Best Woodland Walks
Date Updated: 21/11/2022
A woodland walk is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon; enveloped by ancient trees, fern filled pathways in dappled sunlight, the sound of birdsong and the earthy scents rising up on the pure, fresh air - it’s no wonder we are drawn to these leafy hideaways. Did you know our innate attraction to woodland is known as biophilia and shinrinyoku is the Japanese art of forest bathing?
While their natural beauty is the most obvious benefit there are many other things we rely on forests for; they support countless species (including our own), they are a key source of clean air and they play a huge part in mitigating climate change. Our woodlands are to be cherished and protected.
Scroll on to discover the tranquil spaces where we’ll be walking this year...
Ty Canol, Pembrokeshire
This 170 acre woodland site on the edge of the Preseli Mountains in North Pembrokeshire is of huge importance to scientists due to the many species of lichens that can be found here. A mystical setting, Ty Canol woods are not far from Pentre Ifan, a Neolithic Chamber that dates back to 3,500BC. Old oaks and moss covered rocks give this wood a magical atmosphere. There are many paths to choose from, but no facilities which adds to the natural appeal. You can find more info here.
Abernethy Forest, Cairngorms
The Romans called Scotland ‘Caledonia’ meaning ‘wooded heights’ and at four thousand hectares Abernethy is now the largest area of ancient Caledonian Forest in the UK. The fresh scent of the majestic Scots pine trees here is glorious and beneath the trees the understory of heather, ferns, juniper and blaeberry is also spectacular in its own way. Whether you’re looking for a short walk or a full days hiking there are plenty of woodland trails to follow. Look out for some of the rarest wildlife in the UK – the mountain hare, pine marten, red deer and the Scottish wildcat all call this forest home. Abernethy makes for a fantastic introduction to Scottish woodland habitats. Call in at the visitor centre or click here for more info.
Ingleton Falls, North Yorkshire
This circular, four-and-a-half-mile woodland trail takes you through the spectacular Yorkshire Dales passing a series of waterfalls, via the ancient base rock of the Peak District. This is one of the best places to see gorge woodlands and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The oak woodland and wildlife here is unique and many rare mosses and ferns thrive in the moist conditions. The path takes you along the edge of the River Twiss affording wonderful views of the waterfalls but it is also steep in places so not suitable for wheelchairs or prams. Discover more here.
Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean is famous for its strange rock formations which are known as scowles. They developed millions of years ago underground and over time have been exposed at the surface. Covered in moss and tangled tree roots they create an otherworldly environment that has been used as the backdrop to many television and film productions including Doctor Who and Star Wars. It’s also thought that Puzzlewood inspired Tolkien and his rendering of the forests of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings. The wood itself is a fourteen acre site with a network of pathways and bridges to explore which were originally laid out in the late nineteenth century. A year-round spectacle for people of all ages, there is a café on site and entry tickets must be booked here.
Paimpont Forest, Brittany, France
The twenty five square miles of Paimpont Forest is all that remains of the vast woodlands that covered Brittany thousands of years ago. Legend has it that the area is also the location of mythical Broceliande, King Arthur’s realm. This enchanting forest is usually explored from the small town of Paimpont itself where you’ll find an information centre with walking maps. There are several marked paths that lead to Merlin’s Tomb, the Valley of no Return and the Fountain of Eternal Youth. Look out for the pear trees with heart shaped leaves and the parsley frogs that live by the lake.
Rotes Moor, Gersfeld
The Black Forest and the Bavarian Forests are some of Germany’s greatest outdoor assets but the lesser-known Red Moor is no less heavenly. A raised bog and protected wetland in the Rhon Mountains, this uniquely beautiful area is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The loop trail is about six miles long and begins at the information booth at the Moorsee (lake). A haven for bird lovers, rare black grouse live here along with the Jack Snipe and Meadow Pipit. Some sections of the trail run over a boardwalk to protect the extraordinary ecosystem and for those who want a longer walk it is possible to hike through the dense forests of the Kaskadenschlucht gorge, towards Wasserkuppe. For more info look here.
Veluwe National Park, Gelderland
The Veluwe National Park is a huge, forest-rich area of hills in Gelderland. Voted by Dutch people as the finest area of scenic natural beauty in the country, it is a fabulous place to visit with a diverse landscape, including lakes, sand drifts and forests. The woodlands here are home to a wide variety of trees and plants, mosses and lichens, plus deer, wild boar, foxes, badgers and wolves can be spotted amongst the trees. It is totally set up for visitors; there are nine marked walking routes of various lengths to choose from or you can simply follow your nose and see where you end up. Check the website for further information.
Bosque de Muniellos, Asturia
This protected area of woodland is known as the ‘endless forest’ and is described as the best-preserved Quercus Robur (Oak) forest in Spain – some trees have a diameter of up to six meters! It can only be visited by a maximum of twenty people each day and has earnt the title of Biosphere Reserve from UNESCO due to the variety and diversity of the flora within. The natural environment here has remained undisturbed for many thousands of years and this enchanted space is brimming with Asturian mythology and legends. Visits must be booked in advance at www.asturias.es
Forests can be especially cooling during the summer months but don’t forget the universal walking rules; take your sun cream and plenty of water and snacks. As with all our Bucket List Journals, while movement around the planet is still restricted, please check government guidelines before visiting any of these destinations.