With our forests about to burst into colour, we pick cosy woodland cottages and eco-cabins for making the most of a British autumn.

woodland retreats

Cream of cottages, New Forest

There’s no better time to visit the New Forest than autumn, when the trees blaze auburn and saffron and the ground is scattered with fungi, leaf litter and acorns. These are the months when the forest’s ponies are replaced by domestic pigs, who are let out to roam the forest to feast on the acorns (which are poisonous to other animals) in a centuries-old tradition known as pannage. Kingfisher Cottage is new to rent, and offers complete privacy down a mile-long lane, with an easy walking trail through the forest to Burley village. Bolderwood deer sanctuary is nearby, famous for the oak and beech trees that flame with colour in autumn, and the Blackwater Tall Trees Trail is a short drive away. The cottage sleeps four in two airy bedrooms, with crisp cream décor throughout and walking and cycling trails from the door.

From £711 a week, newforestcottages.co.uk

Safari-style lodges, North Yorkshire (pictured)

Glamping is an understatement for these two spacious, well-equipped forest boltholes: one lodge and one safari tent, surrounded by woodland on the edge of the North York Moors at Thimbleby. Coulter – the tent – boasts reclaimed wood floors and walls, with a log burner in the kitchen-living room, while Lark is a spacious lodge with twin alfresco bathtubs.

A Place in the Pines is the passion project of owner Matt Brown, who is a fount of information on walks and places to visit. Dogs are welcome, too. A walk away through the woods is the Golden Lion pub, renowned for its food and Sunday roasts.

Lodges from £140, aplaceinthepines.co.uk

Bed in a botanic garden, Isle of Wight

For a taste of autumn abroad, Ventnor Botanical Garden has an almost Mediterranean climate and more than 30,000 subtropical plants and trees. The 22-acre space has several trails, such as Champion Trees: 10 trees that are the biggest of their kind in the UK.

Visitors can stay overnight for after-hours access to the garden, which also has a café, restaurant and wellbeing classes. Accommodation ranges from camping and tipis to three cabins and a cottage.

New for 2021 is the Smugglers Lodge, a restored Victorian building that is now a one-bedroom retreat with king-size bed, roll-top bath, wood burner and terrace overlooking palm trees.

Lodge from £65 a night/£390 a week, botanic.co.uk

Hobbit house, Suffolk

Buried deep in tranquil woodland, West Stow Pods is a collection of wooden dens and lodges, each with a covered porch and outdoor seating, with half a dozen walks straight from the site.

The big draw is Pod Hollow, a subterranean, hobbit-like dwelling, built into the side of a grassy knoll and shaded by trees. Inside, round-walled spaces hold two bedrooms, a fitted kitchen and shower room.

The only issue is that its uniqueness means it’s booked months in advance. Beyond the site, Thetford Forest is a stone’s throw
away – in autumn the Beech Trail at High Lodge is ablaze with colour, and kids will love the Gruffalo Spotters’ Trail. Ask for the activity pack at the High Lodge info point, and download the app before setting off.

Glamping pods from £70 for two adults, children and dogs extra, weststowpods.co.uk

Gardens by the beach, Cornwall

The Hotel Meudon, just south of Falmouth, which reopened earlier this year with new owners and a new spring in its step, is something of an under-the-radar gem.

By autumn, the tourist crowds have gone and the Meudon’s glorious gardens – nine acres of subtropical plants, exotic blooms and beautiful, mature trees – soften into warm golds and soft auburns, with the sea shimmering beyond the pines.

The main house dates from the 1800s and has a genteel but unstuffy feel, with one-to-one yoga and personal training sessions here or on the beach, and a daily cocktail hour featuring locally produced gins. Walkers are well served, too: the South West Coast Path runs straight past the hotel’s Bream Cove.

Double rooms from £159 B&B, meudon.co.uk

Fire pits and fairy-tales, East Sussex

Stay in a fire engine, a helicopter or an eccentric wooden treehouse straight out of Hans Christian Andersen at Blackberry Wood, a rustic oasis seven miles north of Brighton. There are plenty of traditional camping options, too: each of the 20 pitches is in its own leafy glade (with larger spaces for family groups), with fire pits positively encouraged, and cars parked separately to keep the site traffic free. One of the joys of staying here is being able to walk out into the Sussex countryside and up on to the South Downs, but the gardens at Wakehurst, Nymans and Sheffield Park are all within 20 minutes’ drive. It’s great pub country, too: an easy walk south east is the lovely Half Moon at Plumpton, or head west, through the tranquil Stoneywish Nature Reserve, to the Bull at Ditchling.

Pitches from £30 a night for two people and car, blackberrywood.com

Woodland cabins, Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean is one of the UK’s best places for autumn colour, with its own 50-mile Leaf Peeping Drive.

Now there are two new woodland cabins to rent in the area. Coppice Cabin and Woodsman’s Cabin are part of Resilient Woodlands Initiative, a 20-acre wood near Lydney. Each cabin sleeps four, on a king-size bed and double futon, and has a kitchen, wet room, deck with views over the Severn estuary, and a private, wood-fired hot tub among the trees.

The retreat is a family business: brothers Lewis and Todd run autumn tree talks and walks, plus courses such as foraging, campfire cooking and woodworking.

From £125, resilientwoodlands.co.uk

Bothies in a pine forest, Cairngorms

Six bothies among the Scots pines on the 870-acre Blelack Estate near Aboyne are inspired by traditional Scottish shelters, but are solar powered and heated by a wood-burner. Each sleeps four in a double bed and bunks, and has a range cooker, bathroom and deck for barbecues. Forest wildlife includes red squirrels, roe deer and otters, which live in the burn (stream) that runs through the trees. The owners have another 12 bothies planned.

From £369 for four nights, cairngormbothies.co.uk

Country hotel with arboretum, Brecon Beacons

Gliffaes, a 23-bedroom country house hotel near Crickhowell, stands in 33 acres of woodland, including a stretch of the River Usk, and has its own arboretum. There are about 100 kinds of tree, including ancient oaks, beeches and giant redwoods.

The mile-long Tree Walk takes in 40 of the best, and there are guided tours in autumn and spring. A three-night autumn break includes bed and breakfast, two three-course dinners, a picnic lunch and tickets to nearby Aberglasney Gardens.

From £633 for a three-night autumn break for two, gliffaeshotel.com


Tree tent, Herefordshire

Brook House Woods comprises 70 acres of ash, oak, cherry and birch trees, surrounded by orchards, near Bromyard. Hidden in the woods are five cabins – three on stilts among the trees – and Goji, a berry-red spherical tree tent suspended three metres off the ground.

Goji is accessed up a stairway, and has two little sofas that fold out into single beds, a wood-burner, solar lights and insulated felt walls.

There is a separate compost toilet, a woodland shower and an alfresco kitchen, plus a barbecue and pizza oven shared with another cabin. Guests can take a wood-carving lesson, go cider tasting or catch a film at the tiny woodland cinema.

From £115 for two, canopyandstars.co.uk

(Article source: The Guardian)

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