You could sample autumn in every single county in Britain and not find somewhere as beautiful as North Devon. So, save yourself the hassle.
Why is autumn in North Devon so spectacular?
North Devon is a soul-stirring tapestry of rolling pastures, rugged storm lashed coast, wild moorland and deep wooded valleys. Come autumn, the crowds vanish – leaving behind a quiet elemental landscape, flushed with seasonal colour, that’s yours for the taking.
Below are the absolute best places to see autumn colour in North Devon, and some refreshing walks too.
The Heddon Valley, Exmoor
The ancient woods of The Heddon Valley turn all sort of fiery colours in autumn. Following the river beneath the bows of gnarled trees, as leaves drift on a chill autumn breeze, is poetic.
Exmoor is a remote and bleakly beautiful area of upland – which surrounds The Heddon Valley. This part of the Britain is far enough away from everything, it’s said a WW2 German U-Boat commander frequently allowed his troops to stretch their legs at Heddon Mouth.
Halsdon Nature Reserve
This is almost in Mid Devon. As far south as North Devon gets – and what a lovely place.
The Halsdon Nature Reserve unfolds itself around the River Torridge. There are miles of clearly marked trails here, wending through the woods to river banks and water meadows. If you’re quiet, you might spot an otter reclining and snacking on a fish.
In autumn the reserve becomes a fungi wonderland. Look out for some unusual types growing on deadfalls and tree trunks. If fungi aren’t your thing, what about tawny owls? Not that they're interchangebale, owls and mushrooms...
Anyway, listen out for a hoot.
RHS Rosemoor, Torrington
The passion and hard work that goes into the gardens at Rosemoor is exceptional. It makes for an enchanting experience.
Not only does Rosemoor claim the largest rose beds in the South West (funnily enough), but also a diverse range of curated gardens– including some with a wild feel. Honestly, follow the link – there’s over twenty unique gardens.
During autumn, you should take a wander around the woodland garden and see the maples dressed in fire. Then, if it gets a bit chilly you can pop into the coffee shop for a well-deserved hot drink.
Arlington Court, Near Exmoor
Near Blackmoor Gate, at the western edge of Exmoor is the Arlington Estate – a jewel hidden amongst the North Devon hills.
For 500 years Arlington Court was held by the Chichester family, and whilst it looks a bit severe on the outside – inside it’s a surprisingly cosy family home.
It’s also a treasure trove of weird and wonderful things. The National Trust look after almost 5000 items at Arlington, from model boats no bigger than a coin, to billowing Victorian wedding dresses and an original William Blake painting (discovered on top of a wardrobe).
What about autumn?
There’s a huge twenty miles of wooded estate for you to explore, with deer. It’s a little harder to pick out deer against an autumn backdrop, but you can try.
Now, moving on to some sublime National Trust walks in North Devon – perfect for experiencing autumn in all its glory.
Countisbury to Watersmeet
This walk begins and finishes with Countisbury, a time-still hamlet with far reaching views over the Bristol Channel, towards the misty hills of South Wales.
This is varied walk taking in many different landscapes, from riverbanks to coastal heath.
The midway point is at Watersmeet, a wood-shrouded gorge where two rivers merge, and salmon swim. There’s also a tea room here, if you’re a tad parched.
Beyond Watersmeet is a rough fisherman’s path, taking you across country and back to Countisbury again.
Horner Woods Walk
Horner wood in West Somerset, is something from the dusty pages of a fairy tale - thought to be easily 500 years old.
The walk starts at Aller Combe Meadow, a popular beauty spot for family picnics. From here it follows a crystal stream through the woods. A world of primeval tree ferns, deer wallows and twisty trees – the sort with faces if you stare hard enough.
After a while the woods give way, presenting you with the open uplands of Exmoor. So, you can see some striking autumn colours and perhaps an Exmoor pony or two.
Morte Point & Bull Point Walk
Whilst this walk probably has a few trees, not every autumn walk has to be about leaves. This one is about the coast, and humbling power of the ocean.
The storms of autumn create swells like no other season, which in turn form white tipped waves that swirl and crash over the jagged rocks of the North Devon coast. From an exposed bit of headland this is epic to watch, in the truest sense.
Morte and Bull point are part of a stretch of coast rife with smuggling legend. These stories only feel real in the winds, and under the moody skies of autumn.
Cloudless skies and hot summer days just don’t seem so smugglerly, do they? Or is it smugglerish…
Potter’s Hill & Woolacombe Down
A blog about North Devon without a beach? Not possible. Or exquisitely silly.
This walk takes you around Woolacombe Down, an open area of coastal heath above what was once voted the best beach in the UK, and 13th in the world by Trip Advisor. This is quite something. But then, it’s quite the beach.
Standing on top of Potter’s Hill and surveying the three miles of silken sand, you’ll see why it’s such a special beach. What a location too. Woolacombe bay is at the western limit of the Bristol Channel where it becomes the vast Atlantic Ocean.
During autumn and winter, Woolacombe Beach becomes a quieter place. It’s a spot for thinking, dreaming and listening to the soft rush of waves.
A Whisper From Woolacombe Beach…
Why make one of the best beaches in the world more of journey than you have to? At the Woolacombe Bay Hotel, we’re but a whisper away.
Our luxury four-star hotel is a stress remedy, an escape and in the truest sense – down time from the hustle and bustle. Coming here, especially in autumn is a revitalising experience.