With magical woodland walks, glittering caves and tree top adventures, there are plenty of amazing things to do in the Forest of Dean!
The Forest of Dean is one of England’s last remaining areas of ancient woodland. It’s a beautiful wild space populated by rare species of plants, animals and birds. Nestled in the spot where England meets Wales, this spectacular region is the ideal place for outdoor activities.
Did you know this was once a royal hunting forest and the playground of England’s kings and queens? These days it’s a popular spot for hikers, cyclists, birdwatchers, climbers and cavers. Whatever your interests, there are plenty of amazing things to do in the Forest of Dean.
The Wye Valley is one of England’s hidden gems, and this part of the Forest of Dean has featured in many popular movies, including Harry Potter. Packed with interesting heritage sites, farm shops, castles, walking and cycling trails, there’s no shortage of things to do in the Forest of Dean, whether you’re planning a family holiday or something more casual.
So, what are you waiting for? This stunning corner of England is just waiting to be discovered. To help you plan your trip, here’s a quick rundown of the best things to do in the Forest of Dean.
Where is the Forest of Dean?
The Forest of Dean is located in the westerly corner of Gloucestershire, close to England’s border with Wales. It’s easily accessible if you’re based in places including the Cotswolds, South Wales and big cities like Bristol.
Things to Do In The Forest of Dean
Enjoy a picturesque walk through the woodland
One of the best things to do in the Forest of Dean is to explore the region on foot. Covering an area of 27,000 acres, there’s no shortage of woodland walks in the Forest of Dean. Choose between leisurely strolls along the River Wye or epic long distance trails.
There’s something to suit all walkers, whatever your age, ability or fitness level. What’s more, the Forest of Dean is home to some rare and wonderful wildlife. If you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of wild deer, woodpeckers or birds of prey.
Check out the Dean Heritage Centre
The Dean Heritage Centre is one if the Wye Valley’s top attractions. A visit here is one of the most fun things to do in the Forest of Dean for families.
It boasts a reconstructed Victorian Cottage, a charcoal burner’s camp, plus hosts special events and workshops throughout the year. Kids will also love the woodland trail, themed around the classic children’s book The Gruffalo! There are plenty of indoor and outdoor exhibits to explore, so the Dean Heritage Centre is a good option for rainy days too.
Watch the birds of prey at Symonds Yat Rock
Symonds Yat is an iconic destination in the region and watching the soaring birds of prey here is one of the most popular things to do in the Wye Valley. I have very happy memories of visiting this area as a kid. If, like us, you’re interested in wildlife, this is an absolute must!
Home to nesting peregrine falcons, the ancient hill fort is a wonderful place for a picnic. Symonds Yat is also a good place for cycling and mountain biking, with plenty of well-marked trails. For an extra bit of magic, visit in October to enjoy the dazzling autumn colours.
Explore Clearwell Caves
The Wye Valley isn’t only famous for its attractions above the ground. Deep below the earth you’ll find the expansive caverns and underground pools at the Clearwell Caves. This magnificent natural cave system is an important piece of natural and human history too. In fact, people have been mining this area for more than 4,500 years.
Head underground and turn back the clock, ready to discover hidden pools, frozen waterfalls and glittering rocks! Those with a real desire for exploration can take a guided tour to learn more about the geological wonders right beneath your feet.
Take a walk on the wild side at Go Ape
One of the most popular things to do in the Wye Valley is to explore the forest from the treetops, and Go Ape provides the perfect environment. Featuring an expansive network of treetop walkways and zip lines, you’ll see the forest as you’ve never seen it before, and get some thrills along the way. One word of warning: you’ll need a head for heights, so if you suffer from vertigo, avoid at all costs.
The route starts at Beechenhurst Lodge, where you’ll find the popular Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail and a café. It’s a great family activity, and definitely one of the best things to do in the Forest of Dean with kids.
Take a ride on the Dean Forest Railway
The Dean Forest Railway passes through rolling hills and lush forest. The 8.5-mile heritage railway route is a wonderful way to enjoy the local scenery. It’s also an option if the weather isn’t great as you can admire the landscape from the warmth of your train carriage!
You’ll enjoy an atmospheric ride on a steam-powered train, and you could even order a traditional cream tea while you’re on board.
Work up an appetite at the Severn and Wye Smokery
Calling all foodies, the Severn and Wye Smokery showcases some of the best produce from the local area, with a well-stocked deli that sells all kinds of tasty treats.
If you’re looking to splash out, you can’t go wrong with a meal at their fabulous restaurant, which specialises in smoked fish and seafood. If you’re a food lover, a meal here is one of the best things to do in the Forest of Dean.
Visit the Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo
Looking for things to do in the Wye Valley when it’s raining? The Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo is a tropical paradise, populated by thousands of spectacular butterflies. Step into the glasshouse and marvel at the kaleidoscopic colours and patterns found on the delicate insects.
The zoo is an important conservation centre, breeding many rare species, and is a great place to learn about the rich ecology of the Wye Valley.
Where to stay in the Forest of Dean
If you’re looking for somewhere special to stay in the Forest of Dean, head to the magnificent De Vere Tortworth Court. This magnificent gothic mansion is set in expansive grounds, just a few miles from the Forest of Dean, and offers guests a sumptuous luxury retreat in the gorgeous Gloucestershire countryside.
Perfect for couples, the hotel also boasts an excellent restaurant, situated in the library. Plus there’s a fully equipped spa, sauna and gym, making this one of the best luxury hotels in the Forest of Dean.
Step back in time and experience a taste of English history at the Speech House Hotel in Coleford. Built as a hunting lodge for King Charles II in 1669, this beautiful house is steeped in history, and boasts many original features.
You’ll love the cosy fireplaces, beamed ceilings, and four-poster beds, all of which will make you feel like royalty during your stay! The hotel is perfectly located for exploring the ancient Forest of Dean, and the rooms are designed for pure comfort. The Speech House is the perfect place to curl up after a long day out exploring the countryside.
Located in the pretty village of Coleford, the Angel Hotel is one of the most popular and best value choices for travellers visiting the Forest of Dean. This 16th century coaching inn boasts comfortable rooms, a lively bar and an excellent restaurant.
However, the real attraction is the location – just a few miles from the magnificent Forest of Dean. This makes the Angel Hotel the perfect base for exploring the Wye Valley and enjoying all that the beautiful region has to offer.
I hope this post has given you plenty of inspiration for things to do in the Forest of Dean. It’s a gorgeous place to visit.
Do you have any favourite things to do in the Wye Valley or surrounding areas? We’d love to hear your tips too.
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