The Forest of Dean and Wye Walley is one of my favourite inland destinations for staycations and day trips. I have spent decades on and off visiting the area including countless camping trips. The area is very popular with nature lovers as well as those looking for outdoor adventure.
The area is a diverse habitat for wildlife and if lucky you will see some including Wild Boar, deer, snakes and birds of prey to name a few.
The Forest of Dean
This is an ancient woodland located in the Western part of the county of Gloucestershire in England. The forest comprises of more than 110 square kilometres of mixed woodland and is absolutely stunning. The area historically is known for coal mining, ironwork, forestry and manufacture of charcoal. The area has a very rich history and has been reserved as a royal hunting ground including for the Tudor kings and earlier Royals.
The Wye Valley is designated as an AONB and includes the area either side of the River Wye in both England and Wales. The Wye Valley starts just south of Hereford and continues all the way to Chepstow where the 5th largest river in the UK meets the River Severn, the longest river in the UK. The Valley is located in 3 counties, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. It’s recognised mostly for its pretty limestone gorge scenery, dense native woodlands, diverse British wildlife, archaeological significance and industrial heritage.
My Favourite Parts
Some of my favourite parts of the local area, my particular passion is walking as well as enjoying the scenery. The list below includes some popular attractions and some of the best places in my opinion for a walk or bike ride.
Walking Symonds Yat to Biblins
The walk from Symonds Yat to Biblins footbridge and back is a nice hike along the river banks of the Wye. This is pretty walking, especially if you cross the footbridge to return to the start point on the opposite bank. There is loads of beautiful scenery to see on both sides of the river including some fun using the hand-ferry when you return to the beginning of the circular walk near to The Saracens Head pub. If lucky you can see the peregrine falcons flying overhead.
Mallards Pike Lake
This is an area of the forest with a picnic area on a very pretty lake. There are loads of walking and cycling options in this area. Nearby is the GoApe activity centre where you can enjoy a variety of activities including zip wires and various climbing activities.
Canoeing or Kayacking
There are plenty of canoe or kayak hire companies on the river, most based at Symonds Yat West. There are opportunities to take part in trips from 1/2 day adventures to multi-day excursions from much further upstream. The Symonds Yat area is home to some popular grade 2 rapids used for training and playboating. A hand-powered trip is a fantastic way to enjoy the stunning scenery while having some fun. Canoe Hire…
Symonds Yat Rock
This is a viewpoint above the village of Symonds yat and the River Wye and has some magnificent and iconic views. From the rock, you can view with binoculars nesting peregrine falcons as well as the views from above. The area is very popular with photographers and makes for some great photos throughout the seasons. Symonds Yat Rock has both cycle and walking trails for you to enjoy as well as a nice picnic area to enjoy a bite to eat. https://www.forestryengland.uk/symonds-yat-rock
Visit or stay in Coleford a small market town in the heart of the Forest of Dean, a great base camp for any adventure in the area. The town has a very special deli, independent food stores, some nice pubs and restaurants. The centre of town is marked by a nice clock tower and is surrounded by woodland. Coleford has a natural charm and when there seems to have a leisurely vibe and very easy to relax.
Cannop Ponds in The Forest of Dean
Cannop Ponds a beautiful area which is based around 2 ponds that are full of wildlife including many varieties of wildfowl. The site has a picnic area and alfresco eating here is magnificent in all seasons. The area is wooded with walking or cycling trails, a great place for circular walks or to get off-road on the bike. Not far away is the Speechhouse Hotel, a former hunting lodge is a nice place for a drink, a meal or if visiting the area a great place to stay.
Combine walking with art and some nature threw in when you visit The Sculpture Trail. The trail consists of a variety of sculptures by some great artists that blend in perfectly with the forest. I have seen a variety of wildlife here on my last visit was a Buzzard in a nearby tree as well as the dog getting hissed at by an unfriendly adder. My favourite sculpture on the trail is called Cathedral, which is a large stained glass window above one of the woodland paths. https://www.forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk/
An underground museum providing an enjoyable and interesting experience learning about mining in the area while actually in the mine. The main attraction is the show cave but there are opportunities for you to venture deeper for the more adventurous. Deep level caving is available in the labyrinth of caves covering 250 acres to a depth of 62 metres. https://clearwellcaves.com/
One of my favourite villages on the river Wye, the village is joined to Penault by a disused railway bridge and had pubs on either side serving food and drink. The area is great for walking either along the river through meadows or into the woods of the steep valley. The area also is used by wild swimmers or kayakers ending their journey on the Wye. https://www.redbrookvillage.co.uk/
Puzzlewood is an ancient woodland site and tourist attraction that has also been used for filming many movies/TV shows including Dr Who and Star Wars. This is a unique and atmospheric area of ancient woodland that really gets the imagination going. Puzzlewood is a great day our for children and includes, various walks, mazes and farm animals to interact with. https://www.puzzlewood.net/
Nagshead nature reserve is an area of oak woodland that is heaven for nature lovers and birdwatchers. You can see all three of the UK’s woodpecker species here in the summer, nuthatches in autumn as well as seeing the local goshawks in action in the colder months. https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/nagshead/
Dean Forest Railway
For those that like history or steam trains the Dean Forest Railway is a great day out for you. This is a restored heritage railway line between Lydney and Parkend with steam trains to travel on. This is a great day out in my opinion where you can visit museums, enjoy train rides and explore the villages on the branch line. Parkend the last stop is a great place for food, especially at the Nagshead Pub.
Where To Stay
There are many options locally to stay including hotels, camping and boutique bed and breakfasts. All Options…
Camping is my prefered accommodation type when visiting the area and my favourite campsite is Greenacres which is located on the hill just above Coleford. The site is pretty and has great amenities like a shower room, toilets, and electricity hookup as well as supplying fire pits for you to sit and enjoy a campfire.
Kings Head Symonds Yat
A posh bed and breakfast located on the riverbanks in the heart of the Wye valley. The B&B is located close to all of the watersports places on the river in a very picturesque gorge. The King’s Head is also a pub and restaurant that serves great food. There are 9 rooms available for holidaymakers and all tastefully decorated and come with a Full English Breakfast. More info…
The Speechhouse Hotel is a posh hotel and former hunting lodge in the centre of the Forest of Dean, near to the Sculpture Trail. The hotel has 35 en-suite bedrooms including some really nice rooms with 4 poster beds and even family rooms, some of which are dog-friendly. The Speechhouse also has a bar and restaurant that serves some great food for lunch or an evening meal. More info…
The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley is a stunning area with lots to see and do at your own pace. There are plenty of opportunities for adventure or relaxation or to be at one with nature. Possibly my favourite part of England especially for outdoor adventures.