A weekend in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

Ellie Ross
The Forest Deli, Tudor Farmhouse and Forest Holidays are just few activities available in Gloucestershire

Sandwiched between the Severn and the Wye rivers, the ancient Forest of Dean is England's largest oak woodland. Its landscape, dotted with 20 million trees, was once a hunting ground for Norman kings, and its mysterious depths are said to have provided the inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings.

Harry Potter fans may also find something familiar beneath the leafy canopy, as some scenes of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows were filmed here.

Designated as England's first National Forest Park in 1938, the sprawling woodland is packed with outdoor activities for families and adventure-lovers. They range from gentle strolls through the woods to stand-up paddle boarding down the river.

But there’s more to the Forest of Dean region than its beautiful woodland. In the towns – Newent, Cinderford, Coleford and Lydney – you’ll find the England of 50 years ago, with charming pubs and cottages, quiet harbours and quaint cobbled streets.

Here’s our guide to where to stay and eat, plus what to do, in the Forest of Dean.

Where to stay

If you’re on a budget

Thrifty travellers should book into a lodge with Forest Holidays. The 120 cabins – which feature hot tubs – are tucked away amongst trees and meadows, surrounded by a maze of forest walks and trails. There’s a shop, café, and bar onsite, and the Forest Ranger can help you book activities like night-time wildlife rambles and bike hire. A four-night stay costs from £35 (per person) per night based on four sharing.

Book the hotel here

A Golden Oak Cabin at Forest Holidays [Photo: Forest Holidays]

If you’re looking for luxury

In Coleford, The Speech House Hotel is a 17th-century hunting lodge that has been lovingly transformed into a hotel with 35 smart bedrooms featuring four-poster beds and antique furniture. Located in the heart of the forest, staff can help organise activities that include rock climbing, mountain biking and canoeing.

Some rooms are also dog-friendly if you’re looking to bring your pooch (£10 supplement per night). Two nights’ half-board costs from £139 per person based on two sharing, including a cream tea.

Book the hotel here

The 17th-century exterior of the Speech House [Photo: We Are The Wild Weddings]

Where to eat

If you’re on a budget

Pick up picnic supplies at Forest Deli, where you’ll find an impressive array of local cheeses. The shop is eco-conscious and provide you with jute bags and compostable cutlery. Stock up on homemade sausage rolls and gooey brownies to take on a Forest of Dean picnic.

If you’re looking for a proper stop, head to the family-run Beechenhurst Café for a Woodman’s breakfast (£5.95) or a fresh baguette (£4.50). A children's menu is also available.

The Forest Deli in Coleford [Photo: Forest Deli]

If you’re looking for luxury

Tudor Farm House is a boutique hotel with a great restaurant that showcases local ingredients (most sourced within a 20 mile radius). Head there for lunch or the evening tasting menu (£60). Menu highlights include old Spot pork belly with apple, chorizo and squid, and Wye Valley asparagus with truffled duck yolk emulsion.

The dining room at Tudor Farmhouse [Photo: Tudor Farmhouse]

What to do

If you’re on a budget

It won’t cost you a penny to head to Forest of Dean Sculpture trail and go sculpture-spotting. The 4.5 mile-long trail through towering oaks and pines has 22 installations inspired by the surrounding trees and wildlife, and the forest’s industrial past. Kids will love walking underneath a stained glass window hung high in the tree canopy. And don’t miss the Iron Road, a sculpture by Keir Smith, that features 20 sleepers on a former railway line carved with images of the forest.

The stained glass window hidden in the Forest of Dean, Beechenhurst

If you’re looking for luxury

Set in 14 acres of ancient woodland, Puzzlewood is a magical forest with a mile of meandering pathways. The trail takes you through a wonderland of deep ravines and moss-covered rocks, over wooden bridges and past fascinating tree and rock formations.

Said to be the inspiration for JRR Tolkien's forests of Middle Earth in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, this was also where films including Star Wars and Doctor Who were shot. Family prices from £25 (two adults and two children). Adult ticket £7.

One of the wooden bridges at Puzzlewood in Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

How to get there

The easiest way to reach the Forest of Dean is by car. It takes around 45 mins from Bristol, less than three hours from London and less than two hours from Birmingham. Or, if you’re travelling by train, the nearest station is Lydney.

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