It’s not just New England … autumn is awash with red and gold colours, from Japan, Quebec and the vineyards of Veneto to spectacular scenery closer to home.
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WINNING TIP: Gauja valley and Turaida castle, Latvia
An hour from Riga is the Gauja valley, a spectacularly beautiful sight when the trees have turned red and gold. From the pretty town of Sigulda, with its white Lutheran church, head through the valley to the red brick fairytale of Turaida castle: the battlements offer a breathtaking view. A cable car trip will complete your immersion in Latvia’s autumn colour.
Autumn in northern Israel, Jesus’s stomping ground, is more pleasant weather-wise than summer or winter, and without the tourist droves. The lush forests lose their leaves, farmers harvest their crops on the plains, and the quaint towns and villages have a relaxed pace of life. Historic villages such as Bethlehem of Galilee and Zippori, far from the tourist trail, are beautiful in the autumnal light.
Perito Moreno glacier, Argentina
I have never seen autumn (March to April down here) in such a stunning decorative setting as when I stood in front of Perito Moreno glacier. The red, green, yellow and orange leaves framing the gigantic white-with-hints-of-blue- glacier was jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
Less well known than New England, but the autumn colours here are still spectacular, and the prices for lodging a lot less expensive. Sutton is a great little village with terrific restaurants, cafes and foodie stuff, and with 52km of marked trails where you can hike.
Grape harvesting season, Soave, Italy
For the third year running, I’m off to Soave, in Veneto, for the annual vendemmia, or grape harvesting season. Several vineyards allow you to help pick and harvest the grapes – you don’t get paid but you do get to taste all the wine produced here free of charge, including pinot bianco, trebbiano di Soave and chardonnay, and buy it at discounted rates. At the same time, the Chocolando (chocolate masters’ festival) is taking place. There are also local cheese and olive oil markets, an excellent eighth-century castle, great medieval walls and art and music theatres. Soave translates as mild, mellow and harmonious, all of which it certainly is
The day trippers have gone, the summer shops have shut down, the caravans are lashed down for the storms ahead… autumn is the time to hit Bundoran. The Atlantic swells roll in and the surf is up. The pubs are filled with locals who will happily spin you a yarn in exchange for a pint. A walk around Rougey, an exposed cliff-top path, will dust off any cobwebs. Make a wish in the Wishing Chair while gazing at horses galloping through the froth of the sea across Tullan Strand.
Late autumn is the perfect time to visit Japan: the humid heat and typhoons of the late summer and early autumn are replaced by warm sun and bright blue skies. The light showcases the forests of larch and beech on the mountains in the national parks (we stayed at the Konashidaira Log Cabins in Kamikochi). And even if you don’t leave the cities, the beautiful formal gardens Japan is famous for are at their loveliest. It’s a great time of year for climbing and walking too, as the temperature is just right. And October is one of the main months for colourful festivals, such as the Jidai Matsuri (22 October) in Kyoto, a beautiful procession of Japanese period costumes and weaponry throughout the ages, from the Meiji era (1868-1912) back to the Heian (794–1185).
Pippin Cottage, at Lantallack, is a lovely, well-equipped cottage in a stunning location, with great views over the valley and orchard. The pool was a real treat – again, with fantastic views and large enough to swim properly – and there is easy access to nearby beaches. Try the Rod & Line pub in Tideford: it’s not the prettiest, but it’s very friendly and the food is excellent.
Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
Head to the Cairngorms National Park and enjoy excellent food, local ales and malt whiskies in the Rowan Tree Country Hotel, three miles from Aviemore. Work off dinner and breakfast the next day at the Rothiemurchus estate: have a Segway adventure, try gorge walking, or go canoeing on Loch an Eilein, as the birch leaves fall and the rowan berries glow red. Or just put on your walking boots and trek into the hinterland. Enjoy the glorious views over the Cairngorms from Braeriach (1,296m), before the first snows of winter sweep in.
Skelwith Bridge Hotel, near Ambleside
The Lake District is not an area of great mellow fruitfulness, but bleak, dramatic scenery, leaf displays to rival New England, and a smattering of comfortable hotels and inns.The Skelwith Bridge Hotel is a couple of miles from Ambleside, and after a day spent tramping over Loughrigg Fell, or to Colwith Force and back from Elterwater, it feels nothing short of luxurious to dump your wet things in the drying room, soak in a deep hot bath and have a warming drink in front of the open fire.
• This article was amended on 24 September 2013 to clarify that the village of Bethlehem referred to in the second item is Bethlehem of Galilee, not the better known Bethlehem in the West Bank.