Foot path amongst green trees in Westonbirt Arboretum.

History of the Arboretum

Westonbirt Arboretum in Tetbury, Gloucestershire is a treasure trove of botanical wonders, with over 15,000 specimens and 2,500 species of tree from all over the world. Many visitors come from around the world to see the array of rare indigenous and non-native trees, including endangered species, signature trees, and champion trees.

Westonbirt Arboretum started its life in the early 19th century, when Robert Holford, a wealthy land owner and member of parliament for East Gloucestershire. As a gardening and landscape enthusiast, Holford began rebuilding Westonbirt House and adding the formal gardens, which would then evolve into the arboretum we know and love today.

Just some of the species of tree available to see include Japanese maple cultivars, Bladdernut, lime, Walnut, incense cedars and much more.

As the British Empire grew and its fingers stretched out across the world, so did the demand for the most exotic plant species from the farthest reaches of the empire. Robert Holford sponsored many expeditions to collect plant species across the empire. All in the pursuit to find the rarest and most beautiful species to place in the arboretum. Many of the plants and trees you see today are from the results of the original expeditions.

During the Victorian period, an aesthetic revolution was taking hold. Robert Holford, inspired by the movement, designed the arboretum not according to species or native geographic location, but to how they looked aesthetically, creating picturesque scenery.

When Robert Holford became too old to take care of Westonbirt, he passed the management of the estate onto his son, Sir George Holford. George grew the arboretum across the valley into Silk Wood, expanding the collection of species even more.

In 1926, the Westonbirt Arboretum was left to Sir George’s nephew, the Fourth Earl of Morley. However, within a year it was sold and became an all-girls school. In 1956, Forestry England took over the 600-acre site and maintained it ever since. Now the arboretum is finally open for the public to enjoy.

Visiting Westonbirt ArboretumWalkway with people walking over in Westonbirt Arboretum

The Westonbirt Arboretum is a place to visit for the whole family, with walking trails suitable for all including people who use mobility aides and little ones in buggies and prams. Everyone is invited to come and enjoy the peace and mindfulness that the outdoors can bring.

Westonbirt also hosts two self-led sensory walks through the forest that encourage people to fully engage with the environment around them. Westonbirt has teamed up with Sense, to produce the Making Walks Sensory Toolkit, containing advice on planning walks and activities.

Besides the everyday activities at Westonbirt Arboretum, they also hold special events for people to attend, including the Luna cinema which hosts open-air screenings of everyone’s favourite films.

Visitors to Westonbirt will be pleased to know that dogs are welcome off lead in Silk Wood. However, dogs are not permitted in the Old Arboretum or at events (except assistance dogs). Children are also welcome to bring their bikes and scooters if they are under 70cm in height.

Westonbirt is open Monday – Sunday, from 9 am to 5 pm, with the last admission at 4:30 pm. Make sure to check out the website for more details. To guarantee entry at a date and time that suits you, people are encouraged to pre-book tickets before they arrive. Admission price for adult tickets: £12, child (5-18 yrs): £4. Many concessions are available. Book your tickets to visit Westonbirt, The National Arboretum.

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is just a 30-minute drive away from us here at Edgemoor Inn. Book a table after your busy day walking amongst the magnificent scenery.