Eight reasons to love autumn in the British mountains

Posted by Hanna Lindon on 24/09/2015
Cloud inversions - like this cracker seen from Catbells - are more common in autumn. Photo by Michael Conrad/ Shutterstock.

Sad to see the back of summer? Don’t fret - from cosy pubs to cloud inversions, there are plenty of reasons to welcome the advent of autumn.

Dark evenings, minging weather and no snow to live things up yet - autumn doesn’t get the best press, but it could just be the best time of year for enjoying the hills. Here’s why…

1. The night is your friend

You’ve heard all that fuss about night walking? Well now’s the time to give it a crack, before full-on winter conditions make you a mountain rescue team’s worst nightmare. If you’re one of those uber-committed Iron Man types then you might even consider planning the ultimate microadventure: leaving work at 5pm, motoring over to your nearest mountain range for an overnight hike and arriving back at the office, albeit a tad smelly and disheveled, in time for an early morning meeting. Moderately more sane folk may want to stick with evening or weekend explorations.   

2. It’s the best time to see a cloud inversion

All that mist and mellow fruitfulness lends itself to creating one of the most spectacular phenomena you’ll ever see in the hills. Cloud inversions occur when cold fog is trapped in a valley bottom by a layer of warmer air. They are much more common in autumn and winter and tend to occur in valleys that contain large bodies of water (hello, Lake District). Check the weather the night before and look for a combination of high pressure, light winds and cold temperatures. You’ll need to get up before dawn (sorry) and aim to be on a summit of a least 500 metres high by sunrise to give yourself the best chance to seeing an inversion. 

3. The sunrises are stellar

Talking of sunrises, autumn has some of the best going. Not only do they occur at a more manageable hour (who realistically is going to drag themselves out of the tent at 4am to greet dawn during the summer months?), but when the weather pulls it out of the bag they are unbeatable in the beauty stakes. Perhaps it’s the quality of light or the effect of morning sunlight illuminating rusty-coloured hills. Whatever the case, though, you have to see at least one sunrise this autumn.    

4. The crowds have gone home

Have you tried finding a bit of peace and quiet around Ambleside or Keswick in midsummer? It’s a physical impossibility - particularly during the school holidays, when many of the fells transform into a vast, family-filled theme park. By the time October comes around, though, the human traffic has subsided and serious hill folk can once again start summit bashing without getting caught up in crowds of tourists. Peaceful hills are quite possibly the biggest pro of autumn adventuring.     

5. You can indulge your inner gear monster

Let’s face it - summer kit is just boring. Lightweight t-shirts and shorts can’t hold a candle to the allure of down jackets, 800 loft sleeping bags and crazily coloured winter boots. The advent of autumn is the best excuse possible to hit eBay and start stocking up (ahem, may we mention by the way that BMC members get big discounts in gear shops nationwide?) If you happen to have a mountain-sceptic partner who would rather spend the money on repairing the leaky roof, then just remind them that your safety in the hills is way more important.  

6. Critters are abroad

With Britain’s critter population readying itself for winter, you’re far more likely to have your walk enlivened with some wildlife-spotting action. From red squirrels gathering nuts in the Lake District to red deer rutting in the Cairngorms and vast flocks of migratory birds all around the UK, autumn is the perfect time to get up close and personal with members of the animal kingdom. 

7. It’s the ultimate excuse to hit the pub

You might be able to survive a summer ramble without needing a pint and a plate of scampi and chips at the end of it - but can any self-respecting walker really resist concluding an autumn adventure in front of a roaring log fire? Of course not. Our pubs are at their best and cosiest on autumn evenings, and you’re less likely to feel guilty for chowing down on traditionally British comfort food. It keeps out the cold, right? 

8. Autumn is simply the most beautiful season

Some love the vivid greens of spring, the blanket blue skies of summer or winter’s superb snowiness, but autumn has a subtle beauty that no other season shares. The sunset colours of the woods, the purply heather and the soft light showcase Britain’s hills at their most spectacular. It’s not hard to learn to love autumn.   


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