It is the best part of 170 years now since he let slip this mortal coil, but you can still generally rely upon William Wordsworth for a dreamy description which sings from the 19th century to the 21st, its softly intoned words ringing with undiminished truths.
Take as an example September, 1819, his musing on the turning of the seasons. “Departing summer hath assumed,” he scrawled, “An aspect tenderly illumed, The gentlest look of spring; That calls from yonder leafy shade, Unfaded, yet prepared to fade, A timely carolling.”
Although, as the title of the verse makes clear, the Romantic poet was recording his impressions of one particular month, in one clearly stated year (and while, as literary scholars will note, this 10-stanza work is far from unstintingly positive, Wordsworth recognising his own mortality in autumn’s approach, via lines like “Fall, rosy garlands, from my head! Ye myrtle wreaths, your fragrance shed, Around a younger brow!”) – it makes an unfailing point. That September is a pretty glorious month. With emphasis on the word “pretty”. The weather is reliable, the scenery splendid, and there is still enough of summer lingering on the breeze to warm the soul. A timely carolling indeed.
Wordsworth did not, obviously, go on to discuss why September is probably the ideal month for travel – but that route of thinking is also a solid one.
Unless you are blessed/encumbered with school-age children – in which case, you are surely nowhere near this article, because September is all about new uniforms and retrieving discarded plimsoles from under beds – it is the portion of the calendar when the stars most closely align for journeys to exciting places.
If you ignore the fact that the Caribbean has entered its annual hurricane season (and this in itself is not a reason to avoid the region; see below). it is a fair argument that most of the planet is basking in hospitable conditions. Southern Europe is ignoring the memo about the time for beach breaks being over, and it still sunning itself on the shore in the likes of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus – having dispensed with the more infernal temperatures of July and August (you can, for example, expect September temperatures of 28°C in Rhodes, 30°C in Marmaris and 29°C in Paphos). Australia and South Africa are just beginning to wake up from their winter slumbers (Melbourne is stretching its arms and yawning at 16°C; Cape Town is dozily making coffee and toast at 18°C). And New England is about to throw itself into the paintbox of colour that North Americans like to call the “Fall” – a spell of seven or so weeks that will coat the trees of the six states of the area in shades of gold, pink, brown and olive, through to the end of October. Road-trippers welcome.
There are further reasons why September is a persuasive moment for grabbing your passport. As the thermometer extremities of July and August have receded, so too have the prices which make mid-summer an expensive time for travel – those stylish hotels in, for example, Mykonos, Taormina and Zadar will be asking a lower amount for a week’s stay than they were some eight weeks before.
Furthermore, to return to the pertinent line above, the beaches they gaze at will be rather quieter now than they were in high season. Banje Beach, just outside Dubrovnik – to pick one fine yet random location – will be notably calmer for the absence of the children who were dashing across it while school was out, but who are now safely tucked back in the classroom, where shouting, running and burying siblings in the sand are generally not encouraged.
Perhaps the main thrust of the argument about September being the perfect window for travel is that it is a month that can be readily spent outdoors without recourse to hats, gloves and scarves. Europe is teeming with current or imminent events that will largely take place al fresco. A fortnight from now, Munich will spark its annual confusion among those who do not know that its fabled Oktoberfest hurrah actually begins in September (September 22-October 7, to be precise; oktoberfest.de) – this tribute to all things beer taking over the Theresienwiese fairground, just southwest of the core of the city.
The French capital is also out and about this month via the annual Paris Garden Festival – a four-week celebration of open spaces such as the Parc Georges-Brassens (in the 15th arrondissement) and the Parc de Bercy (in the 12th) that involves concerts, gardening workshops and guided tours (further details via en.parisinfo.com/paris-show-exhibition/134969/paris-garden-festival). And Spain will bask in the yearly glow of harvest season in its vineyards – your particular preference for sherry or wine being, maybe, the deciding factor between a weekend at the Wine Harvest Festival in Jerez (be quick, it’s on until September 16; jerez.es) or the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival (September 15-22; logrono.es), which takes place in the provincial capital, Logrono.
Of course, September also extends its handshake to the UK, with significant happenings being held across the country. This weekend sees the eighth edition of the Yorkshire Wolds Walking and Outdoors Festival slip on its hiking boots (September 8-16; visithullandeastyorkshire.com/yorkshire-wolds/wolds-walking-festival.aspx) – while, a week from now, Liverpool Food and Drink Festival (September 15-16; septemberliverpoolfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk) will bring show kitchens and chefs such as Raymond Blanc to Sefton Park. This theme also extends north. The third Findhorn Bay Festival will bring drama, art and music to the Scottish coastline due east of Inverness at month’s end (September 26-October 1; findhornbayfestival.com).
Clear proof that Wordsworth was onto something (“Clear, loud, and lively is the din, from social warblers gathering in, their harvest of sweet lays…”)? If not, perhaps one of the five possible holidays below will convince you of September’s joys. Don’t delay…
The European beach break: Crete
Greece’s southernmost major island (assuming you don’t consider little Gavdos, Greece’s actual southernmost island, to be “major”) is a certain option for September sunshine, shimmering in 28°C in heat. A seven-night break at the four-star Blue Palace Resort, near Elounda, flying from Gatwick on September 22, costs from £1,651 a head, including breakfast, through Sovereign Luxury Travel (01293 839473; sovereign.com).
The Caribbean beach break: Aruba
September is the most perilous month in Atlantic Hurricane Season (June-November), but that does not mean holidays to the region are impossible. Aruba, which, pitched so far west that it lies north of Venezuela, is (almost) immune to the winds. A seven-night all-inclusive stay at the four-star Barcelo Aruba, flying from Heathrow on September 22, starts at £1,859 per person via Tropical Sky (01342 886 139; tropicalsky.co.uk).
The American road trip: New England
There are six states to New England (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine), and each does a slightly different take on autumn – with the latter providing the wildest, most forest-clad version. America As You Like It (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com) offers the full picture with its 14-night “Complete New England” road trip – from £1,379 a head, with flights and car rental.
The Australian road trip: Queensland
The last traces of the Australian winter are likely to be present is you try to tackle the Great Ocean Road in September, but there should be no such concerns if you head up the east coast and explore Queensland (Brisbane floats at around 24°C in the ninth month). Wexas (020 7590 0634; wexas.com) sells a 14-day “Southern Queensland Self-Drive” which dissects the state in detail – from £2,495 a head, with flights and car.
The city break: Lisbon
Portugal’s capital provides a little of everything – great bars and restaurants, visible history (the Castelo de Sao Jorge rears on a bluff above the centre), near-at-hand beaches a train hop away in Cascais – and temperatures of 24°C in September. A three-night stay at the five-star Hotel Bairro Alto (in said cool district) starts at £849 a head, with flights and transfers, with Kirker Holidays (020 7593 1899; kirkerholidays.com).