. Hire an electric bike or hike into the foothills, or take the vintage tram from the harbour up into the old town of Sóller for shopping, restaurants and a visit to the excellent Can Prunera museum (home to a collection of works by Picasso, Paul Klee and Man Ray).
• Garden rooms from £157 a night (designhotels.com)
Urban escapes: Five European cities perfect for an autumn break
Where better to head for an autumn break than the city that invented hygge? Go for glorious colours in the city’s parks; cosy, candlelit cafés and winebars; and a Halloween extravaganza at Tivoli Gardens (12 Oct-4 Nov, tivoligardens.com).
After the summer crowds have left, Malaga gets to live its best life, with balmy temperatures, chestnut stalls on every street corner and an exciting cultural programme – from opera to jazz festivals, classical music to Picasso exhibitions.
Walks in the Vienna Woods, wine-tasting hikes, coffee and strudel in fin de siècle cafés: no wonder it’s ranked the world’s most liveable city. Visit during the Long Night of Museums and explore its cultural hotspots after-hours (6 Oct, langenacht.orf.at).
With its narrow streets and harbourfront cafés clogged by cruise ship passengers and Game of Thrones fans, Dubrovnik has become a victim of its own success. But in September/October, temperatures are still in the mid-20s, the crowds thin out and you can experience a more tranquil side of this atmospheric walled city.
Too hot in summer, too cold in winter, Berlin comes into its own at this time of year. Time your visit to coincide with the Festival of Lights when the city is transformed by dazzling light installations (5-14 Oct, festival-of-lights.de).
Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to find a range of fantastic trips
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