5 of the most colourful autumn walks

See the best of autumn colour at these top gardens.

It’s time to dust off your wellies and get back to nature to see some spectacular autumn colours at one of the country’s many arboretums, with their vast collections of trees and stunning autumn walks.

So whether you want to take the kids to trample in fallen leaves, practise your camera skills capturing autumnal hues or pick up a map and follow the seasonal trails, here are some of the best arboretums to fill your autumn boots.

1. Westonbirt, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Enjoy the stunning colours at Westonbirt (Johnny Hathaway/Westonbirt Arboretum/PA)

Enjoy the stunning colours at Westonbirt

There is an incredible autumn spectacle of colour at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum. With 15,000 specimen trees and 2,500 from all over the globe, you can experience autumn from around the world in 600 acres of stunning landscape.

Famed for its national maple collection, don’t miss a walk through Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum and Maple Loop in Silk Wood (following the route around Link Path is recommended). Acer japonicum found on Holford Ride is always a showstopper this time of year.

Many species of sorbus, euonymous and holly berries also really stand at this time of year with reds, blues, oranges all bursting off the branches.

2. Thorp Perrow,  Bedale, North Yorkshire

Brilliant acers in Main Avenue at Thorp Perrow (Marcus Harpur/Thorp Perrow/PA)

Brilliant acers in Main Avenue at Thorp Perrow

Set in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, Thorp Perrow is one of the most important arboretums in the north of England, created in the first half of the 20th century by Sir Leonard Ropner, whose family is still in residence.

The arboretum covers 100 acres and is home to five national plant collections and 51 ‘champion trees’ – England’s largest and rarest trees and shrubs.

Laid out in sections inter-connected via paths, glades, bays, and avenues,  meander down the famous Main Avenue to see the wonderful Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ scarlet red against the deep green of the Italian alders, a real show stopping sight.

Wander into the autumn bays, drifting from Autumn Bay 1 with its blazing cotinus, part of the arboretum’s National Collection, through into Autumn Bay 2 with its structure of Acer griseums showing off not only their amazing colours, but also their fabulous bark. Then find yourself in Autumn Bay 3 and take in the stunning specimen Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’.

3. RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey

A family walks past trees in autumn colour in the Pinetum at RHS Garden Wisley (Georgi Mabee/RHS/PA)

Pinetum at RHS Garden Wisley

The RHS flagship garden is always worth a visit and in autumn the trees are stunning. A relatively young collection planted in 1977 to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the Jubilee Arboretum contains specimen trees which are a riot of turning leaves and vibrant fruits.

An avenue of silver lime (Tilia tomentosa) takes on a golden colour in the autumn and sweeps visitors in from the Trials Field through a fastigiate (trees of a narrow and upright nature) tree collection, followed by a collection of trees with a weeping habit.

Peter Jones, Garden Manager at RHS Garden Wisley, says: “In autumn many of the deciduous trees come into their own, with vivid changing foliage. My favourites include Acer rubrum (red maple) ‘October Glory’, a superb tree that, as the name suggests, comes into its own in October, when the leaves turn a wonderful fiery red.”

He also recommends visitors look out for Gleditsia delavayi, a tree with pinnate leaves that turn from light green to buttery yellow, and Liquidambar styraciflua, the American sweetgum, with its blazing autumnal leaves, as well as crab apples laden with glossy fruits.

4. Dyffryn Gardens, Cardiff, Wales

Enjoy the autumn leaves at Dyffryn Gardens (John Millar/National Trust Images/PA)

Enjoy the autumn leaves at Dyffryn Gardens

A peaceful oasis on the outskirts of Cardiff, Dyffryn Gardens covers more than 55 acres. The arboretum on the east side of the garden is a wild and exotic area, providing a distinctly different feel to the rest of the property.

With a collection of exotic and ornamental trees, shrubs and bamboos, there is plenty of colour all year round, but in autumn the fiery leaves are a sight to behold.

5. Mount Stuart, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Two pinetum collections are among the highlights of this extensive arboretum which houses more than 800 conifers, a mix of native and globally-sourced trees in an atmospheric woodland. Mount Stuart has trees from 13 different countries, while the Pinus Corsican Pine and Nootka Cypress are among its champion trees, the tallest of their kind in the UK.

One of the pinetum collections is recent, the other mature. The Victorian pinetum features imposing conifers gathered from around the world, while the newer collection was planted in the 1980s by the sixth marquess, in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

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