As the autumn months take a hold of the countryside, Britain’s arboreta (or arboretums) 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.
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 a cafes, toilets, wheelchair-accessible paths and even shops, arboreta are a great option for a family day out. So, where are the best arboreta to visit in the UK this autumn?
Tony Kirkham, head of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew selects some of his favourites.
Best arboreta to visit in the UK
The Yorkshire Arboretum, Yorkshire
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. £7. yorkshirearboretum.org
Hafod Uchtryd, Ceredigion
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
Dawyck Botanic Garden, Scottish borders
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 31 October. £7.00 rbge.org.uk/visit/dawyck-botanic-garden
Howick Arboretum, Northumberland
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 11 November. £8.80. howickhallgardens.com
Batsford Arboretum, Gloucestershire
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 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
Home to more than 16,000 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. www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt
Bodenham Arboretum, Worcestershire
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. www.bodenhamarboretum.co.uk
Thorp Perrow Arboretum, North Yorkshire
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. www.thorpperrow.com
Arley Arboretum, Arley, Worcestershire
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. www.arleyarboretum.co.uk
Bedgebury National Pinetum, Cranbrook, Kent
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. www.forestryengland.uk/bedgebury
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. www.forestryandland.gov.scot/kilmun-arboretum