After a summer of disconcerting weather, autumn is finally just around the corner. With the cooling off of the days and the gentle relaxing of the light, there are few better ways to welcome the change of seasons than a fresh autumn walk. For many of us autumn is the perfect time to get out into nature but with rising fuel costs and busy roads, accessing the outdoors isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have a car.
We all know plenty of cities with train stations but you might be surprised to hear our railway network has miles of track that can easily get you into the type of countryside you would usually associate with a car trip. Whether you’re looking for relaxing waterscapes or vibrant autumn leaf colour, we have five fantastic autumn walks you can easily enjoy by train.
Lace up your boots and hop on board. We’re off to avoid the car parks and car-related stress while we find our own perfect autumn walk by train.
Three-word description: Exercise. Hill. Viewpoint.
Windermere is probably one of the Lake District’s most well-known bodies of water but not everybody knows it has its very own train station. You could easily walk the three kilometres down to the waterside but one of the best Windermere walks takes you up to the viewpoint at Orrest Head, and the path starts right next to the station. Even more perfect, this hill doesn’t have a car park so while everyone else is looking for a space, you’ll already be on your way to the best views in town.
Look out for autumn colour as you climb through Elleray Forest then enjoy misty autumn views from the top as you gaze across the water towards Scafell Pike. For a gentler climb, keep an eye on the signposts for the accessible and pushchair-friendly route. Pack your binoculars and linger for a while; there’s plenty to see. When you had your fill of stunning views, head back down the way you came or, for a longer walk, take a detour along the footpaths that cross the nearby fields.
Walk a short way west along the A591 until you see the Orrest Head sign. Turn right off the road then follow the way markers until you get to the viewpoint. The accessible route winds its way up the hill but there is a steeper, more direct path.
Recommended map: OS Explorer - OL7 - The English Lakes, South-Eastern Area
Toilets: Windermere Station (during booking hours)
Distance: 2 kilometres to the view point
Steepness: Hilly but not too steep
Terrain: Accessible route available
Estimated time: 1.5 hours (there and back)
Local accessibility information: Lake District National Park – Miles Without Stiles
Signs of autumn: Expect mists over the water and a brisk breeze
Three-word description: Woods. Wellies. Splashing.
Beautiful Brockenhurst itself is a really interesting village to explore but as this is an autumn walk, it would be a shame not to venture into the forest. Follow the lanes and paths southeast from Brockenhurst station and you’ll soon find yourself inside the Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, where you can enjoy a mixed landscape of grassy meadows, evergreen conifers and autumn orange beech trees.
As you go, keep your ears open for the great spotted woodpecker and perhaps the strange sound of sika stag whistling. Keep walking until the ford in the Lymington River, and you’ll be all set to enjoy a bit of traditional autumn welly splashing.
From the station, cross the A337 then find Church Lane just to the north. Follow this lane until you reach the bridlepath heading southeast. Continue into the woods. As you come out of the woods near Roydon Manor, turn left to reach the Lymington River ford.
Recommended map: OS Explorer - OL22 – New Forest
Toilets: Brockenhurst Station
Distance: 3 kilometres down to the ford across the Lymington River
Steepness: Slight hill
Terrain: Uneven paths, sometimes muddy
Estimated time: 2 hours (there and back)
Refreshments: Brockenhurst Village
Local accessibility information: Roydon Woods Nature Reserve
Signs of autumn: Look out for different types of fungi but don’t be tempted to taste
Three-word description: Lochs. Island. Castle.
With the Cairngorms on one side and the Monadhliath on the other, the area around Aviemore isn’t short of serious mountain walks. However, there are other less challenging options available. The low-level route between Aviemore and Loch an Eilein takes you through the fragrant Rothiemurchus pine forests and past Lochan Mor.
Once you arrive at Loch an Eilein, you’ll find it hard to take your eyes off the view across to the tiny island and ruined castle. Allow yourself plenty of time to absorb the atmosphere. Then you can ponder the mystery of Scottish placenames. A lochan is a small loch or lake, which makes Lochan Mor (big small lake) a bit confusing.
From Aviemore Station pick up the Speyside Way and head south. Turn left towards Inverdruie at the first road junction. From the Visitor Centre at Inverdruie, take the footpaths towards Monadh Liadh and Lochan Mor. Keep going until you meet the lane then turn left again to follow the lane to Loch an Eilein.
Recommended map: OS Explorer – OL57 - Cairn Gorm & Aviemore
Toilets: Aviemore Station (during ticket office hours)
Distance: 5.5 kilometres to Loch an Eilein
Steepness: Slight hill
Terrain: Roads and well-used paths, sometimes muddy
Estimated time: 3 hours (there and back)
Refreshments: Rothiemurchus Visitor Centre
Local accessibility information: Cairngorms National Park Authority
Signs of autumn: Keep an eye out for busy red squirrels amongst the stunning yellow birch trees.
Three-word description: Climb. River. Rushing.
With increased chances of rainfall, autumn is one of the best times to go waterfall spotting. All the more so if, as at Swallow Falls near Betws-y-Coed, you’re also going to be treated to a feast of autumn leaf colour. Put together the bright yellow birch, the warm orange beech and the rush of tumbling water, and you have the perfect autumn walk destination. One that you can reach surprisingly easily from a train station.
This walk along the north bank of the Afon (River) Llugwy takes you through some of Betws-y-Coed's beautiful woodland scenery (coed is the Welsh word for trees). For most of it you’ll be following a section of the Snowdonia Slate Trail, an 83-mile walking route that celebrates the important part slate quarrying has played in Welsh history. Small admission charges apply at Swallow Falls (coins or contactless) so set off prepared.
Leave the station and cross the car park and green. Turn right up the main road through the village then right again to cross the bridge. Turn left to follow the footpath alongside the river. This is the Snowdonia Slate Trail so look out for signs. Keep the river on your left as you climb up to Swallow Falls
Recommended map: OS Explorer - OL17 - Snowdon Yr Wyddfa
Toilets: At the car park next to Betws-y-Coed station (charges apply)
Distance: 3.8 kilometres to Swallow Falls
Steepness: Some might call this a stiff climb
Terrain: Lanes and rough paths
Estimated time: 2.5 hours (there and back)
Refreshments: Plenty of choice in Betws-y-Coed
Local accessibility information: Snowdonia National Park Authority
Signs of autumn: With a rushing river and bright-coloured leaves, expect autumn in abundance.
Three-word description: Woods. Views. Vertigo.
With a castle, a Giant’s Cave and a spectacular ruined abbey, you might want to save this autumn train walk for Halloween. For much of the time you’ll be perched amongst the trees high above the Afon Gwy (River Wye) just on the Welsh side of the England/Wales border. On a clear day you’ll be able to see all the way to the Bristol Channel and the Severn Bridges from the Eagle’s Nest viewpoint.
It’s a short stroll to pick up the Wye Valley Walk from Chepstow Station. Climb through the steeply hanging woodlands on the west side of the river, enjoying the autumn colours of ash, lime and hazel as you go. It is usually possible to return on the other side of the river but at the time of writing, the footbridge over the Wye at Tintern Abbey was closed for maintenance.
Leave the station and join the Wye Valley Walk near Chepstow Castle (you may also spot signs for the Wales Coast Path). Keeping the River Wye on your right, follow the Wye Valley Walk as it cuts off a bend in the river. Enjoy the tunnel at Giant’s Cave and the climb up to the Eagle’s Nest viewpoint. Continue through the woods at Black Cliff then head down the hill to Tintern Abbey.
Recommended map: OS Explorer – OL14 - Wye Valley & Forest of Dean
Toilets: Near Chepstow Castle and at Tintern Abbey (there are no toilets at Chepstow Station)
Distance: 9.4 kilometres to Tintern Abbey
Steepness: Steep and not for the faint-hearted
Terrain: Steep uneven paths and some steps
Estimated time: 6.5 hours (there and back)
Refreshments: Chepstow and Tintern Village
Signs of autumn: Expect low mists hovering over the river and stunning autumn colour.
Autumn is a fantastic time of year to go for a walk in the UK. With fresher air than during the summer months, autumn walks can be really invigorating as well as giving you access to stunning leaf colour, sensuous low mists and those comforting autumnal aromas. We have ten top tips to help you enjoy your autumn train walks safely and comfortably.
Train travel in the UK isn’t always as affordable as we would like but getting to the start of your walk by train is far better for the environment than getting there by car; it’s also much less hassle. If you’re looking for train fares that won’t break your leisure time budget, why not try ticket splitting?
It can often be cheaper to buy the tickets for each individual leg of your journey than for your whole trip. If this sounds like hard work, let the TrainSplit app do the job for you. Just enter your journey, then sit back and view the results. If ticket splitting can make your journey cheaper, we’ll show you how. Even better than that, we’ll let you know how much you are going to save.
Living in Devon, Fi is an outdoor writer, blogger and children’s author. She is also an Ordnance Survey Get Outside Champion and a keen walker and outdoor swimmer. For 2022, Fi has been trying to enjoy as many of usual outdoor activities as possible by train instead of by car.