Westonbirt Arboretum is hidden in the countryside near the historic market town of Tetbury in Gloucestershire — just a 40-minute drive from Bristol. Run by the Forestry Commission and home to over 18,000 tree and shrub species from across the world, the Arboretum welcomes groups and families all year round to explore its leafy pathways and open grounds.
The Arboretum’s roots run back to the Victorian era, when wealthy 19th-century landowner Robert Stayner Holford began planting seeds collected on his travels around the world. As the land passed down the generations, the collection grew and the trees matured. Today, the park explodes into colour during autumn and spring to the delight of the many thousands of onlookers who come through the gates each season.
After stocking up on hearty refreshments at the welcoming café, visitors to Westonbirt Arboretum this autumn can explore two different areas throughout the park; the 1.6-mile Silk Wood trail and the 0.75-mile Old Arboretum trail.
The Silk Wood trail
From the welcome building at the park entrance, The Silk Wood trail runs through open woodland where diverse tree species thrive. Interactive info boards animate the walk for youngsters — shedding light on the trees’ seasonal behaviour patterns — and the impressive Stihl walkway offers stunning views over the leafy canopy.
The highlight however — especially in the autumn — is the Japanese maple collection. Here, a figure-of-8 path loops through an open park showcasing the maples’ breathtakingly beautiful autumn tones. Leaves of bright red, yellow and orange flutter against the brown tree bark, collecting on the ground in piles of vibrant colour.
The Old Arboretum trail
The Old Arboretum trail heads into the forest to the right of the café, and takes visitors back in time to the Victorian era. Enormous lime trees line grand avenues criss-crossing the estate, leaving the visitor feeling like a lady or gent from a bygone era taking a turn in the extensive grounds.
While the colours are muted compared to the vibrancy of the Silk Wood Trail, the peace and quiet here make the Old Arboretum trail a wonderfully relaxing route to follow. (Dog-walkers note, however, that while your four-legged friend is welcome on the Silk Wood trail, the Old Arboretum trail doesn’t allow dogs.)
Westonbirt Arboretum’s doors swing open at 9am every day and early-birds really get the place to themselves. Even by 10am and onwards — as the popular Silk Wood trail busies up a little — the Old Arboretum trail remains a haven of peace and tranquillity. For details on Westonbirt Arboretum’s opening hours, events, volunteer programmes check out the Westonbirt Arboretum Website. Entrance (Autumn rate) Adult £9, child £4
Photo: All photos by Chris Callaghan – more of Chris’s photos of Autumn colour at Westonbirt Arboretum in our Flickr album here.
Where to Stay near Westonbirt Arboretum
If you’re looking for a luxurious place to stay that’s 10 minutes drive from Westonbirt Arboretum, we recommend Calcot Manor with 35 stylish rooms, swimming pool and spa. We love their cosy Gumstool Inn for a relaxed lunch and a pint or the light and airy Conservatory Restaurant for elegant dining – you don’t have to be staying to eat there. For other affordable accommodation in Tetbury, take a look at The Snooty Fox or The Priory Inn.
Our contributing writer Chris Callaghan is a Bristol-based ski and travel writer, with an inexhaustible list of pubs, galleries, museums and events across the West Country to visit and write about. To read more on the parks and gardens in and around Bristol that Chris has explored, click here.
Disclosure: Chris was given free entry to Westonbirt Arboretum to write about this experience.