Britain's most spectacular autumn arboretums

Britain's trees are at their most beautiful in the autumn months, making September, October and November a great time of year to visit arboretums such as Westonbirt, Batsford and the National Memorial Arboretum – discover these spectacular tree collections and more with our guide to the UK's best arboretums

Autumn colour at Batsford Arboretum
Published: September 2nd, 2022 at 6:27 am
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As the autumn months take a hold of the countryside, Britain's arboretums (or arboreta) really come into their own. It's the time of year when deciduous trees say goodbye to their lush summer coats and pull on their often even more striking autumn-wear - golden beech trees, ruby-red acres and burnt-orange oaks.

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This change in tone adds extra flare to the evergreen conifer trees, highlighting the grandeur of great Scots pines, redwoods and monkey puzzle trees.

Often serviced with cafes, toilets, wheelchair-accessible paths and even shops, arboretums are a great option for a family day out. So, where are the best arboreta to visit in the UK this autumn?

Tony Kirkham, former head of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew selects some of his favourites.

Best arboretums to visit in the UK

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Scottish borders

Dawyck Botanic Garden in autumn
Some specimens at Dawyck Botanic Garden were planted in 1680/Credit: M J Richardson, Geograph

This 65-acre garden and arboretum, eight miles from Peebles, has one of the finest collections of trees in Britain. A number of the specimens were planted in 1680, including the European silver fir, giant Sierra redwood and Douglas fir. The arboretum boasts highlights for every season, particularly birches and rhododendrons. Open daily until 30 November. £6.50 rbge.org.uk/visit/dawyck-botanic-garden


Hafod Uchtryd, Ceredigion

Hafod Uchtryd in autumn
Hafod Uchtryd stands in Ystwyth Valley/Credit: Rudi Winter, Geograph

This picturesque landscape in the Ystwyth Valley lies 12 miles south-east of Aberystwyth in west Wales. Explore Hafod Uchtryd’s 500 acres of silver firs, spruces and natural oaks on foot during one of five walks and discover some of the UK’s earliest managed forestry planting. Open all year with no admission fee. hafod.org


The Yorkshire Arboretum, Yorkshire

Castle Howard in autumn
The Yorkshire Arboretum sits in the grounds of Castle Howard Estate/Credit: Geograph

A 120-acre arboretum set among beautiful, mature trees on the Castle Howard Estate near York. Planting for this new collection of diverse species began in the 1970s – with specimens sent in from expeditions to all corners of the world – and opened to the public in 1999. Open daily until 30 November. £8. yorkshirearboretum.org


Howick Arboretum, Northumberland

Howick Arboretum in autumn
Howick Arboretum has over 12,500 specimens/Credit: Phil Champion, Geograph

Not far from Alnwick, this vast arboreal collection, planted out geographically with over 12,500 specimens, is known as the United Nations for trees and shrubs. The trees are grown from seeds collected from all corners of the temperate world, from China to Tasmania. Open daily until 14 November. £8.80 howickhallgardens.com


Batsford Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Autumn colour at Batsford Arboretum
Discover stunning autumn colour at Batsford Arboretum/Credit: Getty

Set in the heart of the Cotswolds, Batsford Arboretum ingeniously makes use of the surrounding land to show off its impressive display of over 2,850 tree specimens, including the national Japanese flowering cherry collection. Visit in autumn when the maples are at their most striking. Open daily all year round. £8.95 batsarb.co.uk


Castlewellan, County Down

Castlewellan
Castlewellan has over 3,000 species of rare plants/Credit: Getty

Castlewellan Arboretum, just north of Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains, contains over 3,000 species of rare plants. Notable examples include giant redwoods, monkey puzzles, rhododendrons and the golden Leyland cypress, or ‘Castlewellan Gold’. castlewellancastle.org


Westonbirt National Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Vibrant autumn coloured leaves from Japanese Maple trees - Acer Palmatum in soft sunshine
Acer glade at Westonbirt Arboretum in autumn/Credit: Getty

Home to more than 15,000 types of trees and shrubs over 600 acres of woodland, Westonbirt is a great place for a leisurely meander. Take in autumn’s natural firework display as the arboretum’s acers (Japanese maples) become ablaze with reds, oranges and yellows, while its delicate Chinese spindle treen turns a vibrate pretty pink. Autumn visits are £15, winter £8. forestryengland.uk/westonbirt-the-national-arboretum


Bodenham Arboretum, Worcestershire

Bodenham Arboretum in Worcestershire
Bodenham Arboretum holds more than 3,000 species of trees from across the world/Credit: Getty

This tranquil arboretum holds more than 3,000 species of trees from across the world. At its centre is a large pool with many rare and ornamental trees adorning its banks. Autumn brings a riot of leaf colour ranging from deep butter yellow through to orange, reds and crimsons as well as an abundance of berries. The many varieties of acer are particularly vivid. bodenhamarboretum.co.uk


Thorp Perrow Arboretum, North Yorkshire

Thorp Perrow Arboretum in autumn
Thorp Perrow Arboretum boasts 51 Champion Trees/Credit: Geograph

Thorp Perrow holds no less than five National Plant Collections – of ash, walnut, lime, laburnum and cotinus (which has leaves the colour of red wine in autumn). The arboretum also holds 51 Champion Trees (this national scheme records details of exceptionally large, historic, rare and remarkable trees growing in Britain and Ireland). This collection of exotics results in a stunning seasonal leaf display of golds, oranges, reds, browns and purples. thorpperrow.com


Arley Arboretum, Arley, Worcestershire

Hedge and red autumn tints at Arley Arboretum, Worcestershire.
Hedge and red autumn tints at Arley Arboretum/Credit: Getty

Nestling in the beautiful countryside of the Severn Valley, Arley is one of the oldest Arboretums in Great Britain. Boasting more than 300 species, the collection includes many rare, domestic and exotic trees. Open Wednesday to Sunday until 23rd December. £6 arleyarboretum.co.uk


Bedgebury National Pinetum, Cranbrook, Kent

Scots pine needles
Bedgebury consists of 2,000 acres of forest/Credit: Getty Getty

Host to a world-class collection of conifers, Bedgebury is a beautiful and peaceful place to walk in all seasons. The 2,000 acres of Bedgebury Forest also offer miles of cycling, mountain-biking, riding and walking for all ages and abilities. £14 peak, £10 off-peak forestryengland.uk/bedgebury


Kilmun Arboretum, Argyll and Bute

Kilmun Arboretum, Scotland
View of the road leading through the Kilmun Arboretum in Argyll/Credit: Getty
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In 1930, over 260 species of tree from around the world were planted at Kilmun as an experiment to see how many would survive the Argyll climate and soils. Almost 100 years later, more than 150 tree species remain, creating an exotic Eden on the shores of Holy Loch. Wander through this hillside arboretum beneath Chilean southern beech, silver firs, coastal redwoods, Oregon maples and mighty giant sequoias. forestryandland.gov.scot/kilmun-arboretum

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