At this time of year fair-weather birds flee the northern hemisphere, leaving us to wrestle the winter head-on with just a few hardy robins for company. Many of us humans envy them, wishing we too could go southwards to escape the encroaching darkness and the shock of the sudden drop in temperature. It may be as near as Devon, it may be as far as Sydney, but the warmer climes of the south is where people’s thoughts are headed in November.
I think this is precisely the opposite of what we ought to be doing. Embracing autumn and all it has to offer is the best way to prepare ourselves for the approaching winter, and perhaps even to learn to love this most beautiful and atmospheric time of year. Whether you go to Iceland or Lapland or are happy to stay here in the UK, looking the oncoming winter straight in the eye is the best way to deal with it. Because let’s face it, winter is coming whether we like it or not, and it will be coming again next year, without fail.
For me, in the summer there’s nowhere quite like the south of England. Fish and chips in a pub garden, Cornish pasties, sandy beaches, windswept coastal paths and shepherd’s huts plonked in the middle of cow parsley lined fields are what I crave. But at this time of year seaside towns can be melancholic and bleak. Shops and cafés are shut up for the winter and the bracing winds on the beach can chill you to the bone. Seagulls and surfers may still be there, but everyone else has left. The towns often feel deserted and the white and blue colour palettes lack the brightness of the sun to warm them up and make them sparkle.
But as you travel north, the colour palette deepens, the stone becomes darker and the landscape radiating orange. I’ve never quite seen anywhere like Glencoe in November, not a green blade of grass in sight. The bracken with its firey colours, the woolly sheep and if you are lucky some deer or even a stag, the north just seems to come alive and shimmer with a warming glow.
Unlike summer, autumn carries with it no expectation of good weather. And you win either way, it’s either so dreadful that you bunker down in your remote cottage at the base of a mountain and curl up in front of the fire with tea and crumpets and a good boxset, or it’s surprisingly good and you can conquer that mountain and feel happy that you are making the most of of the unseasonably clement weather.
A good coat, the woolliest jumper you can find and some proper walking socks make all outside activities feel more fun and, as they say, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. A pint of cider by the fire in a remote pub is the perfect activity to make all that walking worthwhile.
So I say, go north this month. It’s not too late for a last minute long weekend and it’s the perfect way to find some quiet before the rush of Christmas sets in. The only difficulty is deciding where to head from the M1 once you reach the Watford Gap.
Here are four great cottages to book your autumn break.
- Snowdonia / Dolgellau: Gallestra
- Lake District / Coniston: No1 Silverbank
- Yorkshire / Yorkshire Dales: Burtersett Cottage
- Scotland / Fort William: The Old Byre
This summer we spent eight days travelling around British Columbia in an RV. We put our phones away and recorded the entire trip in analogue. Here is what happened.
In the last year I have run six Bleak House Experiences and they have transformed my business and my life. Here is a recap and celebration of the first wonderful year.