The Royal Forest of Dean and Wye Valley is a great place to visit to reconnect with nature in the ancient forest. The whole area is around 68 square miles and is one of the most fascinating regions of Britain nestling between the River Wye and the River Severn which itself is one of the great tidal rivers of the UK. This ancient royal hunting forest, once famous for its coal mining, is home to a wide range of outdoor activities that you are sure to have a great time on your next visit to this popular destination. Here are the best places to visit in the Forest of Dean, one of the most distinctive areas of Britain.
Clearwell Caves are ancient iron mines that have nine caverns open to the public to experience the unique iron mining museum. For those who want to explore deeper, special trips to the deeper mines can be arranged The iron ore and associated iron industry turned this part of Gloucestershire into a major site of industry in Britain. A visit to Clearwell Caves is a must for any visitor to the Forest of Dean to gain a deeper understanding of the history and culture of the free miners and the dean’s ancient rights. “All male persons born or hereafter to be born and abiding within the said Hundred of St. Briavel, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, who shall have worked a year and a day in the coal mines or iron mines within the said Hundred of St Briavels, shall be deemed and taken to be Free Miners.” extract from Dean Forest (Mines) Act 1838.
Dean Forest Railway
Dean Forest Railway is a beautiful heritage railway that was once the main route in and out of the forest. There are now just 5 train stations on the line: Lydney Junction, Lydney Town, Norchard, Whitecroft and Parkend. Run by volunteers, this four-and-a-half-mile train track takes you through the scenic forest on Wednesdays and weekends from March to November as well as the special event trains such as the Santa Special or the Fish Supper. Dean Forest Railway is dog friendly, and has a large free car park at Norchard as well as a cafe, shop and museum.
Mallards Pike is managed by Forestry England and is suitable for all ages no matter the time of year. For the younger ones, there’s Gruffalo orienteering which gives you two route options, one shorter one that is suitable for pushchairs and all weathers and a longer one which is not suitable for pushchairs or bad weather. For the older ones, there’s Go Ape Treetop Adventure which is perfect for the daredevils! For those who prefer more gentle activities, you can just take a stroll around the lake and stop for coffee and a piece of cake. On site, you will find ample parking and toilets.
Perrygrove Railway is a narrow gauge heritage railway situated in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. It operates a variety of preserved steam and diesel locomotives on a 1.25-mile (2-kilometre) line. The site also offers various other attractions, including a treetop adventure, picnic area, play area, and on-site cafe. Read our review of Perrygrove and of the Christmas twilight trains event.
Cyril Hart Arboretum
The Cyril Hart Arboretum is one of the more special wooded areas in the Forest of Dean. Located next to the Speech House Hotel, it was established in Victorian times by plant hunter Earnest Wilson. Originally known as the Speech House Arboretum but renamed to honour the memory of a former senior verderer Dr Cyril Hart. The arboretum is home to over 200 species of tree from all corners of the globe. It is a lovely place to walk with the children, the dogs or both with free parking.
The Speech House Hotel is a beautiful 17th-century manor house located in the heart of the Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. The hotel offers a range of luxurious accommodation, from classic double rooms to luxurious suites. Guests can also enjoy a range of activities locally such as golf, clay pigeon shooting, archery, and even falconry. The hotel also offers delicious dining options, with a restaurant, bar, and lounge offering a range of local and international dishes.
The hotel is the traditional home of the free miners and the Verderers Court who are responsible for upholding forest law.
Puzzlewood is a magical ancient woodland area located in the Forest of Dean, England. It is known for its unique rock formations, winding pathways, and ancient trees. It is a popular destination for hikers, photographers, and those seeking inspiration from the heady smell and beauty of the natural world.
It is also a popular location for film crews with some notable movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars being shot or in the case of Harry Potter, inspired by the beautiful location. In fact, author JK Rowling grew up not too far away.
Symonds Yat Rock
This scenic spot is a sandstone outcrop in the Wye Valley, located on the England-Wales border in the county of Herefordshire. Symonds Yat Rock is a popular tourist destination, offering spectacular scenery, stunning landscapes and breathtaking views of the River Wye and the surrounding area. It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including peregrine falcons, dippers, ravens, and red kites. The site also has a number of activities, including rock climbing, canoeing, and an abundance of hiking trails.
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail
The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail is a collection of artworks situated in the beautiful Forest of Dean in England. It consists of a series of sculptures and installations created by local artists, which are installed along a 4.5-mile circular walk. The pieces are made from natural materials such as wood, stone and metal, and range from large, striking pieces to smaller, more intimate works. The sculptures are designed to inspire visitors to explore the forest and learn more about its history and ecology. The trail is open all year round and is a great way to experience the beauty of the Forest of Dean.
Lydney Park Spring Gardens
Lydney Park Spring Gardens is a historic estate located in Gloucestershire, England. The gardens are known for their stunning display of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, as well as spectacular views of the River Severn. The gardens also feature a variety of other species, including camellias, hostas and Japanese maples. Additionally, visitors can enjoy a variety of activities in the park, such as walking, cycling, picnicking and exploring the roman temple.
Cannop Ponds are a series of three ponds located in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England. The ponds are fed by small streams, and they are home to a variety of wildlife, including dragonflies, frogs, and ducks. The ponds are popular with visitors who come to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, and they are a great spot for bird and wildlife watching.
The Severn Bore is a tidal phenomenon in which a large wave travels up the estuary of the River Severn in the UK. The bore occurs whenever there is a large tidal surge in the Severn Estuary and can reach heights of up to 2.75 meters. It is an amazing sight to witness and is most commonly seen between autumn and spring.
Family Cycle Trail
The Forest of Dean Family Cycle Trail is an 8-mile, all-ability route through the beautiful Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, UK. The route is accessible for all ages and abilities, with a range of different surfaces and gradients along the way. Enjoy views of rolling hills, wildflower meadows, ancient woodland and wildlife as you cycle along. There are also plenty of places to stop and enjoy a picnic or explore the area further.
Dean Heritage Centre
The Dean Heritage Centre is a museum and heritage centre located in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. The centre is set within a 12-acre woodland area and includes a museum, a Victorian schoolroom, a forge, and a working water mill. The centre offers a wide range of activities and events, both indoors and outdoors, to help visitors learn about the unique heritage of the Forest of Dean.