This month marks the United Nations’ International Day of Forests, the perfect excuse to plan a forest adventure. It’s a given these ecosystems are good for the planet, but studies suggest they can enhance our wellbeing, too. Recent research from Japan found that short walks in these areas improved the moods of study participants compared to strolls in cities. So why not explore one of the UK’s wooded areas when lockdown rules allow? These five forests are sure to inspire you.

Craigvinean Forest, Perth and Kinross, Scotland

Craigvinean Forest, Perth and Kinross, Scotland
Craigvinean Forest, Perth and Kinross, Scotland

Craigvinean Forest is one of the oldest managed forests in Scotland and is within the wider Tay Forest Park. Originally planted with Alpine larch seeds, it’s said the 3rd Duke of Atholl, creator of Craigvinean, used a cannon so the seeds could reach inaccessible cliffs. Now that’s dedication! Today, Visit Scotland notes there are a variety of trees to admire, including larch, beech and Douglas firs. You can make the most of the woodland on the network of paths for walkers and cyclists running throughout the forest.

No visit would be complete without exploring The Hermitage, an enchanting spot made into a pleasure ground for the Dukes of Atholl. Head to Ossian’s Hall – an 18th century folly – to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the thundering Black Linn Falls below.  Make sure you stop at Pine Cone Point, too. It’s a giant, wooden pine cone, where you can lie back on a bench and wonder at the canopy of trees around you. It’s easy to see why the series Outlander chose to film in this magical woodland.

Gwydir Forest Park, Conwy, Wales

Gwydir Forest Park, Conwy, Wales
Gwydir Forest Park, Conwy, Wales

Gwydir Forest Park is nestled in Snowdonia National Park, with stunning views of its famed mountains and serene lakes. You can explore Gwydir (or Gwydyr) on a walk, pony trek or bike ride. The forest is sure to impress cyclists who prefer their biking off road. It’s home to the Gwydir Mawr Trail, a red route of around 15 miles with big climbs, large descents and fabulous scenery on route. There’s also the Gwydir Bach mountain bike trail, dubbed a “shorter, bitesize option” by Natural Resources Wales.

There are many walks to pick from if you’d prefer to explore the forest on foot. The Coed Tan Dinas Trail begins in Betws y Coed, a pretty village that’s surrounded by forest. It’s an easy route of under a mile, featuring river views and a picnic spot. There are plenty of more challenging trails to explore, too. Whatever walk you choose, look out for old mines, shafts and waste heaps that give a tantalising glimpse into the area’s industrial past.

Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland, England

Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland, England
Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland, England

Kielder is not only England’s largest working forest but also the site of northern Europe’s biggest man-made lake. There’s plenty to explore in the mammoth park’s 250 square miles, whatever your interest. The area is largely coniferous and you’ll be able to spot plenty of these festive trees on a visit. A Sitka spruce from the forest was chosen as the Houses of Parliament’s Christmas tree last year, so great is their renown. Keep an eye out for red squirrels, too. According to Visit Kielder, about half of England’s population have made it their home. The park is also known for its natural osprey colony and you can join an Osprey and Wildlife Cruise to try to see one of these rare birds.

If you’re visiting for a long-distance wander, try Lakeside Way, an accessible trail that follows the 27-mile shoreline of Kielder Water reservoir. Interested in art? Forestry England notes the park offers trails where you can spot its contemporary architectural and art pieces – with over 20 to be found. Whatever walk you choose, stay around after sundown for a spectacular celestial show. Kielder is in Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, an area famed for stargazing.

Explore the area with an Ordnance Survey map

Rothiemurchus Forest, Badenoch and Strathspey, Scotland

Rothiemurchus Forest, Badenoch and Strathspey, Scotland
Rothiemurchus Forest, Badenoch and Strathspey, Scotland

David Attenborough called Rothiemurchus Estate “one of the glories of wild Scotland” and we’re inclined to agree. The Highland forest is one of the few remnants of native Caledonian woodland, an important habitat that once covered much of the country. It’s also home to an abundance of rare wildlife. You might spot ospreys, red squirrels and capercaillie, the world’s largest grouse, on a visit to the forest.

Take a stroll through the woodland to admire its extraordinary trees and wildlife. There are plenty of paths to choose from, including the 3-mile Loch an Eilein Walk. It’s a gentle circular route around a loch, that features the ruins of an island castle. If you’re feeling active there are more energetic options on offer, too. The estate offers an impressive list of outdoor activities, including quad bike treks, rafting and archery. Which activity will you choose first?

Find out more about the area with maps of the Cairngorms National Park

The Heart of England Forest, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, England

The Heart of England Forest, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, England.
The Heart of England Forest, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, England. Photo from https://www.heartofenglandforest.com/

Did you know there’s an important link between Dennis Maps and the Heart of England Forest? We’re co-owned by the Estate of Felix Dennis and we operate for the benefit of the Heart of England Forest registered charity. The forest was established by the entrepreneur publisher Felix Dennis, originally as a small area of woodland near his Warwickshire home in the late 90s. He had an ambitious plan, to revive and rebuild an expanse of native broadleaf woodland, for the public and wildlife to enjoy. His dream has certainly taken root. The forest is home to over 1.8 million trees, stretching from the Vale of Evesham to the Forest of Arden. And it’s still growing.

Why not try a woodland walk in the Heart of England Forest? The official website notes the Head Forester has mapped out trails through the forest, including the four-mile-long Founder’s Walk, shorter one-and-a-half-mile routes and an accessible trail, too. The Heart of England Forest also recommends the Morgrove Coppice – wild walk for those after a more demanding route. Whatever walk you’re looking for, it can be found in the forest.

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