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Forest Holidays: Enjoy wild adventure or just relax in the woods

Forest Holidays: Enjoy wild adventure or just relax in the woods

Forest Holidays woodland.

Forest Holidays offers everything you need for a therapeutic getaway – a luxurious cabin with a hot tub, a taste of the wild and a fully-equipped kitchen to prepare the local gourmet food.

We headed to Thorpe Forest to check out one of the nine Forest Holidays locations dotted around Britain.

The concept is the same in all of them. You get to immerse yourself in Britain’s beautiful woodlands in complete luxury.

Inside the Forest Holiday lodges

The lodges are cleverly positioned so you don’t overlook your neighbors and can enjoy peace and privacy.

The best feature of all the cabins is outside – the terrace and hot tub. As soon as you arrive you’ll want to sink yourself into the hot water with a plastic glass (safety first) of prosecco in hand. Then just lie there and look up at the trees.

Man relaxes in Forest Holidays hot tub at night.
In the hot tub at Forest Holidays.

If you are anything like us, you’ll still be lying there through the sunset and find yourself staring up at the Milky Way.

Beside the hot tub, the terrace is so completely integrated with forest that trees grow through the decking.

Even inside you feel part of the woodland. The high, pitched ceilings are supported by exposed wooden beams. And floor to ceiling windows frame stunning views of the forest.

The open-plan kitchen, dining and living room area feels spacious and the underfloor heating makes it snug even on frosty winter days.

A man reads a book on the sofa in the cabin.
Relaxing in the comfortable Forest Holidays lodge lounge.

Our Silver Birch cabin had two bedrooms, one double with an ensuite shower room and the other a twin with a separate bathroom. But Forest Holidays has a range of lodges for two people upwards. At the top of the range is a stunning treehouse sleeping 10.

Also on site, the Forest Retreat has a shop selling quality, ready-prepared meals, wine and beer. Alternatively, the Forest Retreat Café is on hand for every meal from cooked breakfasts to snacks to burgers, pizzas and curries.

If you are feeling even more lazy, you can order food to be delivered to your lodge. In fact, you can even organise a masseur to drop by for some deep tissue relaxation.

Mountain bike, canoe or zip wire

For all the pampering you can get inside your lodge, the best thing about a Forest Holiday is getting out into the open air.

A forest of trees.
Enjoy an adventure in the woods.

All the locations offer bike and cycle helmet hire. We found it totally exhilarating to jump on a mountain bike and try some of the trails. There’s plenty of choice from safe cycle paths to more challenging rides, so you shouldn’t feel nervous.

Thorpe Forest also offers canoeing on a calm river. Again, even beginners can take this on as the staff give you a full safety briefing. If you haven’t tried it before you’ll find it’s the most peaceful way possible to get close to the river’s wildlife. And it feels like a real adventure.

If you are a true adrenaline junkie, many of the Forest Holidays locations are near Go Ape centers. This is the UK’s premier outdoor adventure chain.

It’s the way to get off the forest floor and up into the canopy as you leap off Tarzan swings, walk across rope bridges or sail down zip wires. They tailor the experiences to all ages and tastes, so even mini monkeys can get involved. And Forest Holidays guests get a 10% discount.

Once upon a time, England had the finest archers in the world. In fact, in 1363 King Edward III decreed that every able-bodied man had to spend their holidays practicing archery. It may not be the law anymore, but Forest Holidays lets you step back in time and try your bow hand at this traditional skill.

And even if none of that is right for you, there’s more to choose from. You can choose from 4×4 driving, clay target shooting, climbing or more.

Friends take a walk in the woods.
Forest bathing, where you relax and absorb the peace of the woodlands, is a new activity for Forest Holidays.

Take a stroll and breathe deep

You don’t have to make any special effort to get close to wildlife once you’re in Thorpe Forest.

If you are lucky and stay quiet, you may see an elegant muntjac deer wander past your cabin. You’ll certainly hear the hoots of tawny owls and perhaps the rustle of hedgehogs in the undergrowth.

Out in the nearby meadows, get out your binoculars to spot kestrels, buzzards or barn owls swooping over you.

Highland cattle relax in a meadow.
Highland cattle graze in the meadows.

The real experts are the dedicated Forest Rangers. They offer a range of activities to help get you closer to nature. You can learn bushcraft on a forest survival course or don night vision goggles for a tour of the woodland’s nocturnal wildlife.

A walk in the woods can relieve even the most stressed urbanite. Now Forest Holidays have taken that a step further by introducing the Japanese healing practice of Forest Bathing to the UK.

Very simply, the Japanese believe that spending time in the woods can be medicinal. In fact, it’s a cornerstone of preventative healthcare in Japan. They spend millions on researching it and a quarter of the population regularly visit one of 48 officially designated Forest Therapy bases.

Berries on a tree.
Take the chance to look at nature up close.

Here in Thorpe Forest, the guides tell you to leave all your devices behind for the three-hour Forest Bathing session. Once in the forest, you walk slowly, breathing, opening up your senses. The idea is to shed your stress and become mindful and relaxed among the beauty of nature.

After you have fully immersed yourself, you finish with a traditional Japanese tea ceremony with your guide and other guests. Even this is part of the woodland experience, as the tea is made from plants foraged from the forest.

Exploring beyond Thorpe Forest

Forest Holidays is part owned by the Forestry Commission which cares for woods across England and Wales. And one of the commission’s most beautiful sites is Lynford Arboretum, a short drive from the Thorpe Forest lodges.

The arboretum showcases an incredible range of trees, set in beautiful parkland with a range of walking trails.

A forest glade at Lynford Arboretum.
A forest glade at Lynford Arboretum.

When we visited, it was autumn and the trees were dressed in every shade of copper, gold and bronze. Right now, the spring flowers will be poking their heads through the forest floor and the large glades will be painted purple by bluebells. Soon, blossom will cover the trees.

To explore a very different natural landscape, head to The Broads, where you’ll find a postcard-perfect landscape of waterways and thatched cottages. Get into a boat – even if it’s only a canoe. That’s the very best way to explore the lakes and rivers and get close to the wildlife.

This part of the UK is also famous for the food it produces. We headed over to the seaside town of Cromer, famous for its crabs. You can enjoy stunning views from the fading grandeur of its promenade. And there are multiple fishmongers to buy the delicious dressed crabs. The sea around Cromer is particularly nutrient rich, giving the brown crabs a fragrant flavour with tender meat.

The market at the nearby town of Bury St Edmunds is another great place to buy local. There are lots of food stalls from fresh, local vegetables and fruit to exotic foreign delicacies.

A butternut squash traybake.
We bought the ingredients for this traybake at the local market.

Bury St Edmunds also boasts some good independent shops, including a retail outlet for the local Adnams Brewery. Adnams has been turning out cask ales in the area since 1872.

A little further afield you can explore the little city of Ely. It’s cathedral is particularly stunning with a richly painted ceiling in the nave. Or you could head to the university city of Cambridge, board a punt on the River Cam, lay back and float under the Bridge of Sighs.

Find out more about Forest Holidays

Forest Holidays has modern, comfortable cabins and cool treehouses in nine Forestry Commission locations around Britain. Locations are child and dog friendly. Visit their site here.

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