A hop, skip and jump from Castle Howard, The Yorkshire Arboretum is a spectacular garden located on the edge of the North York Moors that’s a lovely place for a family day out in the great outdoors. Set in 120 acres, the arboretum has over 6,000 trees and shrubs from around the world, including rare and endangered species: the lovely lady at the ticket desk described it as ‘like a big tree museum’. We’d decided to visit to check out the arboretum’s new attraction – a red squirrel enclosure! We’re old enough to just about remember spotting the odd red squirrel during our childhoods, but our children have only ever known their less colourful grey counterparts.
The red squirrel enclosure has been created to provide a home for one of the UK’s most endangered mammals. Red squirrels are native to the UK, but their numbers have been in decline for many years due to habitat loss and competition from the larger and apparently more aggressive grey squirrel. Turns out that while they may be cute, but they are mighty.
The team at The Yorkshire Arboretum has created a special habitat for a small group of breeding red squirrels, with plenty of trees, shrubs, and other natural features for them to explore and play in. The enclosure is also designed with a non-grip coating and 3-metre no-leap zone, designed to keep red squirrels in and grey squirrels out.
Visitors to The Yorkshire Arboretum can now enjoy watching the red squirrels as they leap about, provided they’re not napping. Unfortunately, our visit seemed to coincide with squirrel snooze time, but we were lucky enough to watch one of them popping its head in and out of its box, staring down the onlookers. It was so sweet, and a real treat to see a red squirrel so close to home. The enclosure is a great place to see these beautiful creatures up close and to learn about their habits and behaviour, with clear and easy-to-follow information boards around the enclosure with information about the red squirrel, its habitat, and the conservation efforts being made to protect them. Apparently, red squirrels can swim! Who knew?!
Aside from the red squirrel enclosure, the Yorkshire Arboretum has plenty of other things to do that make it a great day out for families in Yorkshire, with woodland and gardens galore to explore. There are also several tree trails that visitors can follow, from one to two hours depending on which one you choose. Take it at your own pace and see how many incredible trees you can spot.
It’s worth mentioning that The Yorkshire Arboretum also hosts a range of events throughout the year, including guided walks, talks, and workshops, with some family-friendly activities. When we visited, there was an Easter trail around the lake with a little chocolate prize at the end – bonus. In terms of food and drink, there’s masses of space for a picnic, but if you don’t have the time or energy to make yet more sandwiches, the arboretum’s cafe is lovely. There’s a great selection of lunch and brunch options, from savoury muffins to hot sandwiches, soup and cakes. Prices are pretty reasonable, the staff are lovely and it’s a nice place to sit and relax, indoor or out. And your four-legged friend needn’t miss out either: the arboretum is firmly dog-friendly.
The Yorkshire Arboretum is a fantastic day out for families near York. We had a lovely afternoon there, spotting peacocks and pheasants and eventually seeing the red squirrel, not to mention the weird and wonderful trees. We came home with the usual collection of leaves, feathers and sticks, and a promise that we’ll go back and see if we can see the squirrels again.
The Yorkshire Arboretum, Castle Howard, York YO60 7BY