Fall for autumn's foliage

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As the trees begin their magnificent transformation from green to gold, Chris Leadbeater offers options far and wide to see them in all their blazing glory

What's the attraction?

The nights may be getting longer and the days cooler, but the third seasonal quarter of the calendar is surely the most romantic time of the year to take a holiday, its rich colours making a play for the heart. Autumn starts to unfurl its banner – in a heady cocktail of oranges, yellows, browns, purples and reds – once September creeps into view. Here is death at its most beautiful, making for scenery ideally explored at a slow pace, whether via a road trip, an escorted tour, or from the fireside of a country pub.

The joy, of course, is that autumn is not constrained to one continent – but casts its pre-winter spell across Europe, Asia and North America in one burst, with a wealth of opportunity to witness it.



Maine events

New England is the blue riband region of autumn travel – so much so that the US has a specific term (leaf-peepers) to describe visitors who arrive in "fall". This north-easterly shoulder of the country plays host to glorious colour for three months. The season begins in Maine in September, ebbs south through New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, and lingers in Connecticut and Rhode Island into November. Despite the destruction of Hurricane Irene, leaf-peeping prospects are still looking positive.

Possible itineraries are numerous, but American Sky (0844 332 9391; www.americansky.co.uk) sells an 11-night "Best of New England" road trip until 31 October that covers the White Mountains, Green Mountains and Cape Cod – from £1,129 per person in October, including car hire and flights from Heathrow to Boston.



Canada calling

New England takes the "fall" plaudits, but autumn is no observer of borders – and the fire show continues to the north-east, where the mix of Atlantic air and deep forest makes the eastern Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island a less-seen option – not least on Nova Scotia's Cabot Trail ( www.cabottrail.com), which spins 200 miles around Cape Breton Island.

Timeless Travel offers an 18-night "Lobster, Lighthouses and Prince Edward Island" package (0844 809 4299; www.timelesstravel.co.uk) that trawls all three provinces. Prices start from £1,849 per person in September, including flights from Heathrow to Halifax, accommodation and car hire throughout the holiday.

Far Eastern flames

Japan is revered for sakura, its spring cherry-blossom bonanza. But koyo, its autumnal flip side, is just as spectacular. Summer's flamboyant demise tinges the trees in areas such as Kamikochi National Park (sometimes called "Japan's Yosemite", roughly in the centre of the country) and Nikko (a mountain-framed city 100 miles north of Tokyo) – while the season clings to Kyoto and the capital as late as December.

Inside Japan (0117 314 4620; www.insidejapantours.com) has a 14-night "Essential Honshu" escorted tour. Places are available on the 17 October departure, costing £2,200 per person, half board. Flights are extra; All Nippon Airways (0870 837 8866; www.anaskyweb.com), BA (0844 493 0787; www.ba.com), Japan Airlines (08457 747 700; www.jal.com) and Virgin Atlantic (0844 874 7747; www.virgin-atlantic.com) fly from Heathrow to Tokyo's Narita airport; BA also flies to Tokyo's Haneda airport.



Home fires

There is no need to fly to the other side of the planet to find arboreal fireworks. Autumn explodes across the National Arboretum at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire (01666 880 220; www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt; £9), where 600 acres, 16,000 trees, 3,000 specimens and 17 miles of paths give the season a colossal canvas on which to daub its magic. Of particular appeal are the Acer Glade and Maple Loop sections, where Japanese maples turn to photogenic gold.

In nearby Tetbury, the Snooty Fox hotel (01666 502 436; www.snooty-fox.co.uk) offers doubles from £80, including breakfast. Also in Tetbury, the Hare & Hounds Hotel (01666 881 000; www.cotswold-inns-hotels.co.uk) has a £99-per-person offer that includes half-board and entrance to the arboretum.

To combine the autumn blaze with a spot of history, you can do an "Ancient Tree Hunt" in London. Part of a wider initiative by the Woodland Trust to map the oldest trees in the UK ( www.ancient-tree-hunt.org.uk), this walking tour links the capital's gnarly-limbed veterans on a route from Westminster to Kew. Download a guide at www.visitwoods.org.uk (search for "ancient tree trail").



Gallic grandeur

The Loire Valley continues to dazzle in autumn thanks to the wooded depths that made it the hunting zone of the 16th-century kings of France. The most colourful options include the forest-flanked palaces of Chenonceau (00 33 8 20 20 90 90; www.chenonceau.com; admission €10.50) and Villandry (00 33 2 47 50 02 09; www.chateauvillandry.fr; €9.50), both just outside Tours.

Utracks (0845 241 7599; www.utracks.com) offers an eight-day "Loire Valley Castles" route from £690 per person including bike rental and half-board, but not transport.

Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) flies to Tours from Stansted, while Eurostar (08432 186 186; www.eurostar.com) runs from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford to Paris Gare du Nord, with a change at Paris Montparnasse for the TGV to Tours.



Antipodean autumn

One of the pleasures of autumn is that you have to wait only six months for it to appear again – assuming you fly to the southern hemisphere. Low season for air fares is March-June, coinciding with autumn in Australasia. New Zealand glows in March and April, notably in the leafy corners of the South Island, where the burnished slopes around Queenstown are reflected in Lake Wakatipu, and the waters of Fiordland (such as Milford Sound) hold a mirror to the change around them.

Discover the World (01737 214 250; www.discover-the-world.co.uk) offers an 11-night self-drive "South Island Explorer" that costs from £1,950 per person in April, room only, with car hire and flights to Dunedin via Auckland.



What Google will tell you...

"Woodstock Connecticut in particular is very beautiful during foliage season: lots of wonderful antique shops, and restaurants like the Vanilla Bean Café – made famous by Coke, they launched their Vanilla Coke from there a few years ago. Stone walls galore and winding roads make it one of the most beautiful places in New England" – forum at www.yankeefoliage.com.



What Google won't tell you... until now

Massachusetts and New Hampshire are seen as the flag-bearers for the American "fall" – but Maine, as the most heavily wooded state in the US, is the autumnal kingpin. "You can find dramatic fall colours throughout Maine, but especially in the western mountains and the densely tree-lined north of the state," says Gale Ross of the Maine Department of Conservation ( www.mainefoliage.com).

Who said that?

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun,

Conspiring with him how to load and bless,

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run."

– John Keats, 'To Autumn'



"From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar,

When the dawn begins to crack,

It's all part of my autumn almanac."

- Ray Davies, 'Autumn Almanac'



"The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry,

Under the October twilight the water

Mirrors a still sky."

– WB Yeats, 'The Wild Swans at Coole'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot