Visit the Forest of Dean
The 42 square miles of mixed woodland and heath enclosed within the Rivers Severn and Wye which make up the Forest of Dean deserve to be much better – known than they are. The Forest has a long and interesting history, many aspects of which are preserved for the visitor. It is also the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting a huge range of activities and facilities. It is one of the few areas in the country where wild boar roam free.
The Forest is readily accessible from the M5 via Gloucester, or the M4/M48 via the Severn Bridge to Chepstow. Hideaways has been letting holiday cottages in and around the area for many years and the wide variety of our properties offers something for every requirement.
King Arthur’s Cave
The Forest has been inhabited since prehistoric times. King Arthur’s Cave near Symonds Yat (see below) provides evidence of settlement from the Old Stone Age.
Iron ore has been mined in the Forest since pre-Roman times. The Caves are a working museum (ochre is still mined here): nine caverns are open for visitors with geological and mining displays.
These strange landscape features ranging from shallow pits to hollows several metres deep and possibly unique to the Forest of Dean are thought to be natural geological occurrences which were exploited in ancient times for open-cast mining activities. Some excellent examples can be seen at Puzzlewood near Coleford.
The origins of this 1200 year old earthwork which roughly follows the English-Welsh border is something of a mystery. In 1971 it was designated a 177-mile Long Distance Footpath, part of which runs through the Forest of Dean beside the River Wye.
Sheep Badgers, Freeminers and Verderers
In Tudor times the Forest was a royal hunting ground. Rights were granted to certain inhabitants of the Forest for various purposes: Sheep Badgers could turn their sheep out to graze on open land and Freeminers had the right to mine personal plots known as ‘gales’. The title of Verderer goes back even further and is held by members of an organisation which liaises between the local community and the Forest Authorities.
Dating from the 12th century, Tintern Abbey was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain and the first in Wales. Its decline to a present-day ruin began with the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIIIth. The abbey ruins were also the inspiration for Wordsworth’s famous poem.
A huge ruin overlooking the River Wye in the border town of Chepstow, this is the oldest post-Roman fortification surviving in Britain.
A village straddling the River Wye, although the name is more usually associated with an outcrop of rock with famously spectacular views. The name is thought to come from Robert Symonds, Sheriff of Herefordshire, and ‘yat’, an old word for ‘gate’ or ‘pass’.
St Briavels Castle
A Grade 1- listed Norman castle used at various times as an administration centre, hunting lodge, court, and debtors’ prison, it is now a Youth Hostel administered by English Heritage and is open to the public.
Built in 1682 to host the Court of Mine Law and ‘Court of the Speech’ (a sort of Parliament for Verderers), it has been an inn and, later, an hotel since the 19th century.
Lydney Park Gardens
Fine, Spring-flowering gardens and Roman temple site. The house is also open to the public at certain times.
Dean Heritage Centre
Five acres of interesting family attractions including a museum of artefacts and displays of Forest history through the ages.
Outdoors in the Forest
There can be few places better provided with facilities for outdoor pursuits. Although technically the Forest of Dean covers a rather smaller area, it is generally thought of as being bounded by the River Severn to the South, the River Wye to the West and North, and the city of Gloucester to the East. Within these loose confines lies an enormous variety of landscape – heath and woodland, rivers and hills, towns and villages.
Whatever your interest it can almost certainly be catered for. Fishing, canoeing, cycling, walking, riding, caving and falconry are all easily accessed in the Forest. Steam train enthusiasts can enjoy the ride along the lovely Lydney to Parkend line on the Dean Forest railway. Contact the local TIC for more information or click on the website link on this page.
For those interested in history, the activities carried on in the Forest since pre-Roman times afford a wide variety of fascinating sites and ‘attractions’ bringing alive its mining and forestry heritage.
For a day out the historic city of Gloucester (see below) is a rewarding destination; and slightly outside the immediate area, the Cotswolds can also be easily reached and explored.
Towns & Villages
Within the Forest and the immediate surrounding area are a large number of towns and villages well worth visiting. Those listed below are of particular interest.
The city stands on the banks of the River Severn and boasts a wealth of mediaeval and Tudor buildings, a superb Gothic cathedral and a restored historic quayside, as well as a variety of interesting shops.
At the southern end of the River Wye and downstream from Tintern Abbey, this ancient Border town is dominated by the ruins of Chepstow Castle and is also home to the famous racecourse.
Technically just outside the Forest boundary and close to the River Severn, Newnham has a number of fine Georgian buildings and – just above the village – one of the finest views in Gloucestershire.
An historic village within the Forest on an 800ft high plateau with fine views towards the River Wye. The 12th century castle is now a Youth Hostel but is open to the public.
At the heart of the Forest and one of its oldest settlements, the town is popular with walkers and cyclists. It is home to the GWR museum and the Whitecliff Ironworks.
This pleasant village is home to Clearwell Caves (iron ore and ochre mines) and an impressive Gothic ‘castle’ built in 1728 and now available for weddings.
Just to the north of the forest, Newent has an attractive mix of Tudor and Georgian buildings, including a 17th century Market House. Its annual Onion Fayre, held on the second Saturday of September, is well worth a visit.