7 fascinating towns and villages to explore in the Forest of Dean

From vintage cinemas and Norman castles to microbreweries and craft centres, tap into a world of local history, culture and good food when exploring the Forest of Dean’s towns and villages.

By Annabel Lammas  |  Published
Lydney Harbour
Plan your next day out with 7 fascinating towns and villages to discover when visiting the Forest of Dean.

We love its enchanting woodland and ancient landscapes, but the Forest of Dean is so much more than the great outdoors – with its medieval roots, mining history and a host of local producers and independent businesses to discover in its towns and villages.

Whether you’re looking for a cultural day out, shopping spree or a foodie tour, discover SoGlos’s top 7 destinations to visit when exploring the Forest of Dean – all within easy reach of some of Gloucestershire’s best-loved attractions, too.

1. Visit Cinderford

Now one of the Forest’s main commercial hubs, Cinderford is a former mining town that sprang up in the 19th century – with an impressive statue of a free miner celebrating its industrial heritage in the town centre.

With plenty of shops, eateries and attractions to discover, visitors can take part in activities and workshops at Artspace Cinderford, drink real ale at charming micropub, The Dog House, shop for vintage records at Forest Vinyl, or catch a film at the historic Palace Cinema – one of the UK’s oldest movie theatres that’s still running.

Nearby, there’s the chance to uncover the Forest of Dean’s rich history at the Dean Heritage Centre, where kids will love exploring the interactive exhibits, including a replica free mine and Victorian schoolroom.

2. Visit Coleford

A picturesque market town in the heart of the Forest, Coleford is famous for its vibrant festivals – spoiling visitors and locals with everything from artisan food markets to the chance to see vintage vehicles at the annual Carnival of Transport.

As well as making the most of the town’s busy events calendar, tourists can find foodie inspiration at Forest Deli, with local produce and an enviable cheese counter; tuck into tapas and cocktails at Ritmo Tapas Bar and enjoy independent shopping opportunities around the clock tower.

What’s more, Coleford is ideally located for those looking to visit some of Gloucestershire’s best family attractions – with Clearwell Caves, Perrygrove Railway and Puzzlewood all within easy reach.

3. Visit Lydney 

Described as the ‘gateway to the Forest of Dean’, Lydney is home to some of the area’s biggest attractions – from steam train experiences at Dean Forest Railway to summer swims at Bathurst Pool, as well as the historic Lydney Harbour, which is currently being regenerated.

Its bustling town centre offers a host of shopping and dining opportunities, with highlights including contemporary fare at The Ugly Duckling in The Swan Hotel.

Nearby, Taurus Crafts offers a mixture of arts and craft activities with a lovely café, while Lydney Park invites visitors to explore its picture-perfect grounds and Roman ruins on selected days.

4. Visit Newent

With a 17th century market house and striking monochrome buildings that date back to medieval times, Newent oozes charm as one of the Forest of Dean’s oldest towns.

It’s renowned for playing host to the annual Onion Fayre, but also has a thriving independent shopping scene too. Meanwhile, foodie visitors can enjoy afternoon tea and picking up local produce at All Seasons Delicatessen, or raising a glass at The Black Dog, where Gumbie’s Wood Fired Pizza pops up on Saturdays.

Just outside the town, encounter hawks and falcons at the International Centre of Birds of Prey, trek with llamas at Briery Hill Llamas, or sample local wines at Three Choirs Vineyard.

5. Visit Mitcheldean

Mitcheldean is a lively village on the edge of the Forest that’s bursting with history. From its timbered buildings and narrow streets to the medieval church of St Michael and All Angels, which offers a rare example of a 15th century Doom Painting, there’s lots to see.

Once a former a hub for the local brewing industry, revellers won’t be short of watering holes either, with The Bespoke Brewing Co. and Jolter Press both on the site of the old brewery. The village was also home to the Rank Xerox photocopier factory, with a museum dedicated to its history inside the town hall.

6. Visit St Briavels

A must-visit for history buffs, the ancient village of St Briavels is bound to impress with its remarkable 12th century castle, which now operates as a youth hostel, and a Norman church.

There’s a cosy pub, The George Inn, and plenty of chances to pick up local produce at the farmers’ market, which comes to the village on the first Saturday of every month. Plus, swing by The Pantry, a community deli run by volunteers that has everything from local ales, ciders, cheese and chutneys to store cupboard staples.

7. Visit Longhope 

As well as the popular Hillside Brewery, tourists can find lots to do in the picturesque village of Longhope – from taking a fun food class at Harts Barn Cookery School to letting the little ones run wild at children’s activity centre, Dick Whittington Park.

Visitors can also stop for sweet treats at The Old Dairy Tearoom, browse the independent outlets at Harts Barn Craft Centre, or enjoy freshly-baked bread and pastries from The Forest Bakehouse.

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