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The Unique guide to autumnThe Unique guide to autumn

It’s autumn again, bringing hallways lined with wellies and walls hung with a bunting of woollen scarves. We burrow indoors, cultivating comfort at home, and wrap up to make the most of the gilded season that turns the land into a vision of Rococo. As the enchantment of fall creeps toward us, here is the Unique Homestays guide for the best things to do and where to stay this autumn.


Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve 

Clambering over west Devon and north Somerset, the Exmoor Dark Sky Reserve was the first of its kind in Europe. On the clearest moorland night it’s possible to gaze upon stars in their thousandfold, but autumn brings an even loftier celestial event. Set an alarm for midnight and step out under a wiggle of stars to see one of the most dazzling meteor showers of the year: the long white tails of the Orionids.

Peaking between late October and early November, when Earth travels through a portion of the cosmos strewn with debris from Halley’s Comet, this space show is famed for glowing "trains" and incandescent explosions of fireballs. Cocoon yourselves in sleeping bags with your feet facing southeast and watch them appear as if by magic. The show will last until dawn, when you can parade back to your Exmoor abode for a wee-hours breakfast of hot buttered crumpets and tales of wishes made upon a star.

Where to stay: Castle on the Well or Novella 

Built atop prehistoric Druid stones, Castle on the Well is a fairytale palace-in-miniature, a place to sip gin and make like a monarch. On the quainter hand, Novella is a cob cottage with the look of a prairie chapel and a rebellious history that dates back to 1685.


Stately Homes and Film Sets


There’s something about the autumn that has us filled with thoughts of frolicking in topiaries, marvelling at neo-Gothic architecture, and peering through moat-side windows in search of deer. With roaring fires, finger sandwiches in the tearooms, and crimson carpets that send us sauntering like aristocrats, Britain’s country houses know how to welcome us in.

Head to Blenheim Palace to set out on an after-hours haunted trail through claggy woodlands, toffee apple in one hand and torch in the other. Afterwards, warm up with tastings of honey and gin, and time spent wandering around the Baroque library. At Highclere Castle (of Downton Abbey fame), tour through state rooms and decadent bedrooms before descending to the cellars to explore the Egyptian exhibition, learning about the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, made by the 5th Earl of this house.

Where to stay: Benetfeld or The Ruby Barn

In the pleasant fields of Berkshire, Benetfeld is a spectacular Georgian manor that is only 40 minutes away from Highclere. If Blenheim Palace is more your cup of (Earl Grey) tea, hunker down in the Cotswolds at The Ruby Barn to be a stones' throw from the estate.


Hiking in the Lake District


With backpacks stuffed to the rafters with mint cakes and barms sandwiched together the night before, head out to the high fells and make for the clouds. While some explore rocky outcrops and splash their boots in streams, others pass around a weather-beaten map and decide on the route to the summit. With the first family Wainwright bagged, come together to take a photo in front of the tipping cairn, pour hot chocolate from a flask into eagerly awaiting stainless-steel mugs, and clink together in a toast to togetherness.

After a tumbling descent and a refreshing lake dip, spend the afternoon wandering around William Wordsworth’s cottage gardens and introducing the children to the original watercolours of Beatrix Potter. Then, when evening comes, huddle together in a traditional Lake District inn to tuck into hearty fireside fare and gather the brave ones on the lake for a sunset paddleboard.

Where to stay: Aquila or Gaia Farmhouse

After toe-dipping in the beck and roaming in the footsteps of the poetic Romantics, groups of up to six can retreat to luxury lakehouse Aquila. Larger gatherings of 10 people will find a home-from-home in Gaia Farmhouse, a 16th century stone farmstead with a Scandinavian aesthetic.


Autumn Self-care and Family Gatherings


As the clocks go back, we make time for meditative self-care: drawing early bubble baths and supping in candlelit rooms. Though we remember to venture out among the ever-collapsing towers of yellow leaves once in a while, autumn is when we hole up indoors to host gatherings and prepare seasonal fare. We gobble ladlefuls of risotto cut with shards of parmesan and pass around family albums overflowing with cherished photographs. Now is the time to take polaroids and set the camera on self-timer for that long-awaited family portrait.

There’s board games and baking and cinema room get-togethers, where we wait for magical instalments of bespectacled wizards and white-bearded professors. Come these cooler months, it's time to weave a human story of slow living and sweet talking over the tablecloth. Together, you might even like to try writing your own Love Letter to Autumn.

Where to stay: Take your pick of large luxury self-catering homes that sleep up to 22 people, from beach houses in Cornwall to castles in Yorkshire. For unique group gatherings where youngest and oldest bundle together under one roof, we have just the thing.


Visit Cornwall in the Off-Season


The blue hour, when Cornwall’s coastline is all but empty. The summer crowds have been and gone, but the frothing surf remains. With campfires blazing on the sand and fleece-lined dry robes piled high on elemental driftwood, autumn is one of the most magical times to plan a seaside retreat in the south-west. Children beckon to each other up and down the shore, gathering around untouched rock pools that team with marine life.

As they go crabbing, wild pups get the lay of the land, sniffing for seals and galloping in the swash like steeds. But what about the weather, you say? It’s this time of year, when the sky turns into cotton candy and the wind whips, that the Cornish coast turns wild. Long walks to cosy cafes are the only surefire way to see another soul, and you have the sea and surf all to yourself. Whether fossil-hunting when the tide’s out or picking out trinkets in topsy-turvy villages, a visit to the waters’ edge in autumn is a soulful affair.

Where to stay: Take the pick of the bunch, choosing from sumptuous sleep-twos and architectural marvels that cling to the cliffs. Whether you have dogs in the boot, babes in arms, or in-laws in-tow, we have a luxury self-catering home in Cornwall for you.


To find the perfect luxury self-catering home for your autumn break, browse the full luxury collection.

Properties featured in this article: Aquila, Castle on the Well, The Ruby Barn, Benetfeld, Gaia Farmhouse, Novella

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