Nestled across the counties of Gloucestershire, and boarded by the River Wye, the Royal Forest of Dean has had many jobs over the years. Originally a medieval hunting ground, under Henry VIII it became a source of timber for Tudor warships. During Victorian times, it was a major site of industry with its thick woodland punctuated by coal mines and tram mines. Today, however, the forest is what it was always meant to be. A lush and beautiful adventure playground. So if you visit Forest of Dean, here are five things to do.
1. Explore Clearwell Caves
Best for: An adventure underground.
For over 42 square miles, the Forest of Dean provides us with some of the most beautiful woodlands in Britain. Walk amongst its gorgeous thick trees or explore the forest’s magical underground. Step beneath the surface and take a guided tour of the mystical Clearwell Caves.
Learn about the cave’s incredible mining industry that provided iron ore and ochre powders to arm soldiers and equip painters since the stone age. Once you’ve worked up an appetite wandering underground, head back up to the nearby village of Clearwell. Here you can explore the many quaint country pubs and independent shopping spots.
2. Ride the Dean Forest Railway
Best for: Seeing the local scenery.
No mode of transport can compare to steam trains – the romance, the history and the unforgettable click-clack of wheels on the track. And this gets even better when you can gaze out of the window and see one of Britain’s most beautiful forests passing you by.
Gently chugging across four and a half miles of wonderful woodland, The Dean Forest Railway is the best way to see Gloucestershire. What’s more, with five working stations along the way, you’ll have time to explore the area’s best woodland walks and decide which country pubs are worth a visit.
3. Tour the movie spots at Puzzlewood
Best for: Seeing where the magic happens.
As well as being home to some of the most beautiful walking routes in the country, the distinctive scenery of the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean has provided a backdrop for countless Hollywood blockbusters. One of the few things Harry Potter, Darth Vader and Dr Who have in common, is they’ve all wandered through the Forest of Dean.
If you fancy an afternoon of saying ‘oh wow, I recognise that!’, take a tour of Puzzlewood. It’s quite possibly the most magical patch of woodland in the forest and a favourite spot for Hollywood filmmakers. Amongst the gnarled and knotted trees, Doctor Who has battled with the Weeping Angels and Harry Potter has searched for Gryffindor’s sword. The adventures of Atlantis, Merlin, Star Wars, Wizards vs Aliens and countless other classics have also wandered here.
4. Investigate the Dean Heritage Centre
Best for: Family-friendly fun.
Whether it’s a rainy day or sunny afternoon, the Dean Heritage Centre is the perfect place to take the little ones. Set amongst five acres of stunning scenery, the visitor centre has tasked itself with preserving the unique and fascinating history of the Forest of Dean, in the most interesting and interactive way possible.
With so much to explore, it may be worth planning more than one trip here during your stay. Featuring five on-site interactive galleries, walk you through the area’s extensive history. Step inside a Victorian Cottage, and see how residents lived here over two centuries ago. Explore the Charcoal Burners Camp, and take part in demonstrations of a traditional turf and earth charcoal burning. And don’t miss the woodland trail walk, based on the award-winning children’s book, The Gruffalo.
5. Follow the Sculpture Trail
Best for: An artistic wander
Welcoming over 300,000 visitors every year, the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail is perhaps the area’s most cultured outdoor activity. Spread across four and a half miles, the trail features 18 pieces of art, specially made to represent the history and complement the natural beauty of each location.
The sculptures are hidden amongst the natural landscape, intertwining with the woodland, meaning you have to seek them out. In searching, you’ll find yourself taking a closer look at the forest and further appreciating the area’s outstanding natural beauty. Ideal for all ages and abilities, it’s a great plan for families. Combine class and culture with the thrill of a scavenger hunt! Best of all, access to the route is completely free, meaning you can save your money for food and tour guides in the beautiful Beechenhurst Cafe.
More things to do in the Forest of Dean
- Events in and around the Forest of Dean
- Activities in and around the Forest of Dean
- Accommodation in the Forest of Dean
- Location map of the Forest of Dean