There’s nowhere better in the UK for getting away from the daily grind than the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean. Talk about the great escape! The combination of forest, river, and borderland history is perfection. Not only is the Wye Valley breathtaking at any time of year, it’s a cinch to get to, making it an ideal choice for short breaks. Why waste your precious time off travelling when you could be walking, cycling, canoeing, climbing, caving, or simply sitting with your feet up and a glass of local wine, cider, or ale. Not convinced yet? Keep reading!
The outdoors has never looked as great as it does in the Wye Valley, which is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Every conceivable activity, from a gentle stroll to a heart stopping cliff climb is waiting for you to enjoy. Some of the finest views can be found at the top of Symonds Yat rock, around which there are many waymarked walking trails.
It’s particularly glorious in autumn when the surrounding trees put on an impressive natural display of magnificent colour. If it’s walking your into, check out the Wye Valley Walk which follows the River Wye for 136 miles from Plynlimon in the north to Chepstow in the south. Cycling is another incredibly popular pastime for both locals and visitors, and you’ll find an extensive network of trails for all abilities. Alternatively, take in the stunning scenery from the waters edge and hire a canoe or kayak (plenty of places hire them along the River Wye) and enjoy a gentile paddle or the thrill of the rapids and white water.
Forget tacky souvenirs – how about bringing back a skill from your holiday from one of the regularly run Forest Bush Craft courses. While you’re there you could also try clay shooting, archery, gorge scrambling, fishing, canoeing, abseiling, golf, orienteering, or a treetop adventure at Go Ape. The 24,000 acre Forest of Dean was once a Tudor royal hunting ground but thankfully its pleasures are now available to everyone.
If the weather isn’t that great, or if you simply want to do something less strenuous, there are plenty of wet weather activities in the Wye Valley. Ross-on-Wye is a fantastic market town bulging with shops and cafes, while Monmouth and Abergavenny provide alternative places to browse and spend your money. All three have regular farmers’, antique, and general markets, so be sure to look at the calendar before you visit to make the most of your stay. Clearwell Caves are fascinating whatever the weather, as is Hereford Cathedral. Gloucester also boasts a magnificent cathedral, as well as a designer outlet shopping centre, cinema, and restaurants.
This is the sort of place families come back to year after year due not only to the unspoiled beauty of the landscape, but the array of family friendly activities and facilities. Puzzlewood is in Coleford, just outside of Monmouth, and is as ancient a forest as you are ever likely to walk in. You’ll completely understand how it inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to create Middle Earth when you walk past caves and scowles, spotting wildlife and relishing in the natural beauty of it all. The owners of Puzzlewood cater for children of all ages with a maze, farm animals, indoor and outdoor play areas, and a café serving tasty, home-cooked food.
Some of the many other family friendly attractions include the Dean Forest Railway, Perrygrove Railway, Tintern Abbey, Lydney Park Spring Gardens and Roman Temple, Goodrich Castle, Chepstow Castle and Museum, the Dean Heritage Centre, the Giant Maize Mazes in Elton Farm, and various fisheries and activity centres.
Of course an area so focused on enjoying the outdoors welcomes dogs too. You can take your four legged family member with you to many Wye Valley attractions including Westons Cider Mill, Abbey Mill Wye Valley Craft Centre, the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway, 3 Shires Garden Centre, the Old Station in Tintern, and Aunt Martha’s Victorian Tea Rooms.
Wye Valley for Couples
The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean makes a spectacularly romantic location for a loved-up holiday with your special someone. As well as countless walks to take hand-in-hand, you can also tour vineyards, breweries and cider mills, and dine on delicious local produce at a candlelit dinner either in your cosy cottage, or at one of the areas many fantastic pubs and restaurants. True foodies should time their visit around the third weekend in September when the annual Abergavenny Food Festival is held.
Day Trips from the Wye Valley
As if there wasn’t enough to keep you happily occupied in the Wye Valley, the surrounding areas of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire also offer a wealth of excitement for visitors. The pretty honey coloured villages and ancient market towns of the Cotswolds are within easy reach, providing a vast array of attractions from zoos and animal parks, to magnificent historic houses and gardens. Alternatively, head to the Brecon Beacons – just a short drive away, offering even more historic market towns, mountains to scale, and rivers to fish. As rural and peaceful as it is now, dozens of castles in various states of ruin stand as a reminder of the battles that characterised this part of the Anglo-Welsh border for centuries.
Caerleon was once an important Roman garrison, the ruins of which can be seen along with an impressive amphitheatre and public bath, and there are more Roman ruins to be seen at nearby Caerwent.
The River Severn has the second largest tidal range in the world. The Severn Bore is a natural phenomenon that attracts surfers and onlookers from around the country, who come to witness the enormous spring tide around the third week in April. It doesn’t matter if you miss high tide, because a walk across the Old Severn Bridge from Chepstow is amazing at any time of year.
Hay on Wye is an enticing book town which hosts the world renowned Hay Festival of Literature and Arts in late May and early June. The Royal Welsh Show takes place at Builth Wells in the third week of July. There is also a Spring Festival and Winter Fair held at the show grounds.
Other towns and villages worth visiting include Brockhampton, which has an unusual thatched roof church, the deer park at Holme Lacey, Tintern’s antique shops and cafes, and the medieval village of Trellech.
We know from first-hand experience how awesome the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley are, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Book your holiday now and find out for yourself!