8 Best Places for Autumn Landscape Photography in the UK
Autumn landscape photography is probably one of the highlights of any nature photographer’s year.
It’s easy to see why.
The weather is often stable (at least in the early part of the season), the days are short enough that dawn and sunset shoots are much less painful than in the summer, and the sun stays low enough for the light to remain photogenic throughout the day.
Plus, there’s often the promise of mist in the valleys to add atmosphere to your shots.
Researching and scouting take time – a precious commodity for many of us these days. To take away some of the hard work, here are recommendations for some of the best places around the UK to photograph autumn.
1. The New Forest
The New Forest is the UK’s second smallest national park, after the Broads. Despite its small size, it features some of the most photogenic woodland in the country, as well as large areas of heathland.
Three of the best locations in the New Forest are Rhinefield, Bolderwood, and Mogshade Hill. Rhinefield is located southwest of Lyndhurst, just off the A35. Park in the Blackwater Car Park (grid reference SU26780466, What3Words ///classmate.tangent.chugging).
Opposite the entrance is a group of mature beech trees, and you could spend hours exploring just this small area.
Look for something that makes a natural focal point, such as a tree that stands out from the rest, perhaps by being larger, smaller, or having a low canopy.
If it’s a sunny day, wait for the light to filter through the trees and highlight your focal point. Also in this area is a small stream that can be used to add structure to your compositions. There are lots of interesting bends and corners as well as a bridge.
Go back to the A35 main road and cross into the minor road opposite. This is Bolderwood Ornamental Drive.
As you drive along, you’ll see many small car parks where you can stop and explore the surrounding woodland, and in places along the way, some of the trees flanking the road – which is more of a country lane, really – have overhanging branches that frame it perfectly.
Continue along the Bolderwood Ornamental Drive, and you’ll pass the main Bolderwood car park. A few hundred meters past here is a small car park called ‘Bratley View’ (grid reference SU23750958, What3Words ///lightly.marinated.feed).
On the other side of the road is Mogshade Hill.
This is best known for a pond that has appeared in countless photographs, but to the right of the pond as you approach it is some wonderful heathland, with silver birches and oaks, surrounded by bracken and heather and set off by a wonderful backdrop.
2. Darmoor National Park
Dartmoor National Park is one of the few areas of wilderness remaining in southern England. It consists of windswept moorland topped with granite outcrops, as well as rivers and streams flowing through woodland and cascading over stones.
There are so many places to choose from, but here are a couple of my favourite spots in autumn: Combestone Tor, Bowerman’s Nose, and Shaugh Bridge.
Combestone Tor, located on the south moor between Dartmeet and Holne, is easily accessible, being just a few meters’ level walk from the car park (grid ref SX 67007178, What3Words ///indicated.suffice.claims).
There are three distinct granite outcrops here, as well as some atmospheric hawthorns, bent and twisted by the wind, and far-reaching views of the River Dart valley.
When shooting the hawthorns, try to find an angle where you can use the surrounding stones to frame them or work as leading lines.
Bowerman’s Nose This distinctive column of rock is perched on Hayne Down, a short walk from the car park at Hound Tor (grid ref SX73957921, What3Words ///sometimes.trades.moved).
To get to it, turn right out of the car park and take the next right turn. Walk along for about half a mile, and you’ll see Bowerman’s Nose. Climb up the gentle slope of Hayne Down to reach it.
Once there, you have the option of getting in close with a wide-angle lens or climbing a little higher up and shooting from further away with a slightly longer focal length (35-50mm on a full frame) to keep the tor below the horizon.
Shoot late in the day when the sun is low over the distant hills, and you may find that you get light on Bowerman’s Nose while the background stays in shadow, making the tor stand out from its surroundings.
Shaugh Bridge The River Plym flows through beautiful oak woodland at this spot west of the village of Shaugh Prior.
There are views along the river from the bridge and also from the waterside, where you can get close to the water as it cascades over rocks and stones, though be careful, as the river is very fast-flowing.
Park at the National Trust car park and follow the footpath (grid ref SX53346362, What3Words ///cotton.palms.lasted).
3. Waterfall Country, Bannau Brycheiniog / The Brecon Beacons
One of the best spots is a couple of miles southwest of the village of Ystradfellte. Park in the car park at Pont Melin-Fach (grid ref SN90791048, What3Words ///authors.skimmers.fishery).
Follow the footpath from the far end of the car park, and you’ll soon reach the river. Follow the trail alongside the river, and along a two-mile stretch, you’ll be able to shoot three or four spectacular waterfalls, one of which you’re able to walk behind.
When shooting waterfalls, use a polarizer to reduce the glare off the water and to enhance the saturation of the autumn foliage, and consider using a neutral density filter to slow the shutter speed and smooth the water as it cascades over cliffs.
There is often a lot of spray near waterfalls, so keep a micro-fibre lens cloth handy and regularly wipe down your front element (or filters if using them).
4. The Lake District
The English Lake District is one of the country’s most popular visitor destinations and arguably looks its best in the autumn.
You could probably pitch up almost anywhere and find a photogenic view, but some of my personal favourites in the autumn months are Ashness Bridge, Latrigg, and Blea Tarn.
Ashness Bridge is one of the most iconic views in the Lake District and possibly the UK’s most photographed bridge, but don’t let this put you off as it’s a beautiful spot and really comes into its own in autumn when it’s flanked by trees in golden foliage.
Park in the nearby National Trust car park (grid ref NY26961964, What3Words ///those.gravitate.tailing), walk the few meters back to the bridge and shoot from upstream.
Use a moderate wide-angle (24-35mm full frame) and get down low to shoot the water as it flows over stones towards the bridge. Use a polarizer to reduce glare and an ND filter to extend shutter speeds.
Latrigg is easily accessible but offers spectacular views over Keswick, Derwentwater, and Borrowdale. First light is best here, as there’s always the possibility of mist sitting over Derwentwater or in the valley, with autumn trees poking above the layer of white.
There is a car park about a mile outside of Keswick (grid ref NY28062536, What3Words ///tailed.trinkets.milk). From the car park, it’s about a 15-minute walk along a footpath to the top of Latrigg.
Blea Tarn is in the central lakes in a valley between Great and Little Langdale. It has a remote, bleak beauty, with the perfect backdrop of the Langdale Pikes.
From the nearby National Trust car park (grid ref NY29550432, What3Words ///composers.realm.slave), cross the road and walk along the lakeshore, where you’ll be spoiled for choice with foreground interest, with rocks dotted around and a fence leading into the water.
Wide angles are preferred to include foreground interest and the Langdale Pikes in the background.
5. Kingston Lacy Beech Avenue, Dorset
Just northwest of Wimborne in East Dorset, the Kingston Lacy Beech Avenue is a mile-long stretch of the B3082, flanked by a total of over 350 beech trees on each side, which were planted in 1835.
Park in the National Trust car park at Banbury Rings (grid ref ST95960303, What3Words ///vehicle.talents.shipwreck) and walk back to the road.
There are plenty of viewpoints and possible compositions in both directions and from either side of the road – keep walking until you see something.
Be aware of road signs spoiling the view, and however tempting it may seem, don’t stand in the middle of the road for a shot. This is a really busy road – even very early in the morning – with lots of blind summits.
Use a long focal length (anywhere between 100 and 200mm on full frame) to compress the apparent distance between the trees, making them seem more imposing, and highlighting the gnarled texture of the trunks and branches.
Try some shots without including the road, too. There are one or two spots where overhanging branches form tunnels and there are great subjects.
Use a polarizer to reduce the sheen on leaves and boost the autumn colours, and if you can, visit on a foggy morning, which will add atmosphere to the scene.
6. Corfe Castle, Dorset
According to John Keats, autumn is the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” I’m still to be convinced about the mellow fruitfulness, but like most landscape photographers, I’m definitely a fan of mist.
And one of the most amazing sights when there’s a low-lying mist is Corfe Castle.
Perched on a hilltop, where it was built to guard the only gap in the Purbeck Hills for 12 miles, the romantic ruin is a compelling subject when it rises above a blanket of fog.
The most popular viewpoint is from West Hill. Park in the National Trust car park (grid ref. SY95918247, What3Words ///curries.encodes.sedated) and cross the road.
Almost directly opposite the Visitor Centre is a gate into a field. Enter the field, walk parallel to the main road, passing a barn on your left. At the far end, you’ll find another gate.
Go through this and follow the footpath up the hill. It’s a steep climb, and being a chalky hill, a bit slippery in places, but once you get near the top, you’ll realize the effort is worth it.
A standard zoom (24-70mm full frame) is ideal for shots of the castle in the mist, and you can frame your compositions with the castle on the left or the right of the frame.
With the sun rising behind the castle, the sky can be relatively bright compared to the main subject, so be prepared to use a graduated filter or bracket your exposures and blend them in processing to ensure you capture the full range of tones.
7. Snowdonia, North Wales
Eryri is a hugely popular national park, attracting around 4 million visitors annually. Don’t let this put you off visiting though, as if you keep away from the ‘honey pot’ locations such as Snowdon itself and the pretty village of Betws-y-Coed, it’s really easy to get away from the crowds.
It’s a great place to visit in autumn, as there is always the chance of a bit of mist rising off one of the many lakes, and the surrounding trees look splendid in their autumn colours.
There are many iconic locations such as Cwm Idwal, a bowl-shaped hollow with Llyn (Lake) Idwal at its centre, the almost infamous lone tree at the end of Llyn Padarn, and Lynnau Mymbyr, in whose waters you can see Mount Snowdon reflected on a still day.
However, one of my favourite locations in the region is Llyn Dinas, a small, shallow lake in the northern part of the national park. It’s easily accessible, encircled by woodland, and has an abundance of bracken on the surrounding slopes, all of which make it an ideal spot for autumn photography.
There are excellent compositions from the shoreline, with plenty of options for foreground interest, as well as a couple of boathouses on the shore to provide interesting focal points.
There is also a footpath leading up to the southern slopes above the lake, with fantastic views over the lake and up the Nant Gwynant Valley.
Llyn Dinas is easily accessed from a lay-by on the A498 (grid ref. SH61234936, What3Words ///argued.prosper.chapters).
Read more: The Best Equipment for Landscape Photography
8. The Isle of Skye, Scotland
There are many incredibly dramatic locations on the island, but two that shouldn’t be missed are The Quiraing, a landslip on the Trotternish Ridge, which has formed a distinctive landscape with many features, and the Old Man of Storr, a large pinnacle of rock also part of the Trotternish Ridge.
Early morning light in autumn really brings these locations to life, with the low, warm sun providing modelling lighting on the distinctively shaped hills and ridges.
There are no trees for autumn colour, but the yellow-brown grass and russet bracken will make it clear in which season your shots were taken.
The Quiraing is easily accessed from the adjacent car park (grid ref. NG43986791, What3Words ///wrenching.lavished.slices), and there are plenty of viewpoints within a short walk.
In contrast, the Old Man of Storr is quite a trek and a fairly steep climb up what is now a reasonably well-defined footpath. Follow the signposted trail from the car park (grid ref. NG50895290, What3Words ///coffee.wordplay.prop).
You can travel the length and breadth of the UK in search of the perfect autumn picture, but the chances are you’ll get your best results close to home.
The advantage of being on your home turf is that you can make repeated visits, not only to find the best compositions but also to keep an eye on how the colours are progressing so that you can then photograph them at their peak.
And although some woods and forests are perhaps more impressive than others, with a little creativity and the right conditions, you can get great results in almost any woodland.
Whether you choose to venture across the country or explore what’s in your own backyard, I hope your autumn photography adventures this year are successful!