It was through a friend that I was first recommended Forest Holidays, and from the off, it sounded absolutely wonderful. Log cabin in the woods, with a hot tub? It sounded almost too good to be true.
Turns out, real life lived up to the day dream I’d been having ever since I googled their Forest of Dean location, and started flicking through the photos on the website. In fact, it was even better.
Forest holidays was founded by the Forestry Commission back in the 1960’s to meet the growing demand for holiday accommodation in forest locations, and although today, it’s an independent company, all of their holiday locations are on Forestry Commission land. They work hand in hand to preserve and protect the forest habitat for people who want to stay there, and all of the waste generated by guests staying in the forest is sorted and recycled off site.
Our party of six booked a ‘Silver Birch’ cabin – one down from the super slick ‘Golden Oak’ but more than enough for us – the main difference being that we had no log burner and no fluffy robes. What we did have, was a gorgeous 3-bed wooden lodge, complete with huge floor to ceiling glass windows, a modern and well equipped bathroom and kitchen, underfloor heating, and of course, the all important hot-tub.
The cabin itself was situated right in the heart of the Forest of Dean, and after a speedy check in at the reception lodge, we found it with ease. There is a good amount of space between each Cabin on the complex – we couldn’t hear our neighbours unless they were shouting (which did tend to happen whenever anyone saw their hot-tub for the first time!) – and we could only just see the other lodgings through the dense foliage. Apart from that, it was just leaves, trees, and forest floor.
Our trip didn’t have any special reason – no birthday or anniversary to celebrate – just a desire for the 6 of us to get away and spend some time together doing something different. I really wanted to cook in a big, family-size kitchen, the boys wanted to drink beer and walk in the woods, and the girls just wanted to drink bubbles and lay in the hot tub looking at the stars.
It was the perfect set up for us.
By day, all we needed to do to find adventure, was pull on our walking boots and open the front door. There are paths and trails all over the forest – some more challenging than others – all easy to find and navigate; maps and guides are available from the reception. For those of a more adrenaline-seeking disposition, there are bikes for hire, canoe trips to book – even a Go Ape course nearby.
On the Saturday, our group chose to walk to Symonds Yat Rock for a breathtaking view over the river Wye, before taking a steep path through the woods to Symonds Yat East and treating ourselves to lunch right next to it in the excellent Saracens Head Inn. Scoffing salty sweet potato fries in the sun – what could be better?
On the Sunday (whilst a free range pork tenderloin cooked in the slow cooker we brought with us) another walk took us wandering through tall trees and ancient forest hundreds of years old. Our group split up for a while (making us quieter in pairs) and I even managed to spot a wild deer and an owl whilst in stealth mode – for a nature-lover like me, this was a huge deal!
In the evenings, the hot tub on the decking at the back of our cabin took centre stage. The boys and the girls in our group took turns in cooking dinner, leaving the other to sit and soak as the sun went down. Whilst there were no sunset views from our tub, laying back and watching the forest canopy as darkness fell was more than enough. Expect lots of tiny birds and squirrels for company!
When we booked our Forest Holiday, I expected it to be fab, but from looking at the pictures online, I thought it might be a but like a theme park version of the woods – clean, clinical orderliness, cut grass, everything just a bit too tidy. The price you pay for wanting convenience and a touch of luxury, I thought – but I was wrong.
The woodland in which the cabins are set is huge, messy and gorgeous. There are cobwebs on the outside awnings of the cabins, a little moss on the decked BBQ area, and even wild boar who can be heard squealing in the distance at night. The forest is very much alive around you, and it is a privilege to be able to throw open your back door and breathe it in.
I’m already looking at dates for my next visit 🙂
A 6-person, Silver Birch cabin in the Forest of Dean costs from £690 for 3 nights, Friday – Sunday (£115pp). For more information, visit www.forestholidays.co.uk