The October half term is often the last chance that the family get to take a break together in the year before the preparations for Christmas begin and the weather takes a serious decline. Autumn can be a beautiful time to have a short holiday in the UK and there are plenty of places offering deals for the October half term break as well as special events taking place.
Visiting the countryside
One of the best places to head in autumn is to the forest – with the wealth of colours on show, the forest is a spectacular scene. Add to that the wildlife can be a little easier to spot after their breeding season is finished while seasonal plants such as mushrooms and berries appear, there is plenty to see.
One of the top places to get close to wildlife is to stay at one of the Centre Parcs resorts around the country. There are five notable forest locations on offer from the chain – Whinfell Forest, Sherwood Forest, Elvenden Forest, Woburn Forest and Longleat Forest.
Whinfell Forest is within the Lake District area and sits on the side of the lake so can offer a range of water sports as well as wildlife spotting opportunities. The centre is at the heart of a 400 acre woodland site while indoor features include a subtropical swimming pool with a daredevil ride called the Canyon Ride for the bravest.
Sherwood Forest is one of the most well-known forests in the country with its connections to the story of Robin Hood. The Centre Parcs venue in the forest offers the chance to explore the famous woodland as well as enjoy a number of activities that are best in the woods such as quad biking or owl encounters.
Elvenden Forest is a 400 acre site in Suffolk, offering a great range of outdoor activities as well as the calming effect of the forest itself for walks. There is even a unique experience called cable water skiing to try as well as kayaking, canoeing and even raft building.
Woburn Forest is just over an hour from London and is one of the newest sites, covering some 365 acres of woodland as well as lakes and beautiful views across the countryside. There are aerial trekking routes, abseiling and climbing opportunities as well as the indoor facilities such as the subtropical swimming pool.
Longleat Forest is close to the famous Longleat Estate and its Safari Park so is a great place to use as a base to visit both. The Wiltshire park allows the chance to see the century old Giant Redwoods as well as tour the forest with the land train or join in water activities on the lake.
Haven are another big name in the holiday business that offer a range of special deals for the October half term. These include special deals for the whole family as well as touring and camping offers that are ideal for those who prefer something a little less formal for their breaks.
Bluestone are also offering a range of competitive deals for the October break that combine the chance to get up close to nature with the indoor facilities of the centre such as the climbing wall and the swimming pool. Close by is an impressive outdoor activity centre with a challenging zip wire course some 60 feet in the air as well as tree top walks and the chance to watch the sun go down from a campfire among the trees.
Pitchup.com is a great website to use to find out where else there are camping and caravan spots available at any particular time of the year. The website covers the whole of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as further afield across onto the continent. There are even searches for dog friendly sites, glamping spots and lodge holidays in case the weather turns you against pitching the tent.
Scotland likewise has some amazing scenery that takes a special look in autumn and for this reason, autumn walks in the Highlands is a particularly popular choice. One particularly notable event is the Enchanted Forest, which runs from the 1st October to the 1st November so included the half-term week. The event combines stunning visuals and state of the art set design with its very own musical score all using the natural backdrop of the Faskally Wood near the town of Pitolchry. It is the top light and sound experience in the country and saw some 46,000 visitors last year.
As the autumn colour spreads across Wales, there are a number of places that cannot be missed. One of these is the Elan Valley in Mid Wales. There are six beautiful dams in the valley as well as a visitor centre that tells the full story of the spot. The stone Victorian dams are particularly worth taking the camera long for but the wider valley has a number of fantastic wildlife walks to enjoy. And with a café on the site selling homemade cakes, there is even the chance for a spot of something sugary to fuel the walks.
On the subject of food, the Abergavenny Food Festival takes place in October and sees the town turned into a giant food store. With the best of Welsh produce on show there is something for everyone as well as master classes from chefs and tasting sessions to enjoy.
There are a great number of cottages available to rent around Wales to make for a break with a difference. One such example is the Cwmshon Cottages in Pontardawe, Swansea while there are also a number along the coastal path in Pembrokeshire that offer the chance to see the countryside and all it has to offer from a comfortable local base.
For wildlife fans, autumn offers the chance to see a spectacular event – the Starling Roosts. This is when huge group of the birds gather at dusk, forming giant black clouds and demonstrating amazing aerobatic abilities before settling into the reed beds at the RSBP Newport Wetlands Reserve for the night.