Forest of Dean visitors guide

Plan your upcoming visit to the Forest of Dean with SoGlos’s definitive guide on where to stay, shop, eat and what’s on in this leafy corner of Gloucestershire.

Introduction to the Forest of Dean

Situated in the south west of England, the Forest of Dean is a region of ancient woodlands in Gloucestershire that spans more than 110 square kilometres, bounded by the Rivers Wye and Severn and the city of Gloucester.

Since being designated as the UK’s first national forest park in 1938, the area has been a haven for lovers of natural beauty and outdoor leisure pursuits, with a history rich in geographical, industrial and cultural importance thanks to its roots in forestry, iron working and coal mining.

The stunning scenery, rocky ravines, trails and caves all add to its unique charm and character that has inspired everyone from artists and inventors to poets and playwrights over the years.

Coupled with an abundance of attractions, independent shopping, accommodation and restaurant options, there’s more than enough to keep even the most discerning tourist occupied, whether stopping off in towns such as Newent, Cinderford, Lydney, Coleford and Mitcheldean or passing through smaller villages including Longhope, Clearwell, Newnham-on-Severn or Bream.

Also see SoGlos’s Gloucestershire visitors guide, Cheltenham visitors guide, Cotswolds visitors guide, Gloucester visitors guide and Tewkesbury visitors guide.

Where to stay in the Forest of Dean

While the Forest of Dean may not offer the array of luxurious accommodation that some tourists are accustomed to, there’s plenty of cosy B&Bs peppered around the likes of Lydbrook, Huntley, Coleford, Newent, Longhope and Lydney – many of which are located in listed buildings, overlooking rivers and valleys, with some boasting their own bars and restaurants too.

If it’s a bucolic boutique hotel you’re after, check out Tudor Farmhouse Hotel in Clearwell which benefits from stylish interiors, roll top baths, monsoon showers and Nespresso machines, while the on-site restaurant offers a tasty locally-sourced menu.

For a true forester’s experience, there’s self catering accommodation situated on a handful of working farms, spanning arable, cattle and dairy, while the more hardened travellers can pitch up at one of the many camping and caravan sites, which offer a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside. Whitemead Forest Park in Lydney, complete with camping options aplenty and even an eco-friendly glamping pod, makes for a delightful base for exploring the area with all the family.

See SoGlos’s dedicated venue listings for bed and breakfasts, camping, farm stays, mid-range hotels and budget hotels in the Forest of Dean. And don’t miss SoGlos’s Gloucestershire hotel reviews for a critic’s insight into Forest of Dean accommodation.

Things to do in the Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean is home to a wide range of attractions suitable for the whole family; some of them man-made, some completely natural, but all well worth a visit.

Whether whiling away an afternoon discovering the area’s history on a stroll through a nature reserve, taking a steam train through the forest canopy or a cruising down the River Wye sounds like your ideal pursuit, there’s no shortage of ideas for things to see and do in the Forest of Dean.

To discover more about the history of the area head to Dean Heritage Centre which also has a jam-packed programme of family-friendly events throughout the year. Other popular attractions include Clearwell Caves, Dean Forest Railway & Museum and the International Centre for Birds of Prey.

Plan your trip to the Forest with SoGlos’s dedicated venue listings for attractions, days out, mazes, museums, wildlife centres and sport and outdoor venues in the Forest of Dean.

Eating out in the Forest of Dean

After an adventurous day out exploring all that the Forest of Dean has to offer, you’ll want a hearty meal to see you right. And while you won’t find a great deal of exotic eateries, there’s a plethora of traditional British inns and cafés, and Indian and Chinese restaurants and takeaways throughout the area that will get those tastebuds tingling.

Alternatively, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a foodie, Harts Barn Cookery School in Longhope offers cookery classes suitable for all ages, from the basics to banquets, throughout the year.

See SoGlos’s dedicated venue listings for Forest of Dean restaurants, as well as the more specific British restaurants, cafes and tea rooms, Indian restaurants and Chinese takeaways in the Forest of Dean. And for a critic’s guide to eating out in the region, see SoGlos’s Gloucestershire restaurant reviews.

Shopping in the Forest of Dean

The market towns and picturesque villages of the Forest of Dean combine a unique character and charm you’ll be hard pushed to find elsewhere. Sprinkled far and wide, there are an impressive number of independent shops where a treasure trove of trinkets and a warm, friendly service await both locals and tourists alike.

From butchers, bakers and award-winning bookshops to traditional sweet shops, delicatessens and craft centres, fine local produce, cultural knick knacks and unusual gift ideas throughout the towns and villages of Lydney, Coleford, Newnham and Cinderford. If you’re looking for gifts or hand-made treats head to Harts Barn Craft Centre in Longhope where you’ll find a host of locally-made treasures, while Taurus Crafts in Lydney is perfect for stocking up on unique finds.

Meanwhile, fashionistas can get their fix by heading further afield to Gloucester Quays and Labels Outlet Shopping centre in Ross-on-Wye, which are both brimming with a mix of high street and designer labels, cafés and restaurants.

Events in the Forest of Dean

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Whether you’re day-tripping or holidaying in the Forest of Dean, you’re sure to find something to make your trip all the more memorable with SoGlos’s annual calendar highlights throughout the region:

Coleford Carnival of Transport in April
Coleford Busking Festival in May
Dean Fire and Wood Festival in June
Festival in the Forest in July
Coleford Music Festival in August
Newent Onion Fayre in September
Forest Showcase in October

Sport in the Forest of Dean

While there’s acres of thickets, caves and wildlife to discover throughout the Forest of Dean, whether it be by rail, boat or good old fashioned walking, sporty types and adrenaline junkies alike are more than catered for too.

One of the most popular attractions is Go Ape! in Lydney, which provides the perfect setting in which to unleash your inner Tarzan through a series of wind-in-your-face zip wires, tricky crossings, timber tunnels, tree top walkways and more.

Other notable sports and outdoor pursuits available include climbing, golf, water sports and archery.

Getting around the Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean is a haven for cyclists and ramblers looking for some time out from bustling city life, but for those wanting to explore the whole region or venture further afield, there are some bus services running throughout most of the towns and villages – but as these can be few and far between, SoGlos recommends driving or hiring a car or taxi to give you the freedom to roam whenever you wish.

There are also regular heritage steam and diesel services running between Lydney, Whitecroft and Parkend, while the nearest major stations are located in Lydney and Gloucester.

Map of the Forest of Dean

See SoGlos’s Google-powered Gloucestershire Interactive Map to explore the Forest of Dean in incredible detail – including everything from accommodation and restaurants, to attractions, wildlife centres and much more.

© SoGlos
Friday 30 June 2017

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