The best autumnal walks on the National Cycle Network

Woman walks dog on national cycle network

Each of these walks has something fun to see or do along the way

people walking in Queen Square

Our Bristol walk starts and ends in the historic heart of the city

Family walks down street in autumn

These walks are a great excuse to get the kids outdoors before the clocks go back

Autumn is the perfect time of year to wrap up warm and head out for a walk.

There are plenty of woods and forests across the National Cycle Network that are at their most beautiful during the time of the year when the leaves start to change. 

These walks are a great excuse to get the kids outdoors before the clocks go back and the evenings get darker. Here are our top picks for easy autumn walks that are great for the whole family. Each walk has something fun to see or do along the way.

Visit the arboretum on the Cardiff to Castell Coch walk

Cardiff, 7 miles one way

The Bute Park Arboretum in Cardiff is a great place to enjoy the vibrant autumn leaves. The Cardiff to Castell Coch route takes you right through Bute Park, which is awash with colour during the Autumnal months. Bute Park was created as the private garden for Cardiff Castle and the grounds have had lots of trees planted since then to form the arboretum.

To go all the way to Castell Coch is seven miles but Cardiff Bay to Bute Park is only two miles, making this the perfect walk for little legs. You can head to Bute Park on National Route 8 and then walk around the park using their trails. The River Taff runs through this area and you can follow it along past Pontcanna Fields and Llandaff Cathedral on your way to Castell Coch.

Getting back: If you don't fancy walking back from Castell Coch there are several train stations that you’ll pass nearby including Danescourt, Llandaff and Radyr.

Enjoy urban greenery on the Fallowfield Loopline

Manchester, 6.5 miles one way

This urban route is a great way to escape from the hustle and bustle of Manchester and melt away into its tranquil parks. This fairly flat walk passes three parks, including the 130-acre Debdale Park near its eastern end where you can walk around Gorton's reservoirs if you want to really stretch your legs.

Getting back: Manchester is well served by public transport and there are several tram stations near both ends of the walk. Velopark and Etihad Campus are near the eastern end and St Werburgh’s Road and Chorlton are near the western end.

See rutting deer on the Tamsin Trail

London, 7.5 miles circular walk

Richmond Park is an exciting piece of wildness in south-west London. You can spot red and fallow deer amongst the grass and woodland. Autumn is when the deer will be rutting and Richmond Park is a great place to watch them.

The 7.5 mile circular Tamsin Trail is perfect for a family walk. It’s easily reached on public transport with Mortlake, Richmond and Sheen stations all less than a mile away. There are lots of attractions within the park itself, including Isabella Plantation, Pembroke Lodge and Ham House.

It’s also easy to link up to longer walks or rides on the Hampton Court to Putney route or the Thames Valley route.

Pack a picnic to have by the sea in North Down

Northern Ireland, 3.5 miles one way

The first part of the North Down cycle route is the traffic-free North Down Coastal Path from Bangor to Helen’s Bay golf course. It's a very walkable three and a half miles. The path runs through Crawfordsburn Country Park, making it perfect for an autumn walk.

With trails through the park, views across Belfast Lough, meadows and wooded glens, this is a beautiful place to spend a relaxing afternoon strolling the woods or picnicking with a view of the sea.

Learn about Bristol’s industrial past on your way to Ashton Court and Leigh Woods

Bristol, 6 miles circular walk

Starting in Bristol’s historic Queen Square, you can walk out along the harbourside past old steam cranes and other hulking remnants of the city’s industrial past. If that interests you, you can pop into the 'M Shed' and learn more about Bristol’s history. Following the Festival Way will take you to Ashton Court, a mansion with 850 acres of woodland where you can spot deer or have a go on the mountain bike trails if you’re feeling brave. Along the way you get great views of Brunel’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, a Grade I listed structure which has been open since 1864.

There are lots of walking trails crisscrossing Ashton Court, but if you want a longer walk then you can head along a traffic-free stretch of Route 41 beside the Avon river to Leigh Woods Nature Reserve. From there you can retrace your steps back along the flat cycle paths to the centre of Bristol. Or if you’ve got the energy and a head for heights, you can head uphill and cross over the suspension bridge. From there it’s very pleasant to wander around Clifton Village’s boutique shops and cafes before heading back downhill to your starting point.

Visit the canals on the Glasgow Waterways Loop

Glasgow, 6 miles circular walk

This easy six-mile loop takes you past Glasgow's historic waterways including the Forth and Clyde Canal, the Glasgow City Branch Canal and the River Kelvin. If you follow Route 756 to complete the loop, it will take you past the Botanic Gardens where you can wander through the grounds or visit the amazing Kibble Palace; a beautifully restored glasshouse which houses a collection of tree ferns.

See migrating birds on Rainham Marshes

London, 6 miles circular walk

Wonderfully flat and traffic-free, the Rainham Marshes make a great walk. Since 2000 the area has been transformed by the RSPB and birds of prey and rare bird species are regularly seen. In autumn you might be lucky enough to spot passage waders such as redshanks and black-tailed godwits - migrating birds of prey that hunt over the marshes - or Cetti's warblers bursting into song to claim their patch of reeds for winter.

Take a look at our autumn wildlife spotter guide