Stow your sandals, put the beach towels back in the bathroom, and gaze in horror upon your diminished annual leave – summer is officially over, and the days are getting shorter.
However, autumn brings its own set of seasonal delights, and we’re not just talking about the satisfying sound of crunching leaves.
Here are a few wonderful ways to welcome the new season
A blend of nature and culture, this National Trust property seems to have all bases covered. Visitors can enjoy a landscaped medieval deer park – complete with the echoing bellows of fallow deer heading into autumn rutting season – a tour of Newton House, panoramic views from the ruins of Dinefwr Castle, and a glassy millpond known as the Lake of Reflections. Even the cows are interesting – their herd of White Park cattle date back to at least 920AD and are officially rarer than the giant panda.
Gower Peninsula Flight Centre
The UK’s first ever Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – designated way back in 1956 – the Gower peninsula is one of the most scenic spots in Wales, the UK, and quite possibly Europe. Landscapes almost always look most majestic from the air, and the Gower Flight Centre offers 20, 30 and 60-minute trips, complete with sumptuous coastal views from the cockpit of a C42.
Oakwood Theme Park
Screams are normal at Oakwood, but their half-term Halloween spooktacular serves up a different kind of thrill. Wales’ biggest theme park will be scaring kids and parents alike with late night rides, a scare maze, and for all those terrified of clowns, the deeply ominous Clowning Around.
The Llanelli Lego Animal Trail
A mixture of two timeless children’s favourites – animals and Lego – how could this trail fail? Look out for fluorescent pink Flavia the Flamingo, and Benedict the Bewick’s Swan, caught in a freeze-frame stretching his gravity-defying Lego wings. The 14 sculptures took 1,561 hours to build, and a whopping 254,000 Lego bricks. Open from September 7 until November 3.
Neath Food And Drink Festival (October 4-6)
Bridging the gap between summertime picnics and Christmas banquets, this feast for the eyes and stomach will have you salivating from stall to stall. The festival’s 60-odd exhibitors showcase the best of local produce, and will keep the whole family well fed.
Calan Gaeaf at Aberdulais
You could celebrate Halloween by disembowelling a pumpkin, stuffing your face with chocolate, and cowering before a scary flick – or you could take part in a traditional Welsh Halloween at Aberdulais, including paper bats, strange Celtic traditions, and the ancient art of turnip carving.
Few enjoy the days getting shorter, but bonfire night serves up a splendid silver lining. Swansea’s biggest fireworks display packs an explosive roster of rockets that will induce ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ all round. But the evening features far more than flashbangs: Early arrivals will be rewarded with live music and food and drink stalls.
RCT Walking Trails
Tolerable temperatures, orange-brown vistas, the crunch of underfoot leaves – autumn is walking season (assuming you can dodge the rain). The RCT valleys are criss-crossed with trails, from mountain climbs to leisurely forest strolls, showcasing the region’s natural and industrial heritage. Check out the Richard Griffiths Tramroad Trail – a tour of the area’s first coal mines – or hike to the almost eerily ethereal Sgwd yr Eira waterfall.
A Halloween night at the museum
This Halloween sees St. Fagans National Museum of History spooked up like never before, as the annual assortment of fire jugglers and abominable arts and crafts will be joined by a new Scare Zone (12+). Enjoy tales around a bubbling cauldron or try a wand-making workshop in Kennixton Barn. As ever, they save the best until last, as guests gather during the witching hour to watch the wicker man burn.
Margam Country Park
A wild deer park surrounds this Grade I-listed country-house-turned-castle, offering the grandest of shelters from autumnal rain. Kids will be entertained by the farm trail – basically a petting zoo with added walking, and giant animal sculptures made from hay bales.
A Halloween event in Chepstow for those seeking genuine scares, this immersive experience features creatures straight from a hardcore horror flick and is strictly for those over 16. You’ll traverse claustrophobic corridors, creepy quarries, and a foreboding forest. This is no trick-or-treat, bedsheet-over-the-head, family-friendly spook-fest – these demons want to, and I quote, “rip out your soul.”
Welsh Mining Experience
Trapped underground in dark, claustrophobic caverns, the Welsh Mining Experience is scary at the best of times, so visitors to the spooktacular would be advised to keep their wits about them. Families can expect seasonal standards like pumpkin carving, face painting, creepy arts and crafts, and an exclusive Halloween show.
Llancaiach Fawr Ghost Tour
A fortified Tudor manor house that saw service during the English Civil War, Llancaiach Fawr claims to harbour lingering presences from beyond the grave. A maid who haunts the upstairs bedrooms; a little boy whose cold touch can be felt in unguarded moments; a mysterious figure who circles the house on cold dark evenings… We can neither confirm nor deny, but with creaking floorboards, flickering candles, and stone stairwells a-plenty, their designated ghost tour may at the very least make you doubt.
Wildlife-watching in Pembrokeshire
Everyone knows Pembrokeshire is famous for its natural beauty, but wildlife-watching often takes a backseat to scenery. Step forward the island of Skomer, a haven for birdlife that hosts the UK’s biggest puffin population and the world’s largest colony of Manx shearwaters. Best of all, though, autumn is pupping season, and seals tend to give birth en masse. Expect overcrowded beaches filled with exhausted mums and scampering pups.
River Tawe Cruises
Picture the scene: You’re drifting downriver on a canal barge, the steadily browning leaves shimmering in the river’s gently rippling reflection. With Copper Jack cruises running at 12, 2 and 4pm daily, from Swansea’s Tawe Basin, you should have no difficulty carving out your own slice of tranquil riverboat bliss.
Swansea Indoor Market
The perfect place to fill the cupboards before the cold winter months, Swansea’s famous market flogs everything from groceries to designer perfume. This six-days-a-week stall-filled superstore sells (deep breath) greetings cards, books, fishing rods, tools, health foods, clothes, jewellery, cosmetics, seafood, shoes, pet supplies… the list goes on. With over 100 different traders, if you want it, they probably sell it.