Colourful trees of Westonbirt Arboretum

Westonbirt Arboretum: A guide to visiting

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers”, L. M. Montgomery said in Anne of Green Gables. And so am I! In fact, October is one of my favourite months of the year. And, without fail, each year my family and I head to Westonbirt Arboretum for a festive autumn walk. I even have baby pictures from Octobers there far too many years ago now. It has a whopping seventeen miles of trails within the estate, perfect for crunching on colourful leaves. For me, it’s an autumnal rite of passage, with some of the most beautifully coloured trees to give you the autumn feels. In this guide, I’ll share all you need to know about visiting Westonbirt Arboretum.

What is Westonbirt Arboretum?

Westonbirt Arboretum, managed by Forestry England, is a 600 acre arboretum that’s home to 3,000 different species of trees, from magnolias to rhododendrons. It’s one of the best arboretums in the world, with over 18,000 trees from all over the world. Many of the trees have been planted back in 1829, and continue to be planted today. Having been created in the Victorian era by Robert Holford, the arboretum was created thanks to his fascination with rare, stunning plants collected from around the world. Westonbirt Arboretum is known across the world for its magnificent autumn colours, but it’s a great place to visit all year round. Visit in the spring for spectacular flowering trees to festive displays in the winter. You’ll find the following throughout the year:

  • 17 miles of marked paths through the arboretum
  • Events and workshops, including the Enchanted Christmas illuminated trail in November and December
  • Dog-friendly zones (Silk Wood)
  • STIHL Treetop Walkway – a 300 metre long treetop walk that gradually rises to a height of 13 metres for spectacular views across the arboretum landscape
Walking through Westonbirt Arboretum

Where is Westonbirt Arboretum?

Westonbirt Arboretum is located in Gloucestershire, approximately three miles south-west of the beautiful Cotswold town of Tetbury.

When is the best time to visit Westonbirt Arboretum?

While my personal favourite is visiting Westonbirt for the autumn colours (as well as most visitors), it’s beautiful all year round. If you too are looking for the autumn colours, I’d suggest visiting during the last two weeks of October, maybe even early November. That said, winter is magical too – especially the Enchanted Christmas trail. If you visit in spring, you’ll find fields of bluebells, and in summer, colourful rhododendrons, wild flowers, and magnolias can be discovered. I’d recommend arriving by 10am to avoid queues, or around 3pm when the majority of people begin to leave.

Autumn at Westonbirt Arboretum

How do you get to Westonbirt Arboretum?

There are a few ways to visit Westonbirt Arboretum:

  • By car – I’d recommend driving – my family and I typically drive across to Westonbirt Arboretum from the neighbouring town of Cheltenham. This is mainly because of the flexibility, so that you can take your time exploring the arboretum. There are plenty of parking spaces and you can park for free, although I’d suggest getting there early as it can get busy during peak autumn. It’s a pretty little drive to Westonbirt. You’ll wind past towns like Stroud and idyllic Tetbury. It’s on a stretch that takes you past Highgrove House and Gardens, the private residence of King Charles II and Queen Camilla.
  • By public transport – the best way to reach Westonbirt by public transport is to catch a train to Stroud (there are direct services from London, Reading, and Gloucester). From Stroud train station, there’s a short walk to a bus stop where you can catch Bus 69 to Westonbirt several times a day, Monday to Saturday. You’ll be rewarded with a discount on entry if you’re travelling car free or arriving via public transport or bike.
Laura at Westonbirt Arboretum in autumn

How much does it cost to get into Westonbirt Arboretum?

At present, prices for Westonbirt Arboretum are as follows:

SeasonAdultChild (5+)Concession (students, jobseekers, those arriving by public transport)
Spring/Summer/Autumn (March to September; 13-30 November)£12£4£8
Peak Autumn (30 September – 12 November)£16£4£11
Winter (December to February)£9£3£6
Checking out the colourful trees

Can you get into Westonbirt Arboretum for free?

The only way to get into Westonbirt Arboretum for free is for children aged under 5, or if you’re a Friend of Westonbirt Arboretum. By signing up for membership, you can benefit from the following perks:

  • Free entry into Westonbirt Arboretum for every season (you’ll still need to pre-book a time slot)
  • Free entry for up to 4 children or grandchildren
  • 10% discount at the Westonbirt Shop
  • Free seasonal educational activities
  • Local partner discounts – including Cotswold Outdoor and Go Ape
  • Early bird booking for forest live concerts and the Enchanted Christmas trail
  • Free entry or 2 for 1 discounts at selected partner gardens
  • Support for the conservation of trees
Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire

What are the opening hours at Westonbirt Arboretum?

Westonbirt Arboretum is open every single day of the year, except for Christmas Day. Opening hours are 9am – 5pm, and the restaurant and shop open slightly later, at 9.30am each day. Final entry into. the arboretum is at 4.40pm from March to November, and 4pm from December to February.

Laura in Westonbirt Arboretum

Can you just turn up at Westonbirt Arboretum?

Yes! Thankfully, pre-booking is no longer needed, except for the following key dates:

  • Between 30 September  – 12 November (Peak Autumn)
  • Between 24 December – 1 January (Christmas)

If you plan to visit between these dates, you need to book a ticket. Otherwise, you can simply show up.

Autumn colours

Things to do at Westonbirt Arboretum

Whenever I visit Westonbirt, I love to wrap up warm, put on my wellies, and go for a stomp through the autumn colours. In some ways, it really hasn’t changed since I was a kid – the excitement of the autumn colours, the crisp leaves, and snacking on roasted chestnuts as we walked. But don’t be fooled in thinking that walking is the only thing to do at Westonbirt Arboretum – there’s something for all the family:

  • Walking trails
  • Activity trails for kids
  • Birthday parties
  • Play areas
  • Sculpture hunting
  • Orienteering
  • Running routes
  • Self-led sensory walks
  • Guided nature tours
  • Treetop walkway
  • Adventure play
Siblings under the autumn leaves

Facilities at Westonbirt Arboretum

Westonbirt has a number of different facilities when it comes to eating, drinking, and shopping! A little more developed than when I first started visiting years ago, it now boasts three different eateries:

  • The Kitchen – a relaxed eatery serving seasonal plates, coffee, and cakes
  • The Pantry – a takeaway kiosk serving freshly made sandwiches, cakes, coffee, and ice cream
  • The Smokehouse – a smokehouse serving delicious homemade pizzas fired by Westonbirt wood, burgers, and fries. The Smokehouse is only open on Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes

Onsite, you’ll also find Westonbirt Shop, filled with lovely local and regional gifts – perfect for taking away a souvenir. You’ll find cards, toys, sweets, homeware, books, dog toys, and handmade wooden products. We wondered in the crisp air, before stumbling across a cafe and stopping for hot chocolates. We brought with us some doughnuts that we’d picked up en route from the most incredible bakery at Stroud Farmers’ Market. If you have time on your journey to Westonbirt Arboretum, give Pippin Doughnuts a try! The hazelnut and butterscotch doughnut was a winner, followed by apple, blackberry and custard. Delicious.

Pippin Doughnuts from Stroud Farmers Market

Hotels near Westonbirt Arboretum

If you’re coming from further afield or simply fancy making a stay of your visit to Westonbirt Arboretum, you’ll likely want to know where you can find nearby hotels. Here’s my pick of the best:

The Hare and Hounds, Tetbury – 4* hotel

Located next to Westonbirt Arboretum and the Highgrove Estate, you’re in good company at The Hare and Hounds. A lovely country retreat, you’ll find comfortable rooms and relaxed dining. Bring your pooch along too, as dogs are welcome. Set in a beautiful historic building, each room is individually designed. You’ll find all the creature comforts you need, including Molton Brown toiletries. Head to Jack Hare’s Bar for a generous range of tipples, and enjoy casual dining or head to the Beaufort Restaurant (awarded 2 AA Rosettes) for a more sophisticated a la carte menu.

Best hotels near Westonbirt Arboretum

The King’s Arms, Didmarton – 4* hotel

The King’s Arms is a cosy country inn set in the Cotswolds countryside, within easy of Westonbirt Arboretum. Offering charming cottage accommodation, it’s a pub with rooms, so you can also enjoy some delicious pub food during your stay. Each of the cottage style bedrooms has its own unique character. You’ll find luxurious kingsize four poster beds, indulgent bedding, and sheepskin rugs adorning each of the rooms. It’s the perfect retreat for a good night’s sleep after a long day of walking around the nearby arboretum.

Whatley Manor, Malmesbury – 5* hotel

A beautiful 5-star country house and hotel, Whatley Manor is steeped in tradition while offering all the modern creature comforts you could possibly wish for. This luxury hotel in the Cotswolds is located near Westonbirt Arboretum in neighbouring Malmesbury. The manor has its own indulgent spa, Aquarias, Spa, where you can enjoy relaxing treatments and relaxation. As well as a private cinema, there are also two dining options – Grey’s, offering casual dining, and The Dining Room for an elegant dining experience.

Pubs near Westonbirt Arboretum

Looking for food and drink nearby? Having been born and bred in the Cotswolds, you could say I’m pretty familiar with the best pubs in the Cotswolds by now. Here are some of the best pubs near Westonbirt Arboretum for visiting for a cold pint and a bite to eat before or after your visit:

The Holford Arms, Sherston

A multi-award winning country pub, The Holford Arms is set in eight acres of countryside within easy reach of Westonbirt Arboretum. It’s a perfect pitstop for a cold pint of local ale, or some tasty food from the seasonal menu. Plenty of homegrown produce from the onsite gardens is used in each dish. Classic dishes include Cajun blackened sole served with charred creamed leeks, and Cotswolds Wagyu beef burger with fries and spring slaw.

The Royal Oak, Leighterton

Within walking distance of Westonbirt Arboretum, you’ll find The Royal Oak in the heart of the Cotswolds. A family and dog friendly pub in the countryside, The Royal Oak is set in a beautiful Grade II listed building that is packed with character. The pub has a roaring log fire for the winter months, and a gorgeous courtyard garden for when the sun is shining. There’s a friendly village atmosphere, and your furry friends are welcome too. Don’t miss their delicious Sunday roast!

Looking for a Sunday lunch? Check out my guide to the best Sunday roasts in the Cotswolds.

The Rattlebone Inn, Malmesbury

Set in the pretty Cotswolds village of Sherstone, near Malmesbury, The Rattlebone Inn is a classic country pub. Oozing charm, it’s the heart of the village community, and a short drive from Westonbirt Arboretum. You’ll find a great choice of real ales and wine, as well as some of the best food in the region. Enjoy a range of pub classics, including delicious heart pies with mash – perfect after a long day of rambling around the arboretum.

Is Westonbirt worth it?

Absolutely! If you’re looking for a great day out and getting close to nature, head to Westonbirt Arboretum. It offers something for all the family, and is beautiful in autumn. My family and I love walking through Westonbirt Arboretum, hands deep in pockets, kicking leaves as we go. There’s something pretty magical about walking on golden carpets of leaves. What’s even more special is that the arboretum only really looks this colourful for just a couple of weeks a year, so you need to catch it quickly. Plan your visit and enjoy!

Family at Westonbirt Arboretum

That’s my guide to visiting Westonbirt Arboretum – I can’t recommend a visit in autumn enough! Where are your favourite places to enjoy the changing seasons?

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