The best places to see autumn in all its glory

The National ArboretumIgnoring the wind and rain for a minute, autumn is a fantastic time of year. It’s nature’s last gasp before hibernating for winter and the last opportunity to show us the beauty of the natural world. That gives us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the final days of life before the big sleep.

So the next two posts are celebrating the very best places in the UK to see autumn in all its glory. Each of these places has one or more holiday cottages within easy reach. If you’re enjoying a holiday this time of year in one of them, you should check one of these locations out!

The National Arboretum

The National Arboretum in Westonbirt, Gloucestershire is a great place to visit any time of year, but autumn especially so. The grounds have been deliberately planted with a range of oaks, Japanese maple, lime, birch and other species to provide a range of colours and textures.

Stourhead Gardens

Stourhead Gardens, near Warminster, Wiltshire is a stunning country estate managed by the National Trust. The landscaped grounds have follies, outbuildings, a temple or two and acres of landscaped grounds. There are also waymarked trails crossing the entire property providing some excellent walks through the forest.

Grizedale Forest

It’s hard to select one forest over the hundreds of others, but Grizedale Forest in Cumbria has to be one of the best. With a wide range of trees, hiking and biking trails, fantastic views of Windermere and Coniston Water and the proximity to the mountains, this forest really does take some beating at any time of year. Autumn makes it especially pretty.

Castell Coch

Castell Coch near Cardiff is a fantastic gothic castle set in lovely beech woodland. With stunning views of the surrounding hills, multi-coloured forest, lots of countryside and the castle itself to walk around, this location has plenty to offer. We have a few holiday cottages nearby too!

Alice Holt Forest

Alice Holt Forest near Farnham, Surrey is another fantastic place to experience autumn in all its glory. The forest once provided oak for the Royal Navy and was also the set for the early scenes in Gladiator. It is covered in hiking and biking trails and covered in all kinds of trees that provide a lovely vista this time of year.

Sheffield Park and Garden

Sheffield Park and Garden, near Haywards Heath in Sussex is an amazing place to visit and spend time. There are dour lakes, a wildlife area, cricket pitch and some villages dotted around the area. It’s an amazing place to enjoy some autumn sunshine. will be bringing you more fantastic autumn destinations in a couple of days. Join us on Thursday for the concluding post!

Mizen Head – Wild Atlantic Way

Mizen HeadMizen Head, Carn Uí Néid in Gaelic, in Country Cork is as dramatic a piece of coastline as you’re ever likely to see. Unless of course you’re travelling the Wild Atlantic Way where every signature point has a different aspect of rugged coastline for you to marvel at!

Mizen Head is Ireland’s most south westerly point and is the place where our green and pleasant land meets the ferocious Atlantic Ocean. The sea cliffs jut out over splashing waves to create a picture you would never bore of watching.

As a reminder to mankind’s never-ending attempt at dominance over nature, Mizen Head Signal Station sits on the edge of the cliffs as it has done for over a century. The station was built in the 19th century to warn the increasing amount of shipping of the rocks just offshore.

While still a busy shipping lane, Mizen Head Signal Station has fulfilled its purpose, so is now a heritage centre with a visitor’s attraction celebrating its rich and important history. Mizen Head Visitor Centre contains everything you need to know about the maritime history of the area, how the station worked and more. There is also a café to warm you up after braving the elements.

To get to the Mizen Head Signal Station, depart the visitor’s centre down the 99 steps and along a coastal path. That path is worth the journey alone as dramatic hardly does the vista justice. Then you cross the arched bridge over the sea to the station.

Once at the station you can explore the Station Keeper’s Quarters, engine room, Marconi Radio Room and the Map Room. You can learn about the lives of the Irish light keepers who worked here until 1993, the importance of communications, wireless, GPS, safety at sea and much more. There are guided tours of the station should you want to get the most out of your visit too.

Mizen Head is rich in wildlife. Look to the sea for dolphins, seals, whales and billions of fish. Look up for a huge range of seabirds as the migration path passes just offshore. Then look south and observe the Fastnet Lighthouse, one of the most famous landmarks in Ireland. It was the last part of home emigrating Irish families saw as they steamed to America.

Mizen Head definitely earns it’s place as a signature point on the Wild Atlantic Way but also as an attraction in its own right. It’s full of interest, history and glimpses of how Ireland grew to be what it is today. Well worth a visit!

Derrigimlagh – Wild Atlantic Way

DerrigimlaghDerrigimlagh in County Galway is an interesting stop on the Wild Atlantic Way. At first glance, the idea of visiting a bog probably doesn’t sound like a good way to spend a day. However, give it a chance and take a walk out to the desolate area and you get a real sense of Irish history.

Derrigimlagh is notable for three things. It was the site of an important transatlantic cable link with its own station built by Marconi in the 19th century. It’s where Alcock and Brown crash landed after the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic. It’s also hauntingly beautiful.

While not much is left of the Marconi station, there are concrete foundations still present at Derrigimlagh. The site used to transmit and receive messages across the Atlantic Ocean and be staffed by over a hundred people. It was unfortunately burnt to the ground during the Irish War of Independence.

The flight across the Atlantic is now immortalised with the Alcock and Brown memorial within the bog. The memorial is an off-white wing-like structure placed at the location where the pair crash landed in 1919. They had taken off from Newfoundland, flown almost 1900 miles through weather, technical problems and the dark only to crash in an Irish bog.

Given the soft nature of the bog, both pilots emerged unscathed from the wreckage. Alcock then allegedly announced “Yesterday I was in America and I am the first man in Europe to say that.”

As with many elements of the Wild Atlantic Way, you can drive to Derrigimlagh and stand on a viewing platform to see most of what’s on offer here. But, we would always suggest leaving the car and getting out on foot. Take a guided walk from local historians or explore on your own. We think it’s the only true way to experience what Ireland has to offer.

The geography is flat and desolate, but also green and full of life. It’s easy to explore on your own, or with a guide. Just make sure you have a good pair of walking boots and waterproofs as it gets wet and windy in such exposed places.

Derrigimlagh is an interesting stop in the Wild Atlantic Way with lots of history on offer. While not as spectacular as the Cliff of Moher or Slieve League, it is beautiful in its own right and definitely worth an afternoon of your time.

Slieve League (Sliabh Liag) – Wild Atlantic Way

Slieve LeagueSlieve League or Sliabh Liag in Gaelic are sea cliffs can be found in County Donegal and are a signature point of the Wild Atlantic Way. They are yet another fascinating part of the Irish landscape on an island full of them!

Slieve League are said to be the highest sea cliffs in Europe. They tower 2000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean and offer some stunning views of the coastline either side and the ocean that stretches for hundreds of miles. There is also a visitor’s centre for good measure.

Located on the west coast of Ireland not far from R263. It’s a short drive from the main road to the Slieve League Cliffs Centre and then a short walk to the cliffs themselves. The visitor’s centre is a family run affair with lots of local history and items of interest. The craft shop is also better than most with lots of local crafts for sensible prices.

The Tí Linn Café is the last cake stop before Slieve League so it’s worth paying a visit before setting out.

The Slieve League Cliffs Centre run guided walks to Slieve League, which are well worth booking if you want to know more about the cliffs, hear local stories and learn about folklore and interesting anecdotes. There are stories for just about everything in Ireland and they add real colour to the experience. We would also recommend a guided walk if you can get one.

From the centre, you can walk to the cliffs via designated viewing points that offer some spectacular vistas across the local landscape. If you’re an experienced walker, you can choose to venture nearer over One Man’s Pass. A path that really does live up to its name!

If that doesn’t sound like something you want to try, there is an easier trail that forms part of a longer walk from Bunglas to Malinbeg. There are also boat trips that can show you the scenery from a different perspective. Visit Teelin Harbour to find a local skipper or join an organised boat tour.

Once at the cliffs, take as much time as you need to take in the scene before you. Watch the seabirds, look for dolphins or just observe the land and seascape before you. From the cliff top you can see Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay too, so watch out for those.

The Slieve League are simply awesome. They tower over the sea and literally take your breath away. They are well worth visiting on their own merit, but as a signature point of the Wild Atlantic Way, they are unmissable!

Blaskets View – Wild Atlantic Way

Blaskets ViewBlaskets View, or Radharc na mBlascaoidí, on the Wild Atlantic Way is another signature point that stands on its own merit as well as being part of the longest tourist trail in Ireland.

Officially known as the Blasket Islands, this signature point of the Wild Atlantic Way can be found at Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry. The islands are the most western part of Europe and the last stop until the North American continent to the west.

As the crow flies, the Blasket Islands are only 1km from land. However, the direct route is regarded as too dangerous to use, so a 5km loop is necessary to get there safely. It is believed that the islands were once part of the mainland and gradually separated over millions of years.

The largest of the islands, Great Blasket was inhabited until 1953. At its peak, there were 175 people living there. The earliest record, from 1593, has people living and working on the island and several records between then and now support fairly constant habitation.

The village was small and was home to very hardy folk who made their living from land and sea. There was no electricity, no running water and no modern comforts. As far as we can tell, the people only left the island once there were not enough strong men in the families to row the boats to the mainland.

The islanders were literary people, with over 40 books having been published by various residents. Some included the first written work of oral Gaelic histories and culture.

Modern visitors to the Blasket Islands can take in Blaskets View. Look west to the Americas like thousands before you and look all around to see dolphins, whales and seabirds by the hundred. It’s an eerie place that evokes contemplation but is well worth the visit.

Back on the mainland, you can then visit the Blasket Centre. The centre is dedicated to celebrating the life and history of the islands and the islanders and makes for a good stop on your tour.

The highlight has to be The Journey. A stained glass piece that uses 300 glass panels and weighs over 3 tons. There are also examples of the islanders literary accomplishments too that give an incredible insight to the life they led while still resident on Blaskets.

Blaskets View and the Blasket Islands are a poignant stop along the Wild Atlantic Way. Not only is the landscape and seascape dramatic, there is a real insight to a part of Irish life you wouldn’t normally be able to explore. For this alone, it’s a must-see while you’re here.

Mullaghmore Head – Wild Atlantic Way

Mullaghmore HeadMullaghmore Head in County Sligo is a very popular water sports and seaside destination as well as a stop on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Located in the north west of Ireland, between Grange and Bundoram along the N15, the promontory that makes up Mullaghmore is all about the sea. Set close to the borders of County Leitrim and Donegal, it’s an impressive setting with uninterrupted views of Benbulben Mountain, Donegal and Sligo Bay.

With 3km of lovely golden beaches, lots of rugged coastline, little bays, rocky outcroppings, coves and lovely clear water, it’s no wonder it’s a mecca for water sports enthusiasts.

The west coast of Ireland is an exceptionally popular destination for surfers and Bundoram is at the centre of that. The geography of Mullaghmore Head gives it the “prowler” a unique wave type that has been said to reach over 100ft up to several miles off the coast.

This brought Ireland it’s first Big Wave contest in 2011 which saw surfers from across the world compete here. Earlier this year, pro surfer Kirt Rist rode a 55ft prowler wave over a mile off the shore of Mullaghmore Head. If you love the surf, this is the place to be!

Mullaghmore also offers a range of other activities too, from fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, boat trips and walks along the cliffs. Of course, being part of the Wild Atlantic Way means there are lots of paths and defined coastal walks for you to enjoy while you’re here.

The village of Mullaghmore itself was once owned by Lord Palmerston who was Master of the Rolls in Dublin. He was granted 12,000 acres of land in the area and built Classiebawn Castle on the peninsula. He also brought in immigrants from Liverpool to work the land and build a community. The village of Mullaghmore was created and a harbour built to service it.

Classiebawn Castle was passed down the generations until it was given to Lord Mountbatten before he was killed off the coast of Mullaghmore in 1979.

The village and harbour have prospered thanks to tourism and local industry. The harbour is still busy, local fare, arts and crafts are still sold locally and nationally too. It’s a typical Irish village that would be worth a visit even if it wasn’t part of the Wild Atlantic Way!

Cliffs of Moher – Wild Atlantic Way

Cliffs of Moher - Wild Atlantic WayThe Cliffs of Moher are one of the most visited natural phenomena in Ireland. Already part of a series of walks across Ireland, being added to the Wild Atlantic Way only adds to its appeal.

The Cliffs of Moher are located on the west coast of County Clare. They loom 214m over the Atlantic Ocean at their highest point and offer some truly amazing views out over the ocean and across the dramatic coastline of County Clare.

The trail that takes in the Cliffs of Moher is 8km in length. From the south of the trail and looking north, you can see Hag’s Head, a rocky promontory that resembles a seated woman.

Travel north and you’ll come across the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, a modern visitors centre set into the hillside. The centre contains award-winning educational displays, interesting histories and everything you ever wanted to know about the region. Guides are also available for personal tours that are well worth booking in advance.

Along the Cliffs of Moher, slightly south of the visitor’s centre, you’ll come across O’Briens Tower, a 19th century construction originally designed for tourists. It was built in 1835 by a visionary who saw the potential of the area for visitors and those who would appreciate the spectacular scenery the cliffs provided. When the weather is agreeable, you can see all the way to the Galway Islands from it.

As part of the visitor centre, there are three platforms along the cliffs, the main, north and south platform. The main platform provides an exceptional view of the southern part of the Cliffs of Moher and Hag’s Head.

The north platform can be found at Knockardakin, the highest point of the cliffs. Standing 214m (700 feet) above sea level, next to O’Briens Tower it provides an amazing view the An Branán Mór Sea Stack and it’s collection of seabirds and Aill Na Searrach, the famous surfing wave when it’s here.

The south platform provides views to Goat Island where our local Puffin population live. You also get a different perspective of An Branán Mór Sea Stack and O’Briens Tower.

After taking in the wonders of the Cliffs of Moher, you can treat yourself to a well-earned coffee in the visitor’s centre while you compare notes and pictures. The Cliffs and indeed all of the Wild Atlantic Way offer more photographic opportunities than you could ever wish for. Ireland has to be one of the most photogenic countries in the world and for good reason!

Killary Harbour – Wild Atlantic Way

Killary HarbourKillary Harbour (An Caoláire Rua) forms part of the Wild Atlantic Way and sits comfortably between County Galway and County Mayo. Accessed from Connemara near the N59, the harbour is actually a fjord that separates the two counties. It’s another fascinating point of interest on the Way and well worth a visit.

Killary Harbour is 16km long and is one of three glacial fjords in Ireland. The scenery is of course, stunning. With wide expanses of green hills with mountains as a backdrop, it’s another natural wonder in an island full of them. Yet we never seem to get bored of seeing them as they all have something a little different to offer.

The sky is huge here. While there are mountains in the distance, the region is fairly low. Rolling meadows and low hills fill the parts of the horizon not dominated by mountains in a full 360 degrees. The harbour is deep, tranquil and lovely to behold. It’s a calm place, full of serenity and history and one we would never tire of enjoying.

On the way to Killary Harbour, you can see Croagh Patrick in the distance. It was here that St. Patrick fasted for 40 days and 40 nights so he could do penance and banish snakes from Ireland.

Back to Killary Harbour and the mountain backdrop changes to Mweelrea to the north, Connach’s tallest mountain and Maumturk Mountains and the Twelve Bens to the south. The settlements of Rossroe and Leenaun are nearby and are well worth a visit on your way to or from the harbour.

As well as walking along the fjord, you also have the option to have a guided tour by a local expert or to ride along on a Connemara pony. Either offers a unique opportunity to see the region from a different perspective and to immerse yourself in local culture. Pony riding is popular here and you will see many horses and ponies being ridden while you’re wandering around.

If you have an interest in history, the Green Road runs alongside Killary Harbour that you can walk along. This road formed part of the famine relief program in the 19th century, providing the means to get food inland during those harshest of times. It’s a 9km walk and is worth the time for the scenery alone, even if history isn’t to your taste.

The Killary Harbour part of the Wild Atlantic Way is most definitely Ireland, but could also be in Scandinavia. It’s a green land full of light, quiet and amazing scenery and it’s no wonder it was chosen as a signature point along the tour.

If you’re planning to travel Wild Atlantic Way, has a selection of high quality holiday cottages for you to use along the way. Perfect for your Irish adventure!

Keem Strand – Wild Atlantic Way

Keem StrandSet in County Donegal, Keem Strand is another signature discovery point along the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s one of three points that includes Mullaghmore Head and Downpatrick Head in a 625km part of the Way that make up one of the most interesting parts of this west coast route.

The Wild Atlantic Way is a new venture for Ireland and one that’s set to become an iconic route alongside Route 66 and Land’s End to John ‘o Groats. It’s a spectacular tour that can be done in a single trip or broken up into multiples and enjoyed over years.

Either way, has the perfect stopovers for your journey, however you’re doing it!

Keem Strand is set on Achill Island, one of Ireland’s biggest islands and one of its best kept secrets. It’s a secluded area that sits at the head of a valley between the Benmore cliffs and Croaghaun Mountain.

The horseshoe shaped bay contains a blue flag beach that is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. The scenery is dramatic, the setting lovely, the bay peaceful and the entire region is devoid of the noise and clutter of modern life. It’s an ideal escape from the world and well worth a visit.

If you were to imagine your perfect beach location, we think Keem Strand would come close. Lovely golden sand, a calm, quiet bay, clear water, sunshine, a faint breeze and plenty of space to spread out and relax. It’s time away from the world and an opportunity to enjoy nature in all its beauty.

If you want a bit more action, there are water sports opportunities nearby along with surf schools and local amenities.

To get to Keem Strand, you head north to Golden Strand near Slievemore Mountain. There is an old settlement nearby called the Deserted Village which you can explore if you feel like it. If you would like to know more about the village, local archaeologists run guided tours at regular intervals. Either way, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours.

Keem Strand is just one of many stops along the Wild Atlantic Way, yet it’s also one of the most alluring. The idea that somewhere so idyllic could be found within a couple of hours travel from where we live is surprising.

The quality of the landscape, the warm Irish welcome and the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful scenery to be found anywhere makes the Wild Atlantic Way a must-see for anyone who has ever wanted to visit Ireland.

If you need somewhere to stay while you’re here, can help. Use the search function on this page to find the perfect holiday cottage for your trip.

Old Head of Kinsale – Wild Atlantic Way

Old Head of KinsaleThe Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork is regarded by many as the official start of the Wild Atlantic Way. However, as you can begin or end your Way experience in either direction, it can also be considered the last point too. It forms the Kinsale to Clonakilty section which stretches for 92km.

Kinsale is a lovely seaside town on the coast in County Cork. It has lots of history in its buildings, Desmond Castle, Charles Fort and of course, having been the ground for the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. It is a fantastic place to begin or end your tour of the Wild Atlantic Way.

The town is friendly, welcoming and full of quaint shops, artisans, pubs and restaurants. There are also numerous fishing charters that run out of the harbour if you fancy trying your luck.

The Old Head of Kinsale is a coastal promontory that edges out into the Celtic Sea. On top sits a lighthouse with the traditional red and white horizontal stripes. It makes for an excellent landmark and is well worth a visit if you can get to it.

The lighthouse was built in the 17th century to one Robert Reading to warn shipping of the rocks. The RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat 11 miles offshore in 1915. It adds an element of gravitas and history to the point which only adds to the character. The sinking indirectly led to the United States entering the war on the side of the Allies.

A golf course has effectively blocked access to the Old Head of Kinsale from the land side, with fencing and a gate. However you can take a boat trip from Kinsale around the Old Head of Kinsale and see it that way. You can also enjoy the cliffs and take in the Old Head from a distance outside the course.

Clonakilty is another lovely seaside town with lovely coloured houses, a bustling centre, plenty of pubs and restaurants. It’s also the birthplace of Michael Collins, the person who was instrumental in making Ireland a republic. That fact is celebrated here almost everywhere.

Other highlights include the Drombeg Stone Circle, Galley Head Lighthouse and Timoleague Abbey. There are of course, lots of things to see and do in Clonakilty before leaving the town and making your way back to Kinsale.

It’s a shame you can’t get up close and personal with the Old Head of Kinsale, but the area it beautiful enough to make up for it. The trip between Kinsale and Clonakilty is a worthy beginning, or end, to the Wild Atlantic Way and we enjoyed every minute of it!

We feature a number of holiday cottages in and around County Cork. Just search from the box on the left to find something special!