The Best Bits of a British Autumn
Internationally, the UK is known for its rain, fog, and generally dismal weather. But, contrary to stereotypes, the British weather really isn’t all that bad. As the leaves change color, and the temperatures drop, British fall may not have all the drama of an Asia autumn, but it also doesn’t have the threat of typhoons. Not that you’d know it for the fuss and weather talk that you’ll hear everywhere you go in the UK.
After a moderately pleasant summer, fall means pulling out jumpers (sweaters), wrapping up in scarves, and enjoying some of the best bits of the British autumn.
Pub gardens in the summer are a special experience, but come autumn, roaring fires heat snug rooms that have welcomed guests for centuries with room-temperature beers. Many country pubs now are ‘gastropubs,’ serving local ingredients as fantastic meals for visitors from far and wide.
One of the greatest British autumn treats is to take a long country walk, heading toward your pub of choice, where you have a table reserved. At the end of your walk, you push open the pub’s heavy wooden door and walk into a room warmed by the fire, the smell of food cooking, and the smile on the bar staff’s face.
“Remember, remember, the fifth of November; gunpowder, treason, and plot...,” a nursery rhyme known by every British child. One of a few remaining very-British celebrations, Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night on November 5 celebrates a failed attempt in 1605 to blow up Parliament and King James I.
Disturbingly, a core part of the celebration used to be the making of an effigy of Guy Fawkes (the man who the Kings Men found surrounded by gun powder barrels) and then parading it through the streets before burning it on a huge bonfire.
These days, there is less effigy burning and more fireworks, mulled wine, baked potatoes, and candyfloss enjoyed by families across the country, both in small back-garden parties and large all-town bonfire and firework displays.
You’ve invested in jumpers, scarves, bobble hats, and woolly mittens, and you’re just settling in for the colder months, then all of a sudden, an Indian summer hits. Welcome to the time of year you simply can’t dress for! Leave the house in the morning wrapped up warm, and by lunchtime it’s t-shirt-and-shorts weather. The Met Office defines an Indian summer as “a warm, calm spell of weather occurring in autumn, especially in October and November.”
And it’s this sort of weather the Brits love to talk about. Anything unpredictable, anything to moan about, and they are as happy as children. Suddenly the parks fill again, and everything is like summer; the only difference is everyone is in long pants and carrying piles of extra clothes.
Castles, Estates, and Houses
The National Trust and English Heritage both work tirelessly to maintain, preserve, and share the country’s most historic buildings. Think stunning castles, grand stately mansions, homes of great Britons, and impressive abbeys, gardens, and iconic sites (Stonehenge, for example).
Most of them have a tearoom and gift shop with far too many things to tempt locals, let alone tourists, and autumn is the perfect time to visit them. Most National Trust and English Heritage locations have a house or building to retreat to in case the weather turns, and most have gardens, walks, woodlands, or grounds you can wander around for hours should an Indian summer make an appearance.