Why go there?
Autumn in the New Forest is a truly special time, when the low sun in the west draws your focus to the near-rainbow-coloured heathland. Home to the most extensive area of heather habitat in Europe, the 231-square mile forest is equally famed for its woodland, and the stretch between Bolderwood and Emery Down is among the most spectacular to marvel at turning leaves.
What to do
Just outside Bolderwood, the Deer Sanctuary, with its purpose-built deer-spotting platform, provides a perfect coffee stop. Coffee downed and deer hopefully spotted, continue along the spectacular Bolderwood Ornamental Drive towards Exbury Gardens. Here you can explore the gardens’ special Autumn Trail, which winds past waterside maples, deciduous azaleas and numerous dogwood varieties in striking tones of russet and brass. You’d be hard pushed to find a better spot for a romantic autumn picnic. (For great picnic inspiration, see RAC Shop offers, right.)
Where to stay and eat
Formerly a medieval hunting lodge dating back to the 13th Century, Lime Wood Hotel is an extensively renovated boutique country house hotel set in the heart of the New Forest National Park. Sumptuously decorated, this stately pile, with its primly manicured gardens and top-notch Herb House Spa, is the perfect base from which to explore the magic of the surrounding woodland. Dinner is an unmissable affair, with resident chefs Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder giving traditional British fare the kind of hearty treatment usually reserved for Italian kitchens.