The best summer forest and woodland walks

Days out, Walking, Nature

Posted by Courtney on 10th June 2021

Sun through the trees, a family enjoying a walk and a snail on a mushroom


As we leave spring behind and head into summer, it’s time to reap the rewards of what springtime has beautifully sowed. Head out on a woodland walk to discover an abundance of trees in full leaf, providing a glorious woodland canopy to shelter under. See summer flowers in full bloom, each attracting a kaleidoscope of butterflies, and spot a wealth of fledglings taking wing for the very first time.

Forests and woodlands truly are the lifeblood of our world, and in the UK we are lucky enough to be teeming with woodland trails. So, the time is now to don those walking boots, grab your water and see how much you can cover.

We’ve catalogued Britain’s best woodland walks, breaking them down by region. Just remember, the rules of the woods and forest apply, as we are only visitors to these vast wooded sanctuaries: walk slower, be quieter, basically be more tree.

And if you’re looking to stay amongst the foliage, take a look at our blog below:

Discover forest holidays across the UK

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South East

South West

South Coast

North West

North East

The Midlands

East England


South East

Sun through the trees of luscious green Epping Forest

Epping Forest

Many a city dweller in London will find themselves heading out to the capital’s largest open space and into the woods and forest of Epping. Steeped in history and dating back to at least 1600, making it technically an ‘ancient woodland’, there is evidence that forests have swathed this area for the last 3,000 years.

Stretching over 12 miles, it is rumoured that legendary anti-hero Dick Turpin sited one of his hideouts here. Fear not though, as the trails no longer hold the risk of ‘hold up’, unless you count being accosted by a friendly dog as an interruption.

There’s so many trails to explore here, this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) really is a walker’s playground. Try the Willow Trail, and marvel at the birdlife over Connaught Water including herons and swans.

Epping Forest contains some of the best woodland trails in the South East and is easily accessible by local transport. We just recommend that you take a map as decent sign posting is somewhat lacking.

Highlights

  • Great for dogs and more hardy pushchairs
  • Top trail: Epping Forest Circular – a 5.5-mile loop featuring a lake; accessible for walkers of all abilities
  • Wildlife you could see: butterflies, bats, deer, owls to name a few

Cottages in Epping

 

Sunset over Ashdown Forest, along with a small bird and some fungi

Ashdown Forest

Known as the home of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, Ashdown is one of the largest free public access spaces in the South East. Lose yourself in your imagination, as you envision the capers Piglet, Roo and Eeyore got up to on their walks in this forest.

Described as more of a heathland than a wood, when you’re here you won’t feel like you’re a mere 40 miles from London. This area is beautifully preserved and guarded by the Conservators of Ashdown Forest, who prevent the landscape from becoming littered with A. A. Milne commercialism. Indeed, there are not even any pubs, this is a true rural retreat that you’ll want to return to again and again.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome as long as you follow the forest’s code of conduct for dog walkers
  • Top trail: Gills Lap – choose from two walks and take in the sites of Pooh’s adventures; discover The Enchanted Place, the Sandy Pit and Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place
  • Wildlife you could see: pygmy shrew, badgers, foxes, thrushes, stonechats and Tiggers!

Cottages near Ashdown Forest


South West

The pinks, browns and greens of the Forest of Dean. Watch out for wild boar

Forest of Dean

With 20 million trees covering an area of 204 square miles of Gloucestershire, the Forest of Dean is said to be the ‘Queen of Forests’. With its mighty oak, beech, ash and birch trees, along with Roman ruins studded here and there, it has an unparalleled beauty when compared to other UK forests, and to boot, it has some very nice woodland walks.

When you arrive, you might be lucky enough to enjoy an abundance of rhododendrons and azaleas, or maybe you’ll visit nearby Yat Rock and observe the majestic peregrine falcons, which have been protected for over 20 years under the watchful eye of the RSPB.

A must-visit is Puzzle Wood, where you could let the kids pretend to be hobbits protecting the precious, as it’s told that J.R.R. Tolkien spent time in the Forest of Dean, which gave him inspiration for his famed fantasy works.

Highlights

  • Dog friendly, but be careful of wild boar
  • Top trail: Puzzle Wood – a maze of pathways, ravines and secret passages covering 14 acres
  • Wildlife you could see: wolves, wild boar, pine martens and badgers

Cottages near the Forest of Dean


A misty walk through Savernake Forest including deer and fungi

Savernake Forest

This forest is a Wiltshire Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and contains some of the best Forestry Commission walks in the South West. Being the only ancient woodland to be privately owned, rather than owned by the Crown, the land has been passed down through over 30 generations. It’s also home to one of England’s oldest trees, the Big Bellied Oak, which would have observed King Harold’s defeat by William the Conqueror in 1066.

Spanning 4,500 acres and landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th century, Savernake hosts some genuinely memorable trees. The beech and birch are beautiful but it is the plethora of oak that catches the eye, including the Saddle Oaks and the Spider Oak. Amble along Capability Brown’s Grand Avenue for an unforgettable scenic forest walk, which acts as a hub connecting many other trails throughout the woodland.

Highlights

  • Dogs are allowed off lead
  • Top trail: Grand Avenue Walk, a 5.5-mile route with a picnic spot which brings you to the Eight Walks area, where you can choose your next trail
  • Wildlife you could see: deer, firefinches, lesser spotted woodpeckers

Cottages near Savernake Forest

 

A heart-shaped log, a deer and a pleasant route through Haldon Forest

Haldon Forest

Haldon Forest is a great choice of destination if you have lots of different curiosities to consider within your group. With three walking trails, four cycle trails, Segway tours and Go Ape to contemplate, rest assured that everyone is going to find something to pique their interest.

Boasting three SSSIs and covering 3,500 acres, it’s hard to believe that the hustle and bustle of Exeter is only 15 minutes away. Within minutes of arriving, your head will clear as you take in the expansive panoramic views before deciding on your walking route. There are paths for all abilities, which are colour-coded for your ease.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome and Trampers (off-road mobility vehicles) are available to hire
  • Top trail: Discovery Trail (green) – a gentle, fully surfaced route, appropriate for wheelchairs and buggies, with multiple resting points and children’s play features
  • Wildlife you could see: buzzards, sparrowhawks, goshawks, kestrels, ospreys, and peregrine falcons. If any of you birdwatchers visit after sundown, you may spot a rare nightjar, which have been red-listed by the RSPB

Cottages near Haldon Forest


South Coast

Stunning scenery of the New Forest, along with wild ponies and deer

New Forest

The ‘Nova Foresta’, as it is described in the Doomsday Book of 1086, is a placed steeped in history from the defences built by King Henry VIII to its links with Alice Liddell, who inspired Lewis Caroll to pen his Alice in Wonderland adventures.

This is definitely a priority destination if you are after the best woodland walks, with over 140 miles of footpaths featuring rare wildlife and beautiful, natural sounds. With easy-to-follow routes showcasing a mixture of long- and short-distance trails, you’ll be spoiled for choice with the wild open heathland and secretive coastline perfectly complementing the ancient woodland.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome when under control
  • Top trail: Bolderwood: Radnor Trail – this 1.9-mile medium walk takes you to Bolderwood deer viewing platform where you can see fallow deer
  • Wildlife you could see: ponies, donkeys, cattle, deer and pigs

Cottages in the New Forest


North West

Cascading water and an old stone bridge at the Forest of Bowland

Forest of Bowland

Visit another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Forest of Bowland, with its swathes of open moorland and quaint villages studded all over its landscape. If you are a fan of remote walking, then you are in luck as the exposed heathland offers serene isolation that couples beautifully with the undulating lowlands to give you a sense of tranquillity rarely found elsewhere.

Whilst traversing the 312 square miles of rural Lancashire, pay a visit to Barley, a village that has been occupied for 3,000 years. From here, tackle the imposing Pendle Hill and take in the unmatched vistas of the forest from the 577-metre summit.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcomed on leads
  • Top trail: Footsteps of Tolkien – another Lord-of-the-Rings-inspired walk, this 5.5-mile route is considered easy with uphill sections
  • Wildlife you could see: hares, bats, snipes, oystercatchers, stonechats

Cottages in the Forest of Bowland

 

A beautiful sunset, rippling water and dew-filled cobwebs at Delamere Forest

Delamere Forest

If you’re seeking nice forest walks in Cheshire, then seek no more. Delamere Forest is an ocean of calm a stone’s throw away from the busy skyline of Liverpool. This is a forest day out that the whole family can savour, with multiple walking and cycle trails, as well as Segway hire.

With hundreds of acres of coniferous woodland intertwined with accessible, surfaced paths and leafy tracks, it’s no wonder that this is one of the most popular local forest walks in the area. Your kids might even consider this to be one of the best forest walks in the UK once they see the Gruffalo sculpture in the deep, dark wood (Linmere trail). Meanwhile, the adults will appreciate the simple beauty of the green tunnel on the Sandstone Trail.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome
  • Top trail: Blakemere Trail – an easy 2.7-mile sheltered walk, perfect for wildlife lovers and bird watchers
  • Wildlife you could see: myriad bird species including nuthatches, treecreepers, crossbills, wrens, coal tit, blue tits, great tits, jays, siskins, tawny owls and greater spotted and green woodpeckers

Cottages in Cheshire

 

A vast expanse of trees and fungi at Macclesfield Forest

Macclesfield Forest

Lying on the western edge of the Peak District, Macclesfield Forest is interspersed with reservoirs and moorland. This mixture of woodland and wetland creates a haven for wildlife lovers, with red deer and herons spotted regularly.

A large portion of the area has been designated a Site of Biological Importance, meaning walkers can enjoy the biodiversity safe in the knowledge that ecosystems are being protected.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome on leads, and one trail suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs by Trentabank Reservoir
  • Top trail: the ‘Walk to the Forest’ is a 7-mile circular waymarked path connecting Macclesfield Forest with the hill at Tegg’s Nose
  • Wildlife you could see: herons, waterfowl, common sandpiper and crossbills

Cottages in Cheshire

 

A serene wooded area and a dog at Gisburn Forest

Gisburn Forest

Renowned more for its award-winning biking trails, don’t be put off donning your walking shoes and heading out for an amble at this North West gem. If you’re an avid wildlife watcher then Stocks Reservoir is the place for you: set off on the Stocks Circular Path to take in all the birdlife the reservoir has to offer.

All in all, there are six walking trails to try out, each displaying luscious greenery to make you think you’re walking through a fairy tale garden. The paths are clear of debris and the terrain is flat, giving the walks an overarching feeling of accessibility whilst also being rural enough to give you the sense of freedom you crave.

Pop back after sunset and marvel at the cosmos at the designated Dark Sky Discovery Site.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome and Tramper-friendly paths
  • Top trail: Birch Hills walk – an easy, 1.3-mile trail that passes two wildlife hides, flows through mixed woodland and ends with views over Stocks Reservoir
  • Wildlife you could see: sika deer, wild boar, hen harriers and the short-eared owl

Cottages near Gisburn Forest

 

Wooden sculptures, babbling brooks and simple daisies at Grizedale Forest

Grizedale Forest

At the heart of the Lake District World Heritage Site, Grizedale Forest is a bewitching leafy wonderland. There are forest trails that seem to go on forever, children’s play areas and spectacular sculptures dotted throughout this breathtaking woodland.

Choose from ten stunning trails, which take in the natural views of lakes and mountains, as well as approximately 50 man-made art concepts. Originally meaning Valley of the Pigs, Grizedale Forest is a perfect day out for you and your piglets.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome and Segways available
  • Top trail: Grizedale Tarn Trail – this moderate 4-mile walk will take you past Grizedale’s only natural lake (tarn), whilst you’ll also encounter some of the forest’s best-loved sculptures
  • Wildlife you could see: red deer, red kites, barn owls, badgers and foxes

Cottages in Grizedale


North East

A lake on the edge of Dalby Forest, along with Bridstone Rock overlooking a valley and a butterfly

Dalby Forest

A truly unique landscape that offers up a different experience every time you visit, Dalby Forest has a distinctive ‘rigg and dale’ topography created by glacial valleys to the south and upland forests to the north. With 13 different walking trails to choose from, including a Gruffalo Spotters trail for the little ones and also easy access routes, you’ll be well and truly spoiled for choice when you embark on a stroll in this North Yorkshire jewel.

You’ll spot some intriguing wildlife along the way to the world’s largest dry stone wall maze (still under construction at the time of writing) in the heart of the forest, and if you enjoy the woodlands at night, pop back after sundown and look up to be amazed by the sight of the Milky Way through the trees: such marvels being the reason Dalby earned its Dark Sky Discovery status.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome and Go Ape available
  • Top trail: Jerry Noddle trail – a moderate 2-mile route taking you to the Jerry Noodle viewpoint for stunning views over the Langdale Valley
  • Wildlife you could see: roe deer, badgers, stoats, elephant hawk moths, great spotted woodpeckers, buzzards, sparrowhawks and apricot jelly fungus

Cottages near Dalby Forest

 

Flowing water, fungi and a bird feeding her young at Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest

Spanning 2,000 hectares of diverse picturesque woodland, Hamsterley Forest is the largest forest in County Durham. Resting on the periphery of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, between the Wear and Tees Valleys, you’ll find four varied walking trails including a buggy-friendly route.

It's a haven for kids, with entertaining family events frequently taking place, including den building and bird feeding. There are also multiple play areas for young children, as well as Gruffalo sculptures studded throughout and the Gruffalo Spotters Trail to keep them amused.

Highlights

  • Dog friendly and wheelchair friendly
  • Top trail: Riverside trail – an easy access trail, lasting only 1.5 miles; this is a wheelchair- and pushchair-friendly route which takes you past the Gruffalo sculptures
  • Wildlife you could see: roe deer, adders basking on rocks or even salmon leaping upstream on the beck

Cottages in Hamsterley

 

Contemporary art and waterfalls at the vast and often open Kielder Forest

Kielder Forest

Kielder is one of those forests you’d regret omitting if you didn’t visit it. Not only is it the largest forest in England, but it’s also home to England’s largest blanket bog area. Perhaps that doesn’t sound too tempting to visitors, but it’s great for the ecosystem; here you’ll find the country’s biggest remaining population of red squirrels (that’s right, the red ones!) as well as Northumberland’s only breeding osprey population.

There are some genuinely unique walking trails to discover, but before you take to the footpaths where you’ll find over 20 pieces of contemporary art to dazzle you, stop at Kielder Castle Visitor Centre and challenge your friends to find their way out of the Minotaur maze.

Tranquillity and serenity are in abundance when you take a stroll in Kielder Forest.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome and easy access trials available
  • Top trail: Hindhope Linn – a moderate, 1.25-mile trail that brings you to an enthralling dell featuring a breathtaking waterfall. There are two picnic areas and a WC
  • Wildlife you could see: red squirrels, ospreys, otters, roe deer, goshawks, water voles and adders

Cottages in Kielder


Midlands

A still lake with tress reflecting in the water and a bird with her insect lunch

Wyre Forest

When in Worcestershire, Wyre Forest is an ideal place to get outside for some fresh air and take in the natural surroundings in all their splendour. With three waymarked walking trails, as well as numerous other unnamed routes, Wyre will keep you and your family entertained and fit, especially when the kids realise there’s a Gruffalo orienteering course to partake in, not to mention the Gruffalo sculptures dotted throughout the woodland.

Explore the arboretum along the Buzzard Trail and find all manner of tree species in this wooded botanical garden, or head into the heart of the forest to find peace at some of the more remote spots.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome, Go Ape available and Nordic Walking trails
  • Top trail: Woodpecker trail – pass through the enormous Douglas firs known as the ‘Valley of the Giants’ on this moderate 2.2-mile trek and walk by the Whitty Pear, a member of what is regarded one of the most endangered species of tree in Britain
  • Wildlife you could see: pied flycatcher, wood warbler, buzzard, muntjac deer, polecats, otters and mink

Cottages near Wyre Forest

 

Fungi life finds a way in Sherwood Forest where the Major Oak used to house Robin Hood

Sherwood Forest

Sometimes folklore and fact are difficult to distinguish: Sherwood is no exception. You’d have to go far and wide to find someone who hadn’t heard of the legend of Robin Hood, and this vast woodland makes the most of those iconic tales of its most famous resident.

A magical forest full of diverse wildlife, this Nottinghamshire forest sees 350,000 visitors a year and it’s easy to see why. Spanning 375 hectares, this National Nature Reserve boasts massive oaks that have been growing for over 500 years. Indeed, its most dendrologic tenant is the Major Oak which is said to be over 1,000 years old. This 23-tonne tree was rumoured to be the safe haven for Robin and his Merry Men, and whilst you can appreciate its grand beauty from a short distance, the sheer mass of foot traffic over the years means you can no longer walk up to it.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome, forest Segway available as well as Nordic Walking options
  • Top trail: Dragonfly Trail – an easy-access trail suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, this 1-mile path will take you past some of the forest’s oldest trees on route to the Dragonfly Pond
  • Wildlife you could see: hedgehogs, squirrels, badgers, foxes, owls and even lizards

Cottages by Sherwood Forest


East England

A pollen-covered insect, a grey squirrel and a downed log at Thetford Forest

Thetford Forest

Stretching across both Norfolk and Suffolk, Thetford Forest is an SSSI that covers nearly 19,000 hectares of heathland and woodland. Being the UK’s largest manmade lowland forest and also the largest pine forest in Great Britain, one visit probably isn’t going to cut it, so you’ll find yourself coming back again and again to discover new winding trails through dense foliage.

If you fancy some quiet reflection whilst spotting an array of birdlife, don’t miss out on Lynford arboretum, where the colours in late summer are outstanding.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome, Forest Segway, Go Ape, archery, axe throwing
  • Top trail: Nature Trail at High Lodge – a flat, easy-access, 1-mile walk that brings you to a wildlife-spotting hide at the end
  • Wildlife you could see: fallow, roe, red and muntjac deer, red crossbills, goldfinches and thrushes

Cottages near Thetford Forest

 

Vibrant fungi, beautiful pathways and a dog fetching his stick at Rendlesham Forest

Rendlesham Forest

A deserved Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk is a 1,500-hectare mixed woodland area sporting coniferous trees as well as broadleaved lines, wetlands and heathlands. With three waymarked walking routes, including an easy access trail and children’s play areas, this is a great multi-generational forest that will please the whole family.

Make sure you check out Tangham Wood and try to find all the hidden sculptures lying therein, before pausing for a picnic at one of the many stopping points.

Highlights

  • Dogs welcome, orienteering
  • Top trail: UFO trail – let your imagination run wild as you pass through the areas linked to the 1980 UFO sighting on this easy, 3-mile walk  
  • Wildlife you could see: woodlarks, nightjars, red-footed falcons, purple herons and glossy ibises

Cottages near Rendlesham Forest


Forest holidays in the UK

Hopefully, it’s clear to see the benefits of our forests and the vast amount of enjoyment to be had in visiting woodland wonderlands. If you’re pining for a copse cottage holiday, then click below to discover some of our favourite cabins in the woods.

Forest holidays across the UK

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.