Nature-rich reserves, enchanting woodland and dramatic viewpoints that stretch across Gloucestershire and beyond… when it comes to breathtaking beauty spots, the Forest of Dean has it all.
From an exotic tree garden in the heart of the ancient landscape, to summits that are shrouded in myth and legend, SoGlos shares 13 of the most stunning beauty spots to discover in and around the area.
1. Symonds Yat Rock
Offering unparalleled views of the River Wye and its luscious green surrounds, Symonds Yat Rock is an iconic viewpoint on the borders of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, maintained by Forestry England.
It’s one of the best places in the country to spot peregrine falcons, nesting in nearby cliffs, as well as other birds of prey like goshawks and ospreys, swooping across the panorama; with various waymarked walking trails for ramblers of all abilities, too.
2. Blaize Bailey and Soudley Ponds
A steep walk up from Soudley Ponds, Blaize Bailey is a picturesque viewpoint that overlooks a striking horseshoe bend in the River Severn. On a clear day, hikers can see Gloucester Cathedral jutting up in the landscape and make out the undulating Cotswold hills.
Below, Soudley Ponds is a haven for wildlife, with dragonflies darting across the water and brilliant bluebells carpeting the ground in the spring. The circular path around the ponds is surfaced, making it suitable for wheelchair users and pushchairs, as well as great for more leisurely walks.
3. The Cyril Hart Arboretum
One of Gloucestershire’s lesser-known arboretums, the Cyril Hart Arboretum is home to more than 200 trees from all over the world – with blossoming cherry trees, fiery Japanese maples and leafy green conifers in its collection.
The site, which was established in the early 1900s, can be explored along a largely flat stoned path that loops around the grounds and can easily accommodate pushchairs.
4. May Hill
The mystical May Hill is one of the Forest of Dean’s most well-known landmarks, crowned with a clump of ancient trees that are referenced throughout history. Reaching almost 300 metres, the vantage point enjoys spectacular sunrises and sunsets, with views that take in over 12 counties on a clear day.
Reachable by three public footpaths, explorers can also observe midsummer on the summit – a special spiritual site, which hosts summer solstice celebrations each year.
5. Mallards Pike
Nestled in the heart of the Forest of Dean, Mallards Pike is a tranquil beauty spot with a vast lake, enjoyed by ducks and water sports enthusiasts, and surrounded by woodland.
Geared up for gentle walks by the waterfront, the lakeside path is surfaced for wheelchairs and pushchairs; with several benches to perch on and soak up the scenery along the way. The site, which is looked after by Forestry England, also sits on the popular Family Cycle Trail.
6. Pan Tod Beacon
Sat atop Ruardean Hill, Pan Tod Beacon forms part of a striking landmark. Lit to commemorate important occasions, the beacon is accompanied by a poignant statue of a crouching miner, along with a memorial to the miners that lost their lives at the local colliery, Northern United.
As one of the area’s tallest points, Ruardean Hill sits on the northern fringes of the Forest of Dean, offering gorgeous views that reach as far as Wales.
7. Woorgreens Nature Reserve
Woorgreens Nature Reserve near Cannop is a fascinating site. Shaped by open cast mines, the landscape has been reclaimed by nature over the years – and is now made up of marshland, woodland and heathland, with a large lake and pools, that all provide a thriving home for local wildlife.
Its endangered heathland is protected, with grazing creatures like Highland cattle and Exmoor ponies brought in as part of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s conservation efforts. Visit when the sea of heather is in bloom for an Instagram-worthy spectacle.
8. New Fancy Viewpoint
At the end of an unassuming route are some unbeatable views across the Forest of Dean’s vast canopy at the New Fancy Viewpoint.
With a raised viewing area to take it all in, the vantage point sits on the site of the former New Fancy coal mine. Eagle-eyed explorers can even spot fallow deer wandering in the woodlands below, or look to the open sky to see goshawks in action.
9. Highnam Woods
Hear the nightingales sing at Highnam Woods, an RSPB nature reserve on the eastern edge of the Forest of Dean. The ancient woodland is a popular breeding ground for the musical birds in the springtime; as well as home to lesser spotted woodpeckers, hawfinches and many more feathered friends.
Not only a hive of activity for birdwatchers, it’s a wonderful place to see blankets of bluebells in the spring, too.
10. Coppett Hill
Accessible from the village of Goodrich, Coppett Hill enjoys views that stretch across the Forest of Dean to the rolling Malvern Hills and Welsh Black Mountains – with the winding River Wye visible from all angles.
Popular with walkers, with several routes to try, it’s also a favourite local spot for leaf peeping in the autumn, as the landscape bursts into golden oranges and vibrant reds; while bluebells cover the hilltop in the spring.
11. Devil’s Pulpit
Towering above the River Wye, Devil’s Pulpit is a narrow, limestone pillar that boasts magnificent views over the iconic Tintern Abbey – and takes its name from local legend, which says that the devil created the vantage point to preach to the monks below, tempting them to desert their order.
The viewpoint is only accessible on foot via the ancient Offa’s Dyke Footpath, taking in beautiful woodland along the way.
12. Wintour’s Leap and Lancaut
Overlooking a horseshoe bend in the River Wye, Wintour’s Leap is a fantastic limestone viewpoint that’s also a hotspot for rock climbing, set within Lancaut Nature Reserve near the village of Woodcroft.
Explorers can also check out the deserted village of Lancaut below, peppered with the ruins of a 12th century church and home to varied wildlife – with reported sightings of otters, porpoises and even the occasional seal!
13. The Eagle’s Nest
The Eagle’s Nest is celebrated as one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the Wye Valley, with views that take in both the River Wye and the River Severn, stretching out towards the Cotswold hills.
Sat at the top of a steep limestone cliff, accessible via footpaths from the Lower and Upper Wyndcliffe car parks, the striking viewpoint was specially created for the Duke of Beaufort at Badminton House in the early 19th century.