For many travellers, Autumn is the ideal time to visit Britain. Attractions are generally less crowded than at the height of summer and the country’s bountiful foliage explodes in hues of russet and gold, gilding its many parks with colour and crunchy leaves underfoot. So while summer highlights like Wimbledon and The Ashes might be over, other experiences beckon. Sue Petrie, British Airways’ Regional Commercial Manager Trade for Southern and East Africa suggests the following:
Get off the bus
London has excellent public transport but one of the most rewarding ways to see the great city is on foot, or by using one of the bike-share schemes, like Santander Cycles, which has more than 800 bike stations and 13 000 bicycles available across the city.
London has for centuries been a place of extraordinary art. Many are free and have world-renowned collections. Just one example is the Tate Britain, which has the world’s biggest collections of works by JMW Turner, as well as many works by William Blake, Henry Moore, John Constable and many more.
Fancy a quirky bit of history? In Mayfair is a house where George Frideric Handel composed both The Messiah and Zadok the Priest. He lived there from 1723 until his death in 1759. Centuries later rock icon Jimi Hendrix lived in the same house. Why not put together a playlist of both and stroll through the area?
London is famed for its parks, which invite walkers, runners and picnickers. There are also many city farms, selling farm produce. Petrie’s pick: Mudchute City Farm on the Isle of Dogs has a petting zoo, a restaurant and 32 acres of wild habitats, including wetlands, woods and meadows. It’s easily accessed on the Docklands Light Railway and entrance is free.
Further afield are walks for all levels of fitness. For example, the Causeway Coast Way on the coast of Northern Ireland, a two-day, 53km walk that traverses soaring cliffs, secluded bays and coves and ancient stone villages. Cafes, pubs and villages. Petrie’s recommendation: a stiff walk up to the historic Blackhead Lighthouse on the cliffs of Belfast Lough, followed by award-inning coffee and pastries at the Bank House Café in Whitehead.
Get scared witless
A lot of world history – and Britain’s – was violent and grisly, and thus irresistible to anyone with a penchant for ghoulish chills. Longstanding attractions like the London Tower and the Clink Prison Museum have long thrilled visitors. The London Dungeon consistently gets good reviews and features the menacing legacies of characters like Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd and the Plague Doctor. It has 19 immersive exhibitions and two rides, including The Tyrant Boat Road, a trip on the foul-smelling, rat-infested Thames River following your sentencing to death by King Henry VIII.
Many of Britain’s other great cities have spooky delights around Halloween. From the guided tours of haunted pubs in medieval Norwich, encounters with the paranormal in Portsmouth and the most haunted graveyard in Scotland.
See the sky catch fire
Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night in on November 5th commemorates the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and the attempt to blow up the British Houses of Parliament and King James I. All ended badly for the plotters, but it’s now celebrated with fireworks displays, nighttime fairs, and plenty of good food and drink. There are plenty of fireworks displays to choose from, but Petrie suggests considering the display at Byron Park in Harrow, north-west London, which has a funfair, food-stalls and liver entertainment. In keeping with modern, multicultural London, there’s a nod to the Hindu festival of Diwali, which takes place a week earlier.
Read my other posts on London here.