Home to some of Gloucestershire’s most popular family attractions and open spaces that get tourists travelling to the area from far and wide, the Forest of Dean has many more special spots that go under the radar, too – from an Edwardian cinema to romantic private gardens.
Supporting Visit Dean Wye’s mission to encourage visitors to #GoFindFreedom in the Forest, SoGlos shares 8 hidden gem attractions and lesser-known destinations for those looking to explore the ancient area a little deeper.
1. Lydney Harbour
One of the Forest’s best-kept secrets is getting its moment to shine in 2022, as the extensive £2.1 million Destination Lydney Harbour regeneration project nears completion – transforming the historic dockland into a recreational hotspot for visitors to discover.
Stroll along the riverside pathway, passing fascinating sculptures and wildlife-watching spots; marvel at the Severn Estuary’s massive tidal range, which can surge up to 15 metres; grab a coffee from the new HiPS Harbourside café; and wander around the heritage buildings, soaking up the harbour’s history as a port of trade since Roman times.
2. Palace Cinema in Cinderford
Film fans can catch family flicks and the biggest blockbusters at the Palace Cinema – Cinderford’s two-screen movie theatre that was originally built in 1910, making it one of the oldest purpose-built cinemas that’s still operating in the UK today.
And with all screenings priced at £4.50 for all ages, the Edwardian cinema is an affordable find for anyone looking to get their film fix.
3. Hopewell Colliery near Coleford
Tunnel underground and immerse yourself in the Forest’s rich mining history by taking an expert-led tour of the working coal mine at Hopewell Colliery.
Don a helmet and follow an experienced freeminer into the depths of the colliery, exploring the mine workings and feeling your way through tunnels that have been dug out since the early 1800s; all while hearing about the tradition of freemining, which is unique to the Forest of Dean, before resurfacing into the most picturesque coalfield in the world.
4. Briery Hill Llamas near Newent
A must-visit for animal lovers, Briery Hill Llamas is a rural haven for its resident herd – and offers unique trekking experiences for guests to meet and interact with its gentle and sociable llamas.
With a llama by your side, take a walk through the picture-perfect surrounds and farmland, which is also home to rescued pigs, hens and other fluffy friends; wrapping it up with a homemade afternoon tea at the farm.
5. Tan House near Coleford
The perfect base for anyone looking to stay in the Forest of Dean a little longer, Tan House is a unique holiday home in the village of Newland. Architecturally stunning, it’s an example of an Italianate villa, built in the 17th century.
Guests can bed down in the exquisite five-bedroom garden wing with views over 20 acres of landscaped grounds and the option to splash out on a private chef for the ultimate luxury experience.
6. Float in the Forest near Lydney
Hit the reset button at Float in the Forest, a floatation centre that offers a special relaxation therapy in Whitecroft near Lydney.
Feel weightless in one of its floatation pods, which offer a dark, noiseless environment to heighten the senses; where the gentle support of the buoyant, Epsom-salted water is so comfortable that you might even find yourself drifting off to sleep.
7. The Black Dog in Newent
Oozing with olde-worlde charm, The Black Dog is a lovingly restored, half-timbered pub that dates back to the 18th century – and those hunting for a proper pint can be confident they’ll find something to whet their whistle, with a huge selection of real ale, cider and perry.
The pub has also been handpicked for The Good Beer Guide for two years running, chosen by CAMRA members for the 2021 and 2022 editions for its top-notch cask beers. As well as beer lovers, The Black Dog offers a warm welcome to families and dogs, too.
8. Forest Deli in Coleford
For a local foodie fix, head to Forest Deli in the centre of Coleford, where produce from the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley takes pride of place. The extensive cheese counter packs a punch, championing cheeses from the area – including the famous Stinking Bishop, which is produced in nearby Dymock.
With a whole host of local beers, ciders, gins and wines, baked goods and freshly-made deli delights, too, customers can also order an artisan picnic to take with them on a Forest adventure; or pick up a carefully-curated hamper for someone special.