Get away to this breathtaking area of outstanding beauty on the Wales/England border for relaxation, adventure and discovery.
It’s always the way. You’re looking for a break, whether it’s for the whole family, a couple’s retreat or a trip with friends, but everyone wants something different from the experience. A relaxing getaway with action and adventure, loads of history and plenty of natural features to explore isn’t usually so easy to come by all in one place. Enter: The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean.
This area is teeming with historic sites of interest. One of your first plans of attack should be Chepstow castle. 800 years old, and boasting the oldest castle doors in all of Europe, its vast stone expanse, which grew throughout the centuries along the narrow cliff top ridge above the town and next to the River Wye, is a sight to behold. As you drive further up into the valley – a stunning, scenic drive following the meander of the river – you’ll discover the dramatic remains of Tintern Abbey. Come back past by nightfall and see the abbey’s large arch windows lit up by floodlight. Further north into the Wye Valley is the 11th century Goodrich Castle, near Monmouth, which offers spectacular views over the valley from atop the battlements.
With the Forest of Dean running along the east side of the valley there’s also plenty of natural points of interest to explore. Make your way up to Symonds Yat Rock to take in the view 500ft above the banks of the winding River Wye below. Look out for kayaks and boats that often paddle down the rapids on this stretch of the water. Stop for some lunch in the log cabin café before embarking on the many walking trails through the forest, both here and all around this area. Don’t miss Puzzlewood to the east – an enchanting, mystical maze of pathways through the mossy woodland famed for inspiring Tolkien’s Middle Earth as well as being used for the filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Get up close to the many exotic butterflies that flutter around at the Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo before challenging yourself to the puzzle of one of Britain’s most famous traditional hedge mazes – all at the Wye Valley Visitor Centre where you can purchase a discounted ticket for both attractions.
Accomodation is aplenty in the area, varying from quaint self-catering country cottages, well-placed Airbnbs and cosy bed & breakfasts to glamping in quirky wooden wigwams or pitching up at stunning camping spots.
We thought we’d chance the experience of something new by choosing the deluxe wigwam option. Perched up high on the quarry’s edge at the National Diving & Activity Centre, just outside of Chepstow at the base of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean, these luxury wooden cabins offer rest and relaxation in cosy comfort all year round. The wigwams are fully heated, equipped with hobs and cooking equipment, shower and toilet facilities, and even a TV – but with the view from your private balcony I guarantee you’ll not want to spoil the peace and quiet. As well as relaxation by morning and night it’s also a great spot for those looking for a dose of adrenaline by day. Take a 40mph slide on one of the UK’s longest zip lines as you dangle over the water filled quarry, or experience weightlessness on the 3G swing.
Nobody likes the going home part of any holiday. Planning a stop off point on the journey home makes the post-holiday blues more manageable for all the family. If the weather is enticing, why not park up on the beach at Weston-super-mare for some fish and chips overlooking the sea.
For more information on the area and to help plan your perfect trip, visit www.wyedeantourism.co.uk
Words and images: Jake Tucker
Featured image: Angel Ganev on Flickr