I love spring but autumn is another special season to me. You can’t beat all the autumnal colours of trees, and an arboretum visit is always worth a couple of hours of a walk. But you can visit UK arboretums at any time of year. See the blossom trees in Spring, enjoy the greenery of summer, and the fall colours in autumn. Even snowy walks in winter can be beautiful, and seeing snowdrops amongst the trees emerging.

What is an arboretum?

Arboretum definition: a place where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes

Merriam Webster

Some arboretums in the UK are owned and managed by universities, others’ privately owned, and some by communities. They’re a great way to find out more about trees, and often they’re not as busy as gardens or other outdoor attractions.

UK arboretums to visit photo by micheile-dot-com-at unsplash

The history of Arboretums (arboreta)

Date back to the Egyptians who planted groups of foreign trees together to celebrite and honour the Pharaohs. 

The Victorians (like with so many inventions) used the term to describe a collection of trees. Scottish botanist John Claudius Loudon first used the phrase in 1833. Joseph Struff commissioned him to create a public park for his workers, and so Derby Aboretum was opened in 1840 as the first UK public park.

UK arboretums to visit

The National Arboretum Westonbirt, Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Over 16,000 types of trees and shrubs over 600 acres of woodland. Look out for the events it hosts there too.

Batsford Arboretum, Gloucestershire. Over 2,850 tree specimens, including the national Japanese flowering cherry collection, amongst a lovely Cotsworld landscape.

Harcourt Arboretum, University of Oxford, Nuneham Courtney. Dating back to 1835, Harcourt Arboretum has been part of Oxford University since 1963 and spreads across 130 acres. Temporary toilets at the moment, and a coffee van comes a few days a week, so take a picnic.

exploratree in westonbirt arboretum
Playground at Westonbirt Arboretum

Winkworth Arboretum, Godalming, Surrey, the only dedicated one in National Trust hands. 1,000 different species.

Bedgebury National Pinetum, Cranbrook, Kent. Forestry Commision owned, so as well as the tree collection there is also 2,000 acres of Bedgebury Forest for miles of cycling, mountain-biking, riding and walking for all ages and abilities

Bodenham Arboretum, Worcestershire. Over 3,000 species of trees from across the world, surrounding a large pool with many rare and ornamental trees adorning its banks, including many varieties of Acers

Arley Arboretum, Worcestershire. More than 300 species including a restored Italian Gardens, the Magnolia Garden, Rhododendrons and Azaleas, and a collection of Acers 

Stone Lane Gardens Arboretum, Dartmoor. Started by keen traveller Kenneth Ashburner and his wife, who in the early 1970’s began planting the trees he had grown from seeds gathered on his travels and from other botanic gardens. In 1995 gained National Collection status, now an RHS partner garden.

National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire. Opened and run by staff and volunteers of the Royal Legion. The trees chosen have significance for those who have given their lives and service to their country. Set in 150 acres with over 30,000 trees, set amongst a growing collection of memorials.

Bluebell Arboretum & Nursery, Smisby, Derbyshire. Large selection of rare trees, shrubs and climbers growing in a woodland garden. Confusingly, it’s not a bluebell wood!

Winkworth arboretum ksenia-c-unsplash
Photo credit: ksenia-c at unsplash

Derby Arboretum Park, the oldest public park in the UK. Many of the trees here are listed on the British Isles Tree Register with some being planted in the 19th century. It was restored in 2002.

The Yorkshire Arboretum, Yorkshire, on the Castle Howard Estate.  Set in 120 acres with 6,000 trees

Thorp Perrow Arboretum, North Yorkshire. Holds five National Plant Collections – of ash, walnut, lime, laburnum and cotinus, plus 51 Champion Trees ( the scheme records exceptionally large, historic, rare and remarkable trees growing in Britain and Ireland) .There is also a bird of prey and mammal centre

Howick Arboretum, Northumberland. With over 12,500 specimens, it’s planted out geographically and known as the United Nations for trees and shrubs

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Scotland. 65 acres near Peebles, includes an azalea terrace, heritage trees, blue poppies, and snowdrops. Dawyck offers woodland and burnside walks, themed tree trails and visitors can follow the adventures of plant explorers.

Batsford house and lake
Batsford Arboretum

Kilmun Arboretum, Scotland. Over 150 species, on the Holy Loch shore, with 3 key walking trails.

Glenwhan Garden and Arboretum, Scotland. Unique & stunning sea views across to the Isle of Man, Luce Bay, and Mull of Galloway

Hafod Uchtryd, Ceredigion, southeast of Aberystwyth. Take one of 5 walks through the 500 acres of silver firs, spruces and natural oaks.

Castlewellan, County Down. Over 3000 rare plants including giant redwoods, monkey puzzles, rhododendrons and the golden Leyland cypress

Which ones have you been to and recommend?

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