Autumnal Beauty at Westonbirt Arboretum

Westonbirt Arboretum in autumn; best things to do in the Cotswolds with kids

Autumn is here again and the leaves are changing colour for a few short weeks.  I love this season for its beauty and fresh air, and who doesn’t love the crunch of fallen leaves beneath their feet?  While we in the UK may not see the beautiful colours on the same scale as New England or Japan there are still some lovely places to enjoy the best of the season.  

Japanese acer at the entrance to the Old Arboretum
Japanese acer at the entrance to the Old Arboretum

Westonbirt is the National Arboretum and is located just outside the Cotswold town of Tetbury in South West of England.  It is known for its collection of Japanese maples and I was keen to see these, remembering their spectacular colours from a trip to Japan.  There are acres of woodland, paths and open spaces, perfect for the children to tear about in.  We seized our opportunity to catch the best of the autumn on a perfect October day.

The new Treetop Walkway
The new Treetop Walkway

When we arrived, we turned left from the entrance and made our way straight to the new Treetop Walkway, a 300m long bridge that takes you up into the treetops to get a closer look at some of the species found here.  There are plenty of educational stations dotted along the walkway, some of which go into a fair bit of scientific detail for older children and adults.

The husband and the Cub on the walkway
The husband and the Cub on the walkway

For younger children there are rope bridges, crows’ nest lookouts and peepholes to get a closer look at items hidden amongst the branches.  The Cub had a great time clambering about, and wasn’t bothered about the height of the walkway at all.

The walkway and the crows' nest lookout
The walkway and the crows’ nest lookout

From the far end of the walkway you can continue into the dog-friendly area of the Silk Wood and either follow the autumn trails marked on your map or just wander about as you like, but we chose to turn back and head to the restaurant area.

The main restaurant area
The main restaurant area

There are plenty of dining options at Westonbirt.  You can pack a picnic and eat at picnic tables, buy food from the stalls set out along the path (we saw fish and chips, burgers and more), or eat hot or cold food from the restaurant.  My vegetarian bean stew with cheese scone was delicious and seasonal, and the children and husband had sandwiches.  Next to the restaurant is the shop and an adventure playground for children.

From the restaurants we decided to walk through the dog-free area of the Old Arboretum.  Our map was helpfully marked with the best places to spot autumn colour.  You don’t have to stick to the trails, however, and are free to walk off paths wherever you like.

Colour Circle in the Old Arboretum
Colour Circle in the Old Arboretum

The most beautiful part of the Old Arboretum was the Colour Circle.  We left the path here and walked through the acer collection.  Some of the trees had turned completely but others were just beginning their colour change.

Just around the corner in Colour Circle
Just around the corner in Colour Circle
Japanese maples in the Old Arboretum
Japanese maples in the Old Arboretum

The children were able to wear themselves out just running about and collecting all the different coloured leaves they could find.  We were there on a busy weekend but Westonbirt is so large that it never feels crowded walking about.   If you are also visiting with children be sure to check in the visitor centre for kids’ seasonal activities and things to spot on the trails.

If you are not restricted by tiny children, you could take a 2 hour guided walk through the Westonbirt. You can join the walks at 11am and 2pm at weekends and bank holidays from outside the Great Oak Hall, and on Wednesdays at 11am from the Welcome Building.  Events and workshops here change with the seasons so it’s worth taking a look at the Westonbirt events page to see what’s on before you visit.

Those interested in finding specific trees and looking at National Collections can pick up maps detailing where to find them at the visitor centre.  Trees of special interest are marked and there are information boards dotted throughout Westonbirt so you won’t miss anything, unless like us, you are chasing after two determined small children.

Paths through the Old Arboretum
Paths through the Old Arboretum

You could easily spend the whole day at Westonbirt; walk over the skywalk and through the Silk Wood in the morning and through the Old Arboretum in the afternoon.   There are more acers in the Silk Wood area but we found that the Old Arboretum was big enough for us on this visit.

Westonbirt Arboretum is perfect for visiting year round but it definitely has a special quality in the autumn, and I couldn’t think of many better places in the Cotswolds to enjoy the season.

What are your favourite places to visit in the autumn?  Let me know in the comments.

Know before you go

It is best to reach Westonbirt by car and there is plenty of parking on site.  The nearest big town is Tetbury.

The paths are buggy friendly – we took ours all round the Old Arboretum and over the Treetop Walkway.

Autumn admission is £9 for adults and £4 for children aged 5 – 18.  Prices change with the season.  Check the Forestry Commission website for up to date pricing and admission.


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44 thoughts on “Autumnal Beauty at Westonbirt Arboretum

  1. asoulwindow says:

    Such a good looking blog! My eyes were fixated at the picture titled – Japanese maples in the Old Arboretum. I saw something similar in my trip to Ladakh, north part of India.

  2. LocalNomads says:

    Wow, I just love the colors of these leaves. As an upstate New York native, I remember the droves of Sunday drivers who’d come up for “leaf peeping.” This autumn i’m missing the many colored leaves, but i’m enjoying the sun in Thailand nevertheless 😉

  3. Luca says:

    It’s so lovely it seems fake! Then, allow me to say it, it’s even more unreal due to being a sunny day in UK hahaha
    And it looks really relaxing: the warmth of the autumn’s color, the treetop walkway… I’d really like to visit that arboretum!

    • Emily Cole says:

      Thank you, glad you liked the photos. It’s a park with a collection of trees from around the world. The Westonbirt one has been here for years and years so it’s all well established.

  4. foreverfernweh1 says:

    I love the colors of fall. I’m from New England and after living in a subtropical island of Japan for the last few years, I can say I really miss the autumn. Sometimes a nice stroll in the park is what you need.

    • Emily Cole says:

      Oh but I am jealous of you living in Japan, autumn or not. I loved it there, but I didn’t make it to the tropical islands (Okinawa’s the only one I could name).

  5. I Love Paars by: Lee says:

    I wish there will be more parks here in the Philippines. We badly need that kind of recreatioj place for our kids.

    • Emily Cole says:

      I haven’t been to the Philippines. Aren’t there very many parks or protected wild places? A shame if not, the Philippines looks beautiful.

  6. Gareth says:

    While I agree with you that autumn in the UK isn’t as immediately spectacular as in New England or Japan, I definitely think there is more than enough to delight visitors at that time of the year. Certainly, you did a great job of capturing the colours with your shots and I am genuinely jealous. Will hopefully have a chance to swing by the next time I return home!

    • Emily Cole says:

      I think I was lucky and got to Westonbirt on a great day for colours. It’s actually been a really good autumn here, best one I can remember for ages.

  7. wanderlustyleblog says:

    Absolutely beautiful photos! I live in Hawaii where we don’t have beautiful trees like this. Loved your post! Thank you for sharing!

  8. Fairytale Studios says:

    The colors look out of the world. They are so beautiful its difficult to imagine all these shades coming together in one place. Amazing. The walkways built add to its beauty. lovely place. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Annie says:

    Love the beautiful colors of fall, looks like a lovely walk for the family! I always appreciate a good ‘educational stop’ with loads of facts, but could be the nerd in me 🙂

  10. Wanderlust Vegans says:

    That looks amazing. Last time we went to the Cotswolds was February and it didn’t look this amazing. This makes us want to go back for a day trip to see the arboretum. Victoria BC also looks pretty nice during the fall but those pictures you took are hard to beat.

  11. hairtothereblog2 says:

    Being a resident of New England, I know first hand how beautiful it is in the fall, but this Arboretum looks just as lovely! Your photos of the day are stunning! You’re kiddos are also adorable! 🙂

  12. eostories says:

    Such lovely colors! I have never heard of the Japanese maple but it really is gorgeous. I don’t really like autumn weather but the colors are really worth it. The 300 m bridge looks like a lovely spot for a walk or photos.

    • Emily Cole says:

      I think we were lucky with the weather and also the foliage – both were perfect that day. It’s a great place to spend an autumn day.

  13. gobeyondbounds says:

    Wow! Your pictures look more like beautiful paintings. Westonbirt Arboretum definitely is must visit for those an abundance of spectacular colors. We are sure kids would love it too 🙂

  14. travellingslacker says:

    Just mindblowing colours. I have seen many pictures of fall colours but can never get enough of them! Japanese acer and Japanese maples look great. There is something about Japan and gardening!

    • Emily Cole says:

      It was a really lovely day; we were lucky with the weather too. I do love Japanese gardens too, they are always so well thought out.

  15. Where Monica Goes says:

    Autumn is really my favorite season and it is because of these colorful leaves! I do remember my stay in Japan as well and I must say Fall there is a really nice experience! How I wish I could go back. Still, it is nice that you found a place to relax and hangout with the kids and enjoy the colorful foliage.

  16. Mansi Kamdar says:

    This post just makes me want to pack a picnic and head to the park. Unfortunately, no fall colours where we live, so going to have to live vicariously through this post. Such beautiful colours! Lovely photos.

  17. Sparkyjen says:

    Gosh! The beauty of your images is so eye-popping that even if you wrote your blog in a foreign language I would still have to back scroll a couple of times to get another eye-full of colors. I’m highly visual so my eyes love lots of color stimulation. Thanks so much for sharing. Your perspective is lovely! What a pretty time of year to shoot as well. In my eyes, even a rainbow couldn’t compete with those trees and those clouds!

    • Emily Cole says:

      Thank you Jen! We were really lucky that day as it was so sunny (a rare treat in the UK). They’ve planned the arboretum really well so that you get lots of different colours in the same area.

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