UK & Ireland

7 forest weekend breaks in the UK to escape into nature

Escape to one of the UK's beautiful forests with a stay at a property surrounded by nature and with woodland trails on the doorstep

Birdsong rarely sounds louder or lovelier than in the heart of a forest, accompanied by the soft rustle of the tree canopies and perhaps the trickling of a brook. A forest weekend break is one of the best ways to truly appreciate the sounds, sights and sensations of the UK’s woodlands, exploring walking trails, picnicking in clearings, or just pausing to soak up the peace.

Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku – the practice of immersing yourself in a forest setting, originating in Japan – is becoming more and more popular, and it’s easy to understand why. Here are some of the best properties in UK where you can discover the restorative benefits of spending a few days surrounded by greenery, from treehouse suites to a 17th-century hunting lodge.

1. Explore Dartmoor's forest trails from this country manor

You won’t have to wander far to find the forest at Hotel Gidleigh Park – this traditional country pile is nestled within its own private woodland. There are over 100 acres of it, in fact, with trails that criss-cross, weave and wind between the trees. Exploring on two feet is such a treasured pursuit here that there’s a dedicated boot room for guests’ use. The hotel also can arrange for a local guide to walk with you and point out the most glorious spots.

The trails extend beyond the hotel, of course. The estate lies in the north of Dartmoor national park, in Devon, with almost inexhaustible options for hill climbing, circular walks and leisurely strolls down soft, forested paths.

Even the rooms are named after local tors (hills or rocky peaks), though the textures are marble, teak, high-thread-count cotton and wool rather than mud, grass and granite. Plush beds and thoughtful touches like homemade biscuits and spring water from the estate make the rooms perfect for relaxing between expeditions.

Hotel Gidleigh Park

Top rated
Chagford
9.5 Excellent (207 reviews)

2. Bathe amid the trees in the New Forest

There’s no bad room at Hotel Chewton Glen, one of Hampshire’s – and Britain’s – most sumptuous properties. Every inch is impeccable, from garden rooms decorated in soft shades of skin blue and pistachio to suites that open up to a private courtyard with hot tub.

It’s the four treehouses, though, that really elevate the experience to something incredible. Each is designed with an indoor-outdoor feel because, if you’re going to sleep up in the canopies, you probably want to know about it. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors allow you to gaze out into a tangle of leaves and branches, while outdoor hot tubs invite you to soak with views up to leaves overhead.

It would be pretty tough to unearth a better location, too. Not only is this country house hotel tucked within 130 acres of greenery in the New Forest – it’s also just a mile from the coast, so the sea air wafts through the trees and imbues the air with a tangy, tantalising hint of salt.

Hotel Chewton Glen

Top rated
New Milton
9.3 Excellent (79 reviews)

3. Sleep in a historic hunting lodge in the Forest of Dean

It’s no coincidence that the UK’s forests are also home to some of the most well-appointed properties. They are prime real estate, and the royal and the wealthy have been drawn to them for years. Take The Speech House in Coleford, tucked deep within the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. This swathe of woodland is the second largest crown (royal owned) forest, after the New Forest.

The hotel occupies a 17th-century hunting lodge that belonged to Charles II. This is where, from 1676, Verderers court was held for the purpose of protecting “vert and venison” (greenery and livestock). Its history is palpable, from the ancient woodlands surrounding the stone lodge – where the king and cohorts once strode – to restaurant Verderers Court, which once doled out judgements and now serves fine- dining dishes like Welsh ribeye steak and butter-poached plaice.

All this heritage has been thoughtfully woven into the fabric of the hotel, with original features proudly on display throughout. Rooms are certainly royally appointed, with grand four-poster beds and classic decor. You’ll breakfast like a king, too, with a full English included in your stay.

The Speech House

Coleford
8.1 Very good (287 reviews)

4. Escape to this forest bolthole in Snowdonia, Wales

As you approach Hotel Craig-y-Dderwen via its long, elegant driveway, it resembles the prettiest of dolls’ houses: perched charmingly beyond manicured lawns, and tiny in comparison to the acres of fields and woodland surrounding it. The exterior is bright white and part-timbered, offset by a pitched red roof, with terraces and lawn tables where guests can take tea.

It’s equally charming up close, and perhaps even more so. The 19th-century country house has been a hotel since the 1920s and sits on the banks of the River Conwy, which meanders by, before flowing through the forests of Snowdonia National Park. These views aren’t excluded from the suites, themes covetable of which have balconies with hot tubs for al fresco soaking.

Hotel Craig-y-Dderwen

Top rated
Betws-y-Coed
8.8 Excellent (90 reviews)

5. Wake to spectacular Wye Valley views

Spending a night (or, ideally, several nights) at Bridstow Guest House can be a dangerous thing. The rooms are so bright and beautiful, the hosts so warm and welcoming, and the long, lazy breakfasts – served in the sun-soaked drawing room – so indulgent that you’ll probably long to move in permanently. There are just three rooms, each with a different yet equally lovely view from the Welsh mountains and forested valleys to the property’s tree-filled gardens.

The B&B, whose owners have thoughtfully renovated the once-neglected 1850 property, is on the outskirts of Ross-on-Wye, on the northern edge of the Forest of Dean and close to England’s border with Wales. It’s nearby enough that you can stroll to explore the market town, with its half-timbered houses and steepled St. Mary’s church – and far enough away that, at times, it feels like it’s just you and the forest.

Bridstow Guest House

Ross-on-Wye
9.0 Excellent (23 reviews)

6. Stay in an old vicarage surrounded by the New Forest

There’s some kind of magic in the New Forest, which covers swathes of Hampshire with woodland, glades and moorland. Perhaps it’s in the air, scented with leaves, bark and moss, or the centuries-old yew trees that soar into the air. Or perhaps it’s the ponies that have free roaming rights on this land and often appear seemingly from nowhere.

Whatever the source, it’s compelling. And it’s all right on the doorstep of Hotel Forest Park, the perfect launchpad for exploring this beguiling area. Housed in what was a Victorian vicarage, the Tudor Renaissance hotel is surrounded by forest on all sides yet it’s a short stroll to the village of Brockenhurst. The best rooms have forest views, so you can peep out through the leaves and hope to spot a pony grazing the grounds.

Hotel Forest Park

Brockenhurst
8.2 Very good (320 reviews)

7. Get cosy in a treehouse suite in the Cotswolds

Sleeping in a treehouse is pretty much every child’s dream, and many adult’s dream, too. The treehouse suites at The Fish Hotel, though, are beyond anything even the wildest of childhood imaginations could dream up. This Cotswolds’ retreat has designed the most elegant hotel rooms with every detail designed to invoke a sense of warmth and wellbeing, from cosy bathrobes to underfloor heating. Then they’ve stuck them up trees, so you can wake to the sound of birdsong and soak up forest atmosphere from your private deck.

Actually, it isn’t just a deck: It’s a terrace with not one but two heated outdoor tubs, bringing another meaning to forest bathing. Even inside, floor-to-ceiling glass ensures you never forget you’re sleeping in the trees – and staying somewhere beyond your wildest dreams.

The Fish Hotel

Top rated
Broadway
8.8 Excellent (133 reviews)