The wonderful thing about the National Trust is that whatever time of year it is, and whatever mood you're in, there's somewhere to visit, be it strolling though lush, green gardens in Spring, or taking shelter in sweeping country houses in winter. For me, autumn is all about Knole, a deer park and former archbishop's palace in Sevenoaks, Kent.
As the temperature drops and the leaves turn, Knole becomes Kent's answer to London's Richmond Park. Deer roam the medieval parkland, their antlers silhouetted against the misty hills, their hooves crunching across the orange leaves. You'll know where the deer are - just follow the crowds.
The house itself watches over it all nonchalantly, safe in the knowledge that sooner or later, all visitors stop focusing on the deer, and pay all their attention to its own splendour. It's hard not to - it was built to impress. The palatial front gives way to a tidy courtyard, a overlooked by a Gatehouse and a clock tower, iced with a well-kept lawn and finished off with a couple of sculptures.
Through the clock tower gate is another, smaller courtyard, which, bizarrely, put me in mind of Marrakech's Bahia Palace. I don't know why - there's far less marble and far more mounted deer antlers here. At this point, you can visit the 'Showrooms' - rooms full of rare furniture and impressive artworks. At the time of our visit, some of the Showrooms were closed for renovations (details of which were shown in a recent Channel 5 programme.
It'd been years since I've been to Knole (around 2007, confused French exchange student in tow) and there's a new addition. The Gatehouse is now open to the public - or at least, to members of the public willing to climb the three-story spiral, stone staircase. The tower was lived in by a reluctant heir to Knole until 1940. The first floor bedroom and second floor music room are open to visitors, but of course the main event here is that view from the roof:
Sevenoaks isn't known for its skyscrapers, but you will catch a glimpse of Sevenoaks School's rugby posts in the near distance. Other than that, it's all about those parkland views, another reason why autumn is the best time to visit, when the trees exhibit their full spectrum of colours.
It's free to walk in the deer park, and enter the Courtyard, Conservation Studio and Orangery. You'll have to pay to enter the Showrooms and Gatehouse, but the money will no doubt go back into the current conservation project going on in the Showrooms.
Knole House and Park, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN15 0RP