Britain's most spectacular autumn arboreta

Britain's trees are at their most beautiful in the autumn months, making September, October and November a great time of year to visit an arboretum. Here's our guide to a selection of the UK's best arboreta to visit this autumn.

Vibrant autumn coloured leaves from Japanese Maple trees - Acer Palmatum in soft sunshine
Published: August 22nd, 2020 at 9:27 am
Get a Regatta Highton 35L Trail Rucksack when you subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine

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

Yorkshire Arboretum in Autumn
Yorkshire Arboretum is perfect for a family walk Alamy

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. 

Hafod Uchtryd, Ceredigion

Hafod Uchtryd, Ceredigion
Hafod Uchtryd, Ceredigion 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.

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Scottish borders

The Swiss Bridge in Scrape Glen at Dawyck Botanic Garden, Stobo, Scottish Borders, Scotland
The Swiss Bridge in Scrape Glen at Dawyck Botanic Garden, Stobo, Scottish Borders, Scotland Alamy

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

Howick Arboretum, Northumberland 

Aerial image of Northumberland - Howick Hall and Arboretum
Aerial image of Howick Hall and Arboretum in Northumberland ©Alamy

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

Batsford Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Autumn at Batsford Arboretum, Gloucestershire, England, UK
Batsford Arboretum has over 2,850 tree specimens 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

Castlewellan, County Down

Castlewellan over 3,000 species of rare plants

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’.

Westonbirt National Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Acer glade at Westonbirt Arboretum in Autumn, Gloucestershire, England, UK
Acer glade at Westonbirt Arboretum in autumn Getty

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. Autumn visits are £15, winter £8.

Bodenham Arboretum, Worcestershire

Bodenham Arboretum in Worcestershire
Bodenham Arboretum in Worcestershire 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.

Thorp Perrow Arboretum, North Yorkshire

House and lake
Thorp Perrow, a dramatic scene at Autumn time

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.

Arley Arboretum, Arley, Worcestershire

Hedge and red autumn tints at Arley Arboretum, Worcestershire.
Hedge and red autumn tints at Arley Arboretum 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

Bedgebury National Pinetum, Cranbrook, Kent

Scots pine needles
Bedgebury consists of 2,000 acres of forest 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

Kilmun Arboretum

Kilmun Arboretum, Scotland
View of the road leading through the Kilmun Arboretum in Argyll Getty

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.


Sponsored content