Your Guide to
The Forest of Dean
“The inspirational National Forest”
The Forest of Dean is nature’s playground. This rural wonderland has everything to offer from walking to watersports and a handful of towns and villages. With the Rivers Wye and Severn flowing past, viewpoints provide spectacular landscapes across this area.
Covering more than 8,000 hectares, the Forest of Dean was once designated a Royal Hunting Forest which was reserved for use by the King. It became a National Forest Park in 1938 and today it is still a working forest producing sustainable timber for the UK market. With so much natural beauty it is a popular destination for lover’s of the outdoors. You can take to the river and find kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding, hike up the hills of the neighbouring Wye Valley or relax at one of the welcoming country pubs.
There have been many famous visitors to the forest with both J.R.R Tolkien and J.K Rowling finding inspiration here. The otherworldly Puzzlewood has been a filming location on many occasions and you will discover picture-perfect locations in Tintern and the surrounding medieval castles.
We invite you to get lost in the wilderness and explore this inspirational forest for yourselves, who knows what legends you may uncover!
We hope you enjoy your stay in this much-loved part of the country. To help you plan your days we’ve put together a collection of our favourite experiences so you can make the most of your time with our Forest of Dean Guide.
Straddling the River Wye, the village of Symonds Yat is known for its natural river scenery and forest expanses. Enjoy the picturesque views from Symonds Yat Rock, a limestone outcrop rising above the banks of the river and make the most of the birdwatching opportunities – it’s one of the best places in the country to watch Peregrine falcons.
Stretching out along a limestone cliff above the River Wye, the beautifully preserved Chepstow Castle bears witness to 900 years of history and tells the story of how castles gradually evolved to cope with ever more destructive weaponry. A seasonal programme of events runs throughout the year.
A masterpiece of British Gothic architecture, Tintern Abbey gradually fell into disrepair following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, and today visitors in their thousands flock to see the famous roofless remains that still perch proudly on the banks of the River Wye. The Devil’s Pulpit overlooks the abbey and can you can reach it as part of a circular trail from Tintern.
Described as “the most magical forest on the face of the earth” by Star Wars producer Kathleen Kennedy, Puzzlewood served as the backdrop to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Follow the mile and a half of paths through this enchanting, otherworldly woodland with its magical twisted trees and abundance of wildlife, from badgers and foxes to deer and rabbits.
Explore over 4,500 years of mining history in a fascinating cave system at Clearwell Caves and discover a secret world that lies beneath the Forest of Dean. You can still meet the Forest Freeminers here too – men whose birth right entitles them to dig for iron ores and precious ochres still found here today.
This 12th century castle was an important centre of the Forest of Dean and was the King’s royal hunting ground where game was protected. It has also formerly been a crossbow bolt factory which used local iron. Today you can wander the grounds and use it as a starting point for a walk along Offa’s Dyke Path.
A vibrant visitor centre with a wide range of arts and crafts, Taurus Crafts is home to a range of independent creative businesses including glass artworks, chocolate makers, and a jewellery studio where you could make your own engagement or wedding rings, plus many more. There is a café on site and a programme of hands-on activities for children runs during the school holidays.
The result of a 35-year partnership between the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust and Forestry England, the Sculpture Trail showcases a unique collection of contemporary sculptures, all of which were inspired by the setting and created on site. Downloadable trail maps and audio guides are available on the website.
Head underground at Hopewell Colliery on a guided tour of the mine. Donning a miner’s helmet and lamp you will be taken through the tunnels and learn about the work of miners. Back on land you can visit the museum and enjoy a meal at the café.
Discover the history and heritage of the Forest of Dean at this five-gallery museum in the village of Soudley. There’s also a Gruffalo Trail in the grounds depicting the story of the popular children’s book, plus a gift shop and coffee shop serving light lunches, snacks, and pre-booked afternoon teas.
Built in 1920, the Palace Theatre is one of the oldest purpose built cinemas still running. There are two screens and ticket prices are very reasonable. Showing the latest releases and some timeless classics, grab your popcorn and settle in!
Inside a goods station dating back to 1883 is the GWR museum, engine shed and signal box. See restored and replica carriages and take a ride on mini locomotive around the site. Open afternoons on Fridays and Saturdays.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner, takeaway
The Butcher’s Arms, established in 1802, is one of the oldest pubs in the Forest of Dean. Championing the home-cooked style they focus on using the best ingredients. They have been creating their burgers for 11 years and are confident you will love them. Their food is also available to order to takeaway.
Perfect for: cheese, picnic supplies
Cheese lovers will have a field day at this award-winning cheese shop and deli. There is such a large range of cheese available you are spoilt for choice! Pick up some accompaniments and your cheeseboard is complete. You can also have a picnic made up and their gift selection includes ready-made hampers.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner, river views
The Saracen’s Head Inn is in a spectacular position on the edge of the River Wye. Sitting outside you can watch the river flow by and the hand-pulled ferry make its crossings. The family-run pub serves lunch and dinner and the menus change with the seasons.
Perfect for: seafood
This award-winning foodie destination is known for its fresh fish. At The Barn you can dine at the restaurant and café, and the fresh fish counter lets you choose your own to take home. They are known for their smokery and there is a wide range of smoked fish available. There is also a food hall and a range of gifts on offer.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner
The Millingbrook restaurant at The George Inn serves bar snacks alongside traditional home-cooked meals and a changing specials menu. The restaurant is open all year round and the gardens are open for al fresco dining during the summer.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner, Sunday lunch
In a Grade II listed building that was first used as a coaching inn and later as a hotel, The Globe has been part of Alvington village life since the 18th century. Food is served every day from 12pm and there’s a special steak night on Thursdays.
Perfect for: families, vegetarians, vegans
Dating to 1694, The Ostrich Inn welcomes families, dogs, cyclists, and walkers to the picturesque village of Newland. The menu includes vegetarian and vegan options alongside meat and fish-based dishes, smaller portions for young diners and a children’s menu, plus a selection of desserts that changes weekly.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner, Sunday lunch
The 16th-century Red Hart Inn in Blaisdon has all the features you’d expect from a traditional countryside pub and is the perfect place to rest and refuel after working up an appetite walking the popular route around the village. On Friday nights you can pick up takeaway fish and chips.
Perfect for: coffee and cake, lunch, afternoon tea, fine dining
Enjoy coffee and cake, a light lunch or afternoon tea in the relaxed, informal atmosphere of The Speech House’s children- and dog-friendly Orangery or indulge in a two AA rosette fine dining experience at Verderers,’ a historic beamed court room which reflects the room’s continuing use as a courthouse for the Forest of Dean Verderers.
Perfect for: classic pub lunch, dinner, Sunday lunch
The Swan Hotel’s Ugly Duckling restaurant serves a menu of traditional pub classics including burgers, fish and chips and ploughman’s lunches from Wednesday to Saturday, with a one-, two- or three-course lunch menu on Sundays.
Perfect for: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner
In a converted, 13th-century farm, the restaurant at the Tudor serves delicious dishes made from ingredients sourced directly from local producers and the hotel’s own gardens, while the extensive wine list runs to an impressive 15 pages.
Perfect for: lunch, dinner, vegans, cocktails
Enjoy a relaxed dining experience at the beautiful No 3 Restaurant. The menu features their special board with the catch of the day and simple options with considered sides. There is also a separate vegan menu.
Perfect for: sandwiches, dinner, Sunday lunch
This country pub is part of the community and strives to offer great food served by friendly staff with a wonderful atmosphere. Situated between Ross-on-Wye and Hereford it is the ideal place to stop off for lunch or dinner on your way back to your cottage.
Perfect for: breakfast, lunch, cakes, Sunday lunch
A traditional, family-run tearoom serving local and artisan food and drinks. With a build-your-own breakfast option, an extensive lunch menu and 15 teas on the afternoon tea menu you are sure to find something to suit your fancy.
Perfect for: lunch and dinner set menu, wine
Using local producers, ingredients from their own kitchen garden and what has been found foraging, The Whitebrook has a sustainable approach to the food they serve. The wine list also focuses on independent local wines. This award-winning, Michelin starred restaurant is a unique, fine dining experience.
Perfect for: breakfast, lunch, dinner
Relax at The Wild Hare in their charming dining room. This country pub will give you a warm welcome wether you are staying for dinner or just having an evening drink on the sofa in front of the fire. They are very dog-friendly and even have a menu for your four legged friend.
Perfect for: breakfast, lunch, dinner, takeaway
Enjoy an Italian meal after a day out in Chepstow at Una Vita. The extensive menu includes risotto, pizza, pasta, and the traiditional mains you would expect. You can also order meals for collection.
Did you know?
The Devil’s Pulpit viewpoint is said to be where the devil sat and preached to the monks of Tintern to tempt them away from their religion.
Enjoy a leisurely wander around the town and choose from a wide range of cafes and historical coaching inns for refreshment before exploring the myriad delights of Blenheim Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and is just a short walk from the marketplace. Explore the magnificent palace, which dates back to the 1700s, and the spectacular parklands.
Cradled in a beautiful, quintessentially English valley are the remnants of what was once one of the grandest Roman villas in Great Britain. Through a series of spectacular mosaics, take a stroll through Britain’s Roman past. The tranquil setting and abundant wildlife make for a lovely day out.
Spend a day in this much-loved market town browsing the shops, enjoying the views, and walking along the river’s edge. You can hire a boat to explore the river and visit the 16th century market house where local markets are still held today, and a gallery is housed on the top floor.
These National Trust owned Dutch water gardens date back to 1696 and is one of the last surviving gardens of this style in the UK. It is a beautiful setting with canals and resident carp, rare trees, orchards, manicured hedging and lovely open lawned areas.
Stretching along the English/Welsh border, the Offa’s Dyke national trail is 177 miles of beautiful countryside walking. Starting in Chepstow it largely follows the River Wye as far as Coleford. It is a well-marked trail giving you the opportunity to explore large parts of the Wye Valley as it forms part of many circular routes.
This majestic castle has more to offer than just a beautifully picturesque setting. At the base of the Malverns the castle is surrounded by a deer park, arboretum and lake. You can explore the decadent 19th century castle rooms, get lost in the arboretum and relax on a lakeside walk. There are also a range of activities to keep children entertained, and for big children Eastnor Castle is home to the Land Rover experience.
English Heritage Goodrich Castle is one of the best preserved medieval castles. From the top of the towers your reward is far-reaching views and a view from the past. In the castle courtyard you will find Roaring Meg, the last surviving mortar from the Civil War.
There are a lot of opportunities to get out onto the River Wye. Try canoeing, kayaking or stand-up paddle boards to see this area from a different point of view. If you’d rather stay on dry land while others from your group head out on the river, you can also have a go at axe throwing, archery and other outdoor activities.
J.R.R Tolkien is said to have found inspiration in the Forest of Dean when creating Middle Earth.
Step back in time and enjoy the gentle trundle of the Dean Forest Railway. The steam train line is 4.5 miles long running from Lydney to the small forest village of Parkend. The main station along the way is Norchard where you will find a shop, café, and museum. Throughout the year there are lots of themed journeys available including murder mysteries, Santa specials and an evening fish and chips train.
Go into the heart of the forest and be one with the trees at a Go Ape site. Release your inner Tarzan on the high wires and ziplines and conquer your fears along the Treetop Challenge. If you’d rather stay at ground level, an all-terrain segway is a stealthy way to explore.
Explore the Forest of Dean with the whole family on the traffic-free Family Cycle Trail. Easily followed and not too strenuous, you can hire bikes and head off along the gentle trail. It follows the old mining railway and there are opportunities to stop for a rest and to enjoy the views along the way. You might spot wild boar and roe deer on the way!
Perrygrove Railway Adventure is a haven for children. Steam and diesel engines run along the narrow-gauge railway through the forests and fields and hop off at various stops along the way. Explore the Treetop Adventure, magical Twilight Village and Foxy Hollow. There are also plenty of spaces to enjoy a picnic and special events are held throughout the year.
Home to over 200 rescued animals, the Dean Farm Trust sanctuary gives a home to animals who have been saved from neglect or abandonment. They hold many events and open days throughout the year and it is a lovely day out for the family getting up close to the animals. Check their website for the dates of upcoming events.
Wonderful at any time of year, Nagshead Nature Reserve is a mature oak woodland full of life. Various species of birds visit here at different times of year and you may see woodpeckers. Amongst the trees keep an eye out for fallow deer and wild boar.
The experienced and award-winning team offer a range of relaxing and beauty treatments. Choose from a deep tissue massage, a pamper package for total serenity or a beauty treatment including waxing and pedicures. Men, women and girls aged between 4-16 are welcome.
Experienced complementary therapist Sarah offers a range of holistic healing. She focuses on treating the body as a whole, including the mind and emotions. The therapies on offer include reiki, Swedish body massage, reflexology and hot stone treatments. Manicures and pedicures are also available.
Have the day to yourself at Nightingale Holistics. Relax in the drawing room with a drink and snacks, enjoy the hot tub on the terrace, laze in front of the fire in winter and soak up the sun in the garden in summer. Treatments can include a variety of massages, facials or a rehydration treatment.
Drift away in your private floatation pod and experience total relaxation. The warm water is made up of a high percentage of Epsom salts so you are able to peacefully float on the surface as it works its magic. The rest of the world drifts away as you benefit from the health benefits which can include relief from chronic pain and improved sleep.
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Please Note: Information correct at time of publishing. Please check the destination/attraction direct website before visiting to confirm opening hours and visitor details.