Best Autumn Walks Near London and the South West

Best autumn walks in the South West

11 October 2022

Once the evenings start to draw in and the days get colder, it’s tempting to wait for the warmer weather to return before venturing out for walks. But autumn is one of the best times of year to get outdoors! From the crisp morning air to the leaves turning beautiful shades of orange, red and yellow, there’s plenty to enjoy during this season.

Discover our favourite autumn walks in the South West and start planning your next day out. Whether you’re looking for things to do during the October half-term holidays or a weekend activity, you’ll find walks to suit all ages and abilities.

When travelling on our network, you’ll find plenty of new places to explore, and it’s easy to get there when you take the train. Plus, when you buy direct online or on our app, you can save money on a range of restaurants, hotels, activities and products with SWR Rewards. Grab a discounted hiking map from Vespucci Adventures, and you’re ready to go on your next autumnal walk!

Difficulty guide

We’ve rated each walk according to the following scale, so you can find a suitable route for the whole family and ensure you’re wearing the proper footwear and clothing:

  • 1 muddy boot - mostly flat, with places to stop along the route
  • 2 muddy boots - the odd stile to climb or the occasional hill
  • 3 muddy boots - many stiles, muddy paths and steeper hills

Best autumn walks in the woods

Stourhead, Wiltshire

Stourbridge Lake
Stourhead Lake

Length: 5.5 miles

Time: 2 hours

Getting here: Stourhead is 6.5 miles from Gillingham station – or you can catch a bus from Warminster, and walk 1.5 miles from the nearest bus stop at Zeals. Gillingham is just 2 hours from London Waterloo with direct trains every hour.

Difficulty rating: 2 muddy boots

Stourhead has plenty to offer, from landscaped gardens to grottoes, a classical temple and a Palladian mansion, making it well worth a visit. Visitors can also enjoy this walk to experience autumn in full colour. The route takes you up through woodland to King Alfred’s Tower at the top of the hill, where you’ll find incredible views across the landscape.

Ornamental Drive in the New Forest
Ornamental Drive, New Forest

Length: 2 miles

Time: 1 hour

Getting here: The route starts at the Blackwater Car Park, 4 miles from Brockenhurst station – and 1 hour 30 minutes from London Waterloo

Difficulty rating: 1 muddy boot

We recommend making this walk part of a larger day exploring the New Forest, using Brockenhurst as your base. You can hire bikes at the station, but walking through this area during the autumn is also beautiful. The route is great for families with children, as you’ll find sensory information boards at various intervals with facts about the different tree species in the forest.

Discovery Walk at Haldon Forest

View from Haldon Forest
Views near Haldon Belvedere, Exeter (Image credit: Alison Day)

Length: 1.5 miles

Time: 1 hour

Getting there: Haldon Forest is just 15 minutes from Exeter Central by taxi

Difficulty rating: 1 muddy boot

This easy walking route is suitable for wheelchairs, prams and youngsters, and more experienced walkers. It takes you on a journey around Haldon Forest Park, finishing with incredible panoramic viewpoints across the landscape. There are plenty of resting points along the way, a café, and activity trails for children to follow.

Best autumn walks by the coast

Brownsea Island

Length: 1 mile

Time: 40 minutes

Getting here: It’s a short hop across the water from Poole Quay, which is less than 20 minutes’ walk from Poole station. Trains run regularly from London Waterloo, taking 2 hours 30 minutes to Poole.

Difficulty rating: 1 muddy boot

Whilst it’s only a short walk, there are plenty of things to see along the way, from the bright autumnal colours of beech trees and chestnuts to the local population of red squirrels. The sweeping coastal views at the beginning and end of the walk make it a stunning location to visit any time of year. Team the walk up with a trip to Poole to make the most of this fantastic coastal destination.

Ventnor Downs

A view over the Ventnor Downs
View over the Ventnor Downs (Image credit: Andrew Bowden)

Length: 4.5 miles

Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Getting here: The route starts in Ventnor, a short bus ride away from our station at Shanklin station. You can also join the trail at point 5 (St Blasius' Church), a short walk from the station, and complete the loop from there. If you’re travelling to the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth, combine your ferry and train tickets to save money on your journey.

Difficulty rating: 3 muddy boots

Visit Ventnor Downs on the Isle of Wight for a different perspective on autumn landscapes. The reds and yellows of the leaves contrast with the deep purples and whites of the heather, promising a beautiful vista during this season. The highest point on the island awaits you at the top of a 260m climb through the Downs, offering breathtaking views of the coast.

There’s plenty of wildlife to spot here, from Dartford warblers to peregrine falcons. If you’re looking for a longer ramble, you can join the National Trust Trail, starting at the radar station.

Hengistbury Head, Dorset

Length: 4 miles

Time: 2 hours

Getting there: From Christchurch station, take Buster’s Beach Bus to Hengistbury Head, then walk 14 minutes to the start of the trail. Regular services depart from London Waterloo to the nearby towns of Poole and Bournemouth, calling at Christchurch.

Difficulty rating: 1 muddy boot

Take the whole family for a day out to Hengistbury Head, near Bournemouth, to enjoy an autumnal walk around the headland. During the autumn and winter, the beaches are quieter, the heather, grasses and shrubbery turn rich shades of brown, orange and red, and the area is still teeming with native wildlife.

Calshot to Gosport

Length: 23 miles

Time: 7 hours

Getting there: The nearest station to Calshot is Beaulieu Road, at a 19-minute drive away. Fareham is the closest station to Gosport, easily reached via the E1 or E2 bus.

Difficulty rating: 3 muddy boots

Looking for a challenge? This longer walking trail along the England Coast Path in Hampshire could be perfect for you! The walk is split into two parts covering urban and rural landscapes, so hikers can adapt the route as required. The walk spans from Calshot to Hythe, where you can then take the ferry across the River Itchen to continue on to Gosport. En route, you’ll pass through plenty of scenic countryside and along jagged cliffsides. Look out for notable landmarks including the Royal Victoria Country Park, Hamble Common and various nature reserves.

Gosport to Portsmouth

Length: 28 miles

Time: 8.5 hours

Getting there: From Fareham station, take the E1 or E2 bus to reach the beginning of the walking route. Once you arrive at Portsmouth’s historic dockyard and naval base at the end of the route, Portsmouth and Southsea station is a 20-minute walk away.

Difficulty rating: 3 muddy boots

This 28-mile stretch of the England Coast Path passes through mostly urban areas along the impressive coastline, including Gosport, Fareham and Portsmouth harbour. There are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants to stop off at along the way if you need to take a break. This is the perfect walk for anyone with an interest in maritime history, as you’ll pass the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Portchester Castle.

Best urban autumn walks

Richmond to Hampton Court station

Ham House
Ham House (Image credit: Dmitry Djouce)

Length: 8 miles

Time: 4 hours

Getting there: The walk begins at Richmond station and ends at Hampton Court station.

Difficulty rating: 1 muddy boot

This walk near central London takes you along some of the prettiest parts of the Thames, which look incredibly picturesque in the autumn as the leaves change colour. You’ll also see some of the best cultural hotspots in London, from the Crawdaddy Club, where The Rolling Stones were the resident band, to Eel Pie Island, where The Who, Rod Steward and Eric Clapton played in the 1960s. The route takes you through the heart of Richmond, on to Teddington, Kingston and Hampton Court, finishing at Hampton Court Palace itself.

Wimbledon Park to Richmond Bridge

Length: 7 miles

Time: 3 hours

Getting there: The route starts at Wimbledon Park tube station and finishes at Richmond station.

Difficulty rating: 1 muddy boot

Autumn is the best time to explore some of south west London’s best green spaces, as these woodland and parkland areas look even more incredible once the leaves change. Notable locations on this family-friendly trail include Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon Windmill, Richmond Park and King Henry’s Mound, so there’s plenty to see along the way. Kids will love spotting the deer and other wildlife in Richmond Park, along with ancient trees over 700 years old!

This walk is part of the Capital Ring, a series of 15 shorter walks around London which make up an 88-mile loop.

Southampton Common

Length: 1 mile

Time: 1 hour

Getting there: Southampton Common is a 20-minute walk from Southampton Central, so you can start and finish your walk at the station.

Difficulty rating: 1 muddy boot

Located in the heart of the city, Southampton Common is a green oasis boasting plenty of wildlife and green space. The circular walking route passes The Hawthorns Urban Wildlife Centre, The Cowherds Inn, the Boating Lake, Cemetery Lake and Ornamental Lake, so there’s plenty to see along the way. The short distance makes this a great walk for families with young children who want to spend an hour or two in nature without leaving the city. During the autumn, you can enjoy the spectacular colours around the common as the leaves change.

Looking to discover more of the best walks in this beautiful part of the UK? Explore our guide to short and long walking trails in the South West.