The Best Forest Walks for You and Your Dog

Here in the UK we are so lucky to have a multitude of stunning forests at our disposal, perfect for exploring with our faithful friends. This Thursday 21st March is International Day of Forests, and to mark the occasion, events will be held in forests across the country. So to get you feeling inspired to slip on your walking boots and head out into the wilderness, we have picked our top 10 favourite forest walks for you and your outward hound!

Grizedale Forest

1.Grizedale Forest, Lake District

Set in the heart of the Lake District, Grizedale Forest offers wonderful walks with 10 dedicated waymarked trails offering a range of stunning lake and forest views. There are also mountain bike trails and Segway hire, as well as great facilities such as a café, picnic and BBQ areas. One of the biggest draws to Grizedale Forest are the stunning sculptures spread throughout the area. For nature lovers the forest is home to the only remaining indigenous woodland red deer herd in England and is a haven for wildlife, with roe deer and red kites to be seen along with barn owls and buzzards.

alice holt forest dogs
Photo: www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk

2.Alice Holt Forest, Hampshire

There’s so much to do at Alice Holt Forest, particularly if you have little ones as well as dogs. You can all head off on the Gruffalo trail or just wander through the forest tracks with lots of exciting smells for your dog to explore. If you are going in wet weather make sure you don your walking boots, as the Lodge Pond trail gets pretty muddy but is a really beautiful route. You must keep your dog on a lead near the visitor centre and cafe, but they are allowed to roam freely elsewhere. There is also cycle hire and an easy access discover trail suitable for wheelchair users.

Sherwood Pines
Photo: Forestry Commission

3.Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire

Sherwood Pines is a fantastic place for dogs to run wild and explore and it’s a top location to visit if you enjoy Canicross or simply running with your dog. There is a good selection of different routes to take (of varying difficulties) and walks are well signposted. You may even find Robin Hood’s whetstone.

Delamere Forest
Photo: Visit Cheshire

4.Delamere Forest, Cheshire

Easy waymarked walks and plenty of space to roam make Delamere Forest a brilliant doggy day out for all the family – one of the routes even has a surfaced path for wheelchair users to enjoy. Head up to the landmark of Old Pale, where you can take in great views of Liverpool’s skyline while your dog is enjoying a sniff around – or head to the lake to cool off on warmer days.

Photo: Visit Dartmoor

5.Bellever Forest, Devon

Dogs will enjoy a great runabout in the woods and a swim or paddle in the East Dart river. Climb all the way up to Bellever Tor if you’re feeling energetic, or enjoy a picnic by the banks of the river if it’s a relaxing day out you’re after. Four waymarked trails provide routes for every ability of dog walker.

Photo: Dolgellau

6.Coed y Brenin Forest Park, Gwynedd

Famously home to Mount Snowden – Snowdonia as long been a popular tourist hotspot. But there is so much more to the area than this fanous peak, including the wonderful walking trails in Coed y Brenin Forest Park. Routes will take you across rugged mountain terrain, past stunning waterfalls or along rushing rivers, with beautiful views no matter which way you choose. For a challenge try the Volcano Trail, or for a more relaxing day out that is wheelchair-accessible, park at Pont Llam yr Ewig for the all ability trail.

Big Dog Forest
Photo: Marble Arch Caves

7. Big Dog Forest, County Fermanagh

With a name like that we couldn’t not include it! But thankfully, as well as having an amusing name, Big Dog Forest is also a stunning place to walk your hound. Head off around Big Dog and Little Dog, two hills that are believed to be named after Irish wolfhounds belonging to the legendary giant Finn MacCool.

The Geopark itself is covered largely by conifers and the Marble Arch Caves have become a popular visitor attraction. The forest is also part of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark – home to one of the finest show caves in Europe. Visitors are guided through a fascinating natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers while stunningly beautiful cave formations glisten all around. 

Tall Tree Trails
Photo: Visit Hampshire

8.Tall Trees Trail, New Forest

Beginning at the Blackwater car park by the famous Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, the Tall Trees Trail is one of the many wonderful walks to be had on or around the drive. This gentle and flat walk is suitable for all abilities and offers a stroll beneath the canopies of towering trees. Nearby, the Blackwater Arboretum Sensory Trail is home to a variety of trees from around the world.

Photo: Visit Kielder

9. Kielder Forest, Northumberland

Tranquil Kielder Water is the UK’s largest man-made lake and is surrounded by the largest working forest in England (250 square miles), as well as a wealth of wildlife including ospreys. Kielder Water & Forest Park is also an ideal base for exploring the rest of Northumberland, Cumbria, Hadrian’s Wall Country and the Scottish Borders.

Photo: National Trust

10.Hatfield Forest, Essex

Hatfield Forest is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, there are over 4,000 different species of flora and fauna which call this place home. Dogs are welcome off lead around the forest and there are plenty of trails to explore as well as the stunning landscaping of Capability Brown, a forest café and a wonderfully accessible circular tree walk.


DOG FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION

If a quick explore simply isn’t enough, why not make a weekend of it? There are plenty of great dog friendly hotels, bed & breakfasts and guesthouses in some of the UK’s most beautiful forests. Here’s our pick below.

Bell Inn, New Forest

When it comes to dog friendly holidays, there aren’t many locations more perfect for an adventure than the New Forest. And for those looking for a pet friendly hotel where both both human and hound are welcomed in style, you can’t go passed the gorgeous Bell Inn. Nestled in the pretty Hampshire village of Brook near Lyndhurst, this attractive 18th-century coaching inn has countless beautiful walks right from the doorstep, delicious locally sourced food and a good dose of warm hospitality. Check out our review of the Bell Inn here.

Forest Holidays

Forest Holidays, various locations

Forest Holidays offer a collection of luxury woodland cabins set in nine idyllic locations across the UK, from Scotland to Cornwall, and the latest in Thorpe Forest, Norfolk (where we were lucky enough to spend the weekend). These pet friendly wilderness retreats offer a completely immersive forest experience for both human and hound, with a few little luxuries to sweeten the deal.

Hengoed North Wales

Hengoed, North Wales

Over a little wooden bridge, appearing through a clearing in the trees is Hengoed, a traditional treehouse trailing in the treetops.  Comfortably sleeping two, with additional bunks to extend your party size to a family of four, this secluded treehouse sits in an ancient, undisturbed wooded valley.  It is one of six treehouses on this beautiful, mountainous site near Machynlleth, with views towards Cader Idris and the undulating hills of Powys. Find out more at www.qualityunearthed.co.uk.

Do you have a favourite forest to explore with your dog? Tell us in the comments below!

Caroline is a writer and marketer, currently working as the Head of Digital for the UK Kennel Club. Caroline has previously contributed to publications including Time Out Dubai, Wallpaper* and the World Travel Guide. In her spare time she combines her love of dogs and travel, taking her rescue dog Rudi on as many pooch adventures as possible, whether it's a weekend break in Paris or seeking out the most dog-friendly pub in London.

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