The Getaway: The Forest of Dean
Arlene Harris finds her inner Robin Hood in the Forest of Dean
Is it just me, or does the school term seem to have ended as soon as it started?
All of a sudden, we're in the middle of the Easter holidays, racking our brains for ideas to entertain the kids. Well here's one - a family trip to the fabulous Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England.
Set the mood
We all love forests, but have you ever considered one for a holiday? The idea behind Forest Holidays (forestholidays.co.uk; from £430/€584 for a three-day weekend) is basically upmarket camping.
Accommodation consists of well kitted-out log cabins on stilts (some are even set high up in the branches). The reception cabin is staffed by an eager crew that promises to provide everything your heart desires for the duration of your stay. For my three boys, the idea of sleeping in the woods was cool enough - but when they discovered we had a hot-tub on the deck and would be embarking on a night-vision tour, their weekend got even better.
Hot tub heaven!
After our long journey from the west of Ireland, the idea of cooking dinner wasn't exactly appetising. Even though the nearest village was just a five-minute drive away, we just wanted to kick back and enjoy our surroundings when we arrived. So imagine our joy when we discovered that the reception hut has its own kitchen and not only makes, but delivers home-made pizza, tubs of ice-cream and fizzy drinks (both kiddie and adult versions) at a very reasonable price. We had arrived in heaven.
An early stomp through the woods is the perfect start to the day - particularly when there's plenty of action ahead. Over the weekend, we tried a heap of team-activities. Climbing wobbly poles, playing human Jenga or attempting the 'Leap of Faith' (a sky-high jump on the adventure ropes course) weren't exactly my cup of tea. But I did have a stroke of luck playing Maid Marian. As the only female in the group, I somehow managed to hit bulls-eye several times on the archery range, which went some way towards restoring my pride.
Despite constant quips about the Irish weather, the climate in the UK is no different, so it's good to have some sheltered activities to fall back on.
We headed to Clearwell Caves (clearwellcaves.com; from £6/€8), an ancient iron mine where visitors are permitted to enter and explore without a guide. Then it was on to Puzzlewood (puzzlewood.net; from £5/€6.80 per child) - a magical place where JRR Tolkien is said to have gotten his inspiration for the fabled forests of Middle Earth.
Calling Maid Marion...
All-in-all, we found the Forest of Dean to be a great venue for a long weekend away. The only downside is the distance, particularly if you're travelling from the west of Ireland. Our advice? Take at least a couple of days in the forest.
Get me there
Ferries from Rosslare to Pembroke start from around €345 return for a car plus four passengers with Irish Ferries (irishferries.com), going to press. Archery and adventure ropes start from £15/€20pp (forestofdeanadventure.co.uk). For more info, see wyedeantourism.co.uk.
The Forest of Dean is located just outside Wales, near Gloucester, so consider taking kids and car by ferry from Rosslare to Pembroke (a two-hour drive away). Splurge on an upgrade to Club Class (€18), and the four-hour sailing will be over before you know it.
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