With natural beauty all around, getting out and about in Gloucestershire’s gorgeous countryside is a great way to help improve your mood and mental health.
But the county offers so much more than just nature walks – with SoGlos uncovering alternative therapies, craft workshops, outdoor art galleries, relaxing spas and much more, to help give your wellbeing a much-needed boost.
Go leaf peeping in Gloucestershire
Spending time in nature can help alleviate stress, inspire creativity and help us be more mindful, so grab a camera and get outside!
As the UK’s number one leaf peeping destination, the Forest of Dean is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. There are more than 20 million trees with colours spanning verdant greens in spring and summer, to vibrant yellows, reds, oranges and golds during autumn – so there’s something beautiful to look at all year round.
Gloucestershire is also home to Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, which has five national tree collections, not to mention its incredible STIHL Tree Top Walkway, providing visitors with prime leaf peeping conditions high up in the tree canopy. Meanwhile, Batsford Arboretum is home to the National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries, which burst into beautiful pinks in spring and flaming reds in autumn.
Try your hand at crafts in Gloucestershire
Cirencester’s New Brewery Arts recently shared how crafting can have a hugely positive effect on our mental health, helping people to manage moods and block out stress and anxiety – not to mention learn fun new skills.
Gloucestershire has an abundance of places to try your hand at crafting, with workshops on making shadow puppets, drawing mythical creatures and creative writing at Prema Arts Centre in Uley; basket weaving, printmaking and ceramics at Artspace in Cinderford; and jewellery-making, macramé, calligraphy, linocut printing and more at New Brewery Arts, to name just a few.
Give floatation therapy a try in the Forest of Dean
Float in the Forest offers a completely immersive experience in its unique floatation pods. With water saturated with Epsom salts and heated to around skin temperature, your body floats effortlessly – providing a sense of weightlessness.
Floatation is said to help relieve pain, improve circulation, calm the mind and improve sleep quality, while also providing a chance to meditate. The unique warmth and buoyancy provided by floating can also be enhanced by floating in the dark, to increase awareness of the sensations in your body and relax more deeply.
See some outdoor art in Gloucestershire
Engaging with visual arts can help to reduce anxiety, according to research from University College London – so pairing stunning artwork with Gloucestershire’s incredible natural beauty gives visitors and locals a double dose of mental wellness.
There are plenty of opportunities to see fantastic art out in the wild in Gloucestershire, with outdoor galleries like the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail at Beechenhurst and Cotswold Sculpture Park near Cirencester, thought-provoking public artworks at Lydney Harbour, as well as art events such as Gloucester Bright Nights and Cheltenham Paint Festival.
Reconnect with nature on a Gloucestershire glamping trip
Leave daily life behind and spend a blissful weekend reconnecting with nature on a Gloucestershire glamping trip – with so many options from cosy couples retreats to family-friendly destinations.
Snuggle up in your very own treehouse; slip into a wood-fired hot tub and soak your stresses away; or cook up a storm on an outdoor fire pit, before settling down for a night under the stars.
For inspiration, see SoGlos’s pick of sustainable staycations in Gloucestershire.
Relax on a spa day in Gloucestershire
For a truly indulgent experience, treat yourself to a spa day in Gloucestershire – with a myriad of treatments on offer, from relaxing massages to invigorating scrubs, not to mention stunning hydrotherapy pools, saunas, steam rooms and Jacuzzi tubs.
Some of our favourites include the luxurious Cowley Manor and the five-star Ellenborough Park near Cheltenham; the spa at Barnsley House near Cirencester; Calcot & Spa in the Cotswolds; and the spa at Hatherley Manor near Gloucester.
Learn to cook something healthy and delicious at a Gloucestershire cookery school
A healthy diet is hugely important for mental wellbeing, with the gut and brain being closely linked together. Whether you’re a whizz in the kitchen or a complete beginner, learning how to whip up a delicious and healthy meal is a great way to be more mindful about what you eat.
There are a wide range of classes and courses available in the county, from foraging walks followed by a class on how to cook with your finds at Harts Barn Cookery School in Longhope; sourdough masterclasses at The Artisan Baker:
Give alternative therapy a go in Gloucestershire
From hands-on treatments like acupuncture, reflexology and Reiki, to meditative sound healing, there are a wide variety of alternative therapies available in Gloucestershire, with the aim to help with mindfulness and mental health.
The Isbourne in Cheltenham is one of the county’s leading alternative therapy venues and offers a range of treatments, including gong baths; mindful movement in the form of yoga and qigong; breath workshops; Reiki; crystal healing; and creative crafts like jewellery-making, too.
Join a Gloucestershire sports club
Exercise can be transformative for both physical and mental health, but if you’re not much of a gym bunny, joining a sports club could help you hit your fitness goals, while making new friends in the process.
Join a local netball league, get your friends together for some five-a-side football, try tennis or go on a Parkrun. There’s even a Gloucestershire Mountaineering Club, for anyone who wants to give rock climbing a go!
Go wild swimming in Gloucestershire
As well as being a great form of exercise, wild swimming has a number of mental health benefits – with immersing the body in cold water said to build resilience, boost dopamine levels and provide a rush of endorphins.
Gloucestershire has some wonderful places for a spot of wild swimming, from simply dipping your toes and going for a paddle at Wenchford; the roughly 2.6-mile swim from Lower Lydbrook to Symonds Yat; to the glorious Lechlade Riverside Park that’s an ideal spot for families.
Wild swimming should be undertaken with extreme caution, avoiding tidal areas, canals, stagnant lakes and flood water. Wear appropriate swim gear and footwear, know your entry and exit points and be aware of boats.
Get your friends together for a meal at a Gloucestershire restaurant
When you’re struggling with your mental health, socialising can be difficult, but sometimes good friends and good food can be just what you need.
Head out on a walk with a cosy Cotswold pub at the end of it; get together for a delicious meal at a local restaurant; or meet up for a quick coffee and some cake at a nearby café. You’re sure to be met with a warm welcome at one of Gloucestershire’s many independent venues.
Embrace your inner child
Sometimes, the best thing to put a smile on your face is embracing your inner child for a while, running around and kicking up piles of leaves in a Gloucestershire park, going on the swings and pretending you’re 10 again.
Or for a fun day out packed with childlike fun, feed the ducks at Slimbridge Wetland Centre near Stroud, with plenty to see, do and learn for the whole family; ideal for even the biggest kids, Go Ape Beechenhurst Lodge and Go Ape Mallards Pike in the Forest of Dean offer thrill-seekers an exciting high ropes experience up in the trees; The Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham has tenpin bowling and adventure golf, for a healthy dose of nostalgia; The Warehouse climbing centre offers indoor climbing and bouldering for children and adults, with plenty of fun challenges to take on; while Krazy Golf in Lydney offers 15 holes of Forest of Dean-themed fun.