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Things to do in the Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean offers a huge range of activities for the outdoor loving visitor. This ancient Forest is rich in history and incredible wildlife. You can visit hilltop Iron Age forts, Victorian coal mines or the many castles that mark the Welsh border nearby. If you are lucky, you might spot a sounder of boar, or glimpse the beavers or pine martens that have recently been reintroduced to the area. The Forest is also outstanding for sporting activities. The Forest of Dean mountain bike trails are some of the best in the UK, from single track to full on downhill. There is canoeing on the Severn and Wye rivers and rock climbing up the limestone crags that line the Wye Valley. Covering the high ground between the cliffs of the Wye Valley to the West, and the meanders of the Severn to the East, the landscape is diverse and offers excellent hiking, including Offa’s Dyke long distance path that runs along the western edge of the district.
Two cyclists follow a sun dappled trail through the oak trees in the Forest of Dean


Take your pick. A nine mile family cycle trail in the heart of the Forest of Dean. Or, if you fancy something a bit more challenging, take on the Verderers and Freeminer cross-country trails or the numerous downhill runs, officially at the cycle centre, or unofficially throughout the forest (get in touch if you want to find out more about these).

Trail maps and info here:  www.forestryengland.uk/forest-dean-cycle-centre 

Cycle hire, cafe, bike shop and parking information:


There is fantastic walking to be had through contrasting landscapes. Walks out of Swallow Barn Woodland campsite take you from the wood, along cliff tops to the open meadows beside the estuary. A short drive into the forest accesses miles of trails through oak, chestnut and conifer stands. The Wye Valley is slightly further but has stunning views and the Offa’s Dyke long distance footpath running alongside it.

Routes Around the Campsite

Further Afield

The River Wye seen from high above, passes under an old railway bridge at Redbrook, heavily wooded hills climb steeply either side
A paddle boarder moves upstream in the mid-distance, on the Rive Wye. Thickly wooded hills rise steeply from the banks.

Canoeing & Paddle Boarding

The River Wye is only 20 mins away and hiring a Canadian canoe or paddle board is a great way to experience the beauty of it. Why not rent one for a half or full day? Group bookings available.


The western side of the Forest of Dean runs along the border with Wales and the area has a rich and, at times, violent history, as evidenced by the number of castles. St Briavels is one of our favourites; it was the administrative and judicial centre of the Forest of Dean until around the 15th Century. Entry is free and you can even stay there in the Youth Hostel.

Goodrich, another favourite, is much grander and the view of the Forest of Dean from the keep is stunning. Probably the most impressive is Chepstow castle, its intact walls looming over the Wye close to the old bridge. Chepstow Castle hosts many interesting events throughout the summer, and it is worth checking the website for the schedule.

Detail of distinctive stonework at the base of Marten's Tower, Chepstow Castle, comprising square limstone foundations merging into the cylindrical tower.
A man in red shorts climbs the vertical limestone crag at Symonds Yat, seen from below with brightly coloured ropes leading down to the camera


The Wye valley is famous for its limestone crags and classic trad and newer sport routes, from Wintours Leap and Woodcroft quarry near Chepstow in the South, to Ban-Y-Gor,  Wynd Cliff, Shorn Cliff up to Symonds Yat in the north. The Climber’s Club guides to the Lower Wye Valley and Symonds Yat are now out of print, but can picked up second hand via the usual channels

Go Ape

For the less experienced climbers we highly recommend Go Ape at Mallards Pike, just 10 minutes drive from Swallow Barn Woodland Campsite. There’s also another site a bit further at Beechenhurst that caters for children over one metre tall.

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