The Best Forests In The UK

From the Scottish Highlands to the English countryside, the UK has a lot to offer when it comes to woodlands and forests. Here's a guide to some of the best ones

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. The forests of the UK have a sense of history in almost every branch of every towering tree. Underneath all their flora and fauna are deeply rooted stories and myths. In our mind’s eye, they’re woodlands where outlaws have hidden from sheriffs with their bands of merry men by their sides.

Stepping forth into a UK forest never feels like a bore. Ancient trees hundreds and, very often, thousands of years old are now playgrounds for children (and adults alike) to climb and explore. Where once there were battles, now there are bird watchers. Yes, the forests of the United Kingdom are perfect for adventure.

Get inspired, and get informed, by our guide to the UK’s most tree-mendous places.

 Hackfall, North Yorkshire


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The striking Hackfall Wood can be found near the village of Grewelthorpe in close proximity to the Yorkshire Dales and Moors. The landscape of this natural wood can be attributed to the work of John Aislabie, who bought the wood for £906 in 1731. John had a good pedigree after performing landscaping work at Fountains Abbey.

The popularity of the woodland gardens were at their highest in the Victorian times. English Romantic poet William Wordsworth even recommended the area in one of his guides for tourists. In modern-day times Hackfall Wood is still as popular. In 2007, a major restoration project got underway to restore the area. This included preserving buildings, water features and improving footpaths for the visitors.

Sherwood Forest, Nottingham

This enchanting forest is thought to have been the hiding spot for Robin Hood and his Merry Men as they tried to evade the consequences of robbing the rich and giving back to the poor.

In 1216, legend recalls that Robin Hood and his outlaws hid in the hollow inside the Major Oak; a gargantuan tree at the heart of Sherwood Forest. The tree itself is believed to be over 1000 years old. Today, its massive limbs are supported by a scaffolding system.

Oak trees aren’t the only sky blockers in this neck of the woods, chestnut trees and birch trees stand tall next to a great number of pine and beech. A visit to Sherwood Forest is a golden opportunity to get the binoculars out, and search for tawny owls and goldcrests.

Plas Power Woods, Wrexham


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Seekers of diverse flora and fauna will feel right at home in Plas Power Woods. The historic trails serve up loads of nice sights throughout your wanderings here. The wildlife in Plas Power Woods is also very active, and visitors will have a very good chance of spotting kingfishers darting to the river in search of their next meal.

A vast majority of the woodland is ancient, with over 60 species of plant and 50 types of fungi recorded. The notorious King Offa, considered to be one of the most powerful Anglo-Saxons rulers, had a strong connection with the woods. A dyke was built there in his name in 785 AD. In more recent times, a sculpture of King Offa was created by chainsaw artist Simon O’Rourke in 2012.

Epping Forest, Essex

Just a short train journey from the centre of London is Epping Forest and its 2400 hectares of woodland, which is rich in stories from the past. This former site for royal hunting is said to have archaeological evidence linking it back to the Mesolithic period. It also has more than 100 bodies of water in the area where wildlife is known to thrive.

In the 19th century, Epping Forest was pollarded. This has resulted in some rather irregular-shaped trees. One of the main modern-day attractions here is the 50 miles of off-road bike trails that attract the mountain bikers.

 Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

The Forest of Dean and its ever-changing landscape have seen an abundance of events over the years. In medieval times, it was a royal hunting ground. Not long after that, it provided timber for the navy’s Tudor warships. By the time the Victorian era arrived, the forest was surrounded by coal mines and tramways.

Now, visitors to the forest can see animals galore. A lack of natural predators, and a good food source, for example has made this a sanctuary for wild boar. Puzzlewood is an area of woodland inside the Forest of Dean. It features rocks caked in moss and winding trees that would tell thousands of stories if they could talk. It’s said that Puzzlewood was a big inspiration for J.R.R Tolkein in his creation of Middle Earth in the Hobbit books.

 Glen Affric, Scotland

This list wouldn’t be complete without an inclusion from Scotland. Glen Affric is a fine example of Scotland’s majestic wilderness.

This classic landscape is placed perfectly between lochs, mountains, and native pinewoods. This important haven for wildlife is rightly protected as a National Nature Reserve. Hiking trails in Glen Affric are extremely popular. Most are filled with waterfall views and mountainous backdrops that embody everything Scotland’s outdoor spaces have to offer.

See here for more on rewilding in the Scottish Highlands.

Fforest Fawr, Cardiff


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Close to the amazing Castell Coch, this woodland is very reachable from Cardiff City. Once inside Fforest Fawr, visitors can enjoy different trails – such as ones to the Taff Trail. Cardiff’s great forest also offers up a sculpture adventure. This is designed to take children on a journey through the trees (Simon O’Rourke has showcased his talent with his beautifully carved animals dotted about the place).

This perfect family-friendly forest is also frequently used as a filming location for everything from TV programmes to feature-length films.

Hatfield Forest, Essex

This hunting forest is one of the oldest in Europe and has a history spanning nearly 2000 years. In 1066, the forest was in the clutches of King Harold. It was soon, however, presented to William the Conqueror after his invasion meant he’d become the first Norman monarch in England.

All 424 hectares of Hatfield Forest are home to a range of beautiful sights and sounds. There’s Iron Age settlements and relic trees, that are more than 1000 years old, to be enjoyed here. This woodland is also rich in wildlife. Birds, badgers, and deer all coexist here.

 New Forest, Hampshire

Another forest with an affiliation with William the Conqueror is the New Forest in Hampshire. William claimed it as a royal land in 1079, only allowing himself and his aristocracy to use it to hunt wildlife. In the process of claiming the forest, William also destroyed 36 villages.

In 1100, one of William’s sons was hunting in the forest when he was suddenly killed by a mysterious arrow. Many think it was all in an act of revenge for William keeping New Forest captive and shunning the locals out.

In present day, the only arrows visitors need to worry about are the ones pointing towards the points of interest. When in the area, New Forest ponies roam freely amongst an idyllic landscape that includes giant sequoias and picture-perfect pastures.

Tollymore Forest Park, Northern Ireland

When in Northern Ireland, it would be rude not to pay a visit to Tollymore Forest Park. This is a place where giant redwoods meet the Mourne Mountains.

Around the Shimna River is where several tree species can be found, including oak, ash, and birch. It’s also the location for more exotic trees like the Himalayan cedar and the monkey puzzle. After a piece of fun pub quiz trivia? The oak used for the Titanic’s interior was sourced from Tollymore Forest Park.

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