27 Most Beautiful Forests In The UK You Need To Visit

UK nature lovers are in for a real tree-t.

The total number of forests in the UK makes up an estimated 3.25 million hectares. They’re vital habitats for plants and wildlife, help sequester carbon and give us the air we breathe. 

A walk in the woods also benefits our mental and physical health. 

It invites us to slow down, revel in their beauty and find a greater appreciation for nature. 

What Kind Of Forests Are There In The Uk?

Broadleaved woodland is common throughout the UK comprising trees that don’t have needles (e.g. conifers). Common trees are beech, ash, oak and birch. 

In Scotland, tiny pockets of native Caledonian pine which once made up a vast forest still exist around lochs and glens. 

New native woods have been planted to restore habitats while ancient woodland from around the 1600s or earlier only covers 2.5% of the UK. 

Some of the rarest types of woodland are temperate rainforests. Referred to as the Atlantic or Celtic rainforest, it’s thought to be even more threatened than tropical rainforests. 

So stop typing ‘UK forests near me’ in your Google search bar and read on to discover some of the best forests in the UK near you. 

Our Curated List Of The Best UK Forests To Visit Near You

The Best Forests In England

1. Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest, Kent

27 Most Beautiful Forests In The UK You Need To Visit

Covering 128 hectares, Bedgebury is a forest in England which plays a key part in the Global Trees Campaign run by Fauna & Flora International.

They collect endangered seeds from all over the world and bring them back to Bedgebury for propagation.

This means that over 2,000 trees and shrubs are grown at Bedgebury every year, with surplus seedlings distributed around the UK and Europe.

In total, there are over 400 conifer species that are under threat, which Bedgebury protects and propagates, and Bedgebury is determined as a ‘safe site’ for the International Conifer Conservation Programme (ICCP) run by the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The forest itself is home to over 10,000 conifers, with 2,300 different varieties – 56 of these species are labelled as officially vulnerable or critically endangered. It also includes the three tallest Leyland Cypresses in the UK.

As for activities, the forest has various orientation trails and activities, has a Go Ape on site, plus cycling trails and Gruffalo sculptures across the area.

2. Wyre Forest, Worcestershire & Shropshire

Located to the west of Birmingham, Wyre Forest is the largest woodland National Nature Reserve in England and one of the best forests in England. 

Although much of it has been deforested, Wyre Forest is one of the largest remaining ancient lowland coppice oak woodlands in Britain.

Amongst the wildlife found in the forest are roe and muntjac deer, polecats, otters and mink. Several bat species live in the area.

At Wyre Forest, their meadows are tended to by cattle (including Shetland cattle which are a rare breed) as a sustainable alternative to mechanical mowing—although there are also pigs and sheep present.

Wyre Forest offers opportunities for 8-14 year olds via The Young Rangers Clubs, who can take part in educational activities. There’s a Go Ape course, picnic areas and bike and tramper rentals. 

3. Thetford Forest, Norfolk & Suffolk 

Forests in the UK by ChrisHepburnForests in the UK by ChrisHepburn

Situated in the heart of East Anglia, Thetford Forest takes its place as the UK’s largest man-made lowland forest and one of the biggest pine forests in England, comprising 18,730 hectares. 

Host to a variety of animal and plant life, from the four species of deer (Red, Roe, Fallow and Muntjac) to ten of the UK’s 14 bat species, Thetford Forest also has a rich history with people.

Undertaken by hundreds of individuals by hand, the trees were planted in the 1920s to combat dwindling timber resources after the First World War. You can learn about the forest workers behind it as part of the Oral History Project.

There are so many activities to be done: from choosing one of the many walks to following mountain bike trails, ‘Go Ape’, and Thetford Forest even hosts events such as outdoor concerts and theatre productions. 

It’s also one of the main pine forests in the UK for camping, with around 19 campsites to choose from. 

4. Kielder Water & Forest Park, Northumberland 

What is the UK’s biggest forest?

Kielder Forest is one of the largest forests in England and is home to Kielder Water, the biggest reservoir in Northern Europe. 

Although it’s a man-made forestry plantation, Kielder Forest has become a haven for wildlife and a destination for those seeking to cycle, walk and spend time outdoors. At night, stargazers are treated to the darkest skies in England. 

The forest is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including a growing population of ospreys. Experts at Kielder Forest are actively monitoring and attempting to re-establish the population of ospreys. 

Ospreys are not the only thriving species at Kielder Forest. It’s also a habitat for otters, frogs, salmon, roe deer and red squirrels. 

You’ll also find unusual visual art installations among the trees, including the award-winning ‘Kielder Belvedere’ by Softroom Architects. 

5. New Forest National Park, Hampshire

Forests in the UK by DonaldMorganForests in the UK by DonaldMorgan

New Forest is a gorgeous ancient woodland packed with beautiful scenery and rich wildlife. It’s also one of the top forests in England to camp in. 

Approximately 220 square miles, the forest has plenty of trails, rivers, and bike tracks, and was once a royal hunting ground for King William I and his noblemen.

New Forest hosts a unique mix of wildlife across their three primary habitats: heathland, woodland and bogs.

Some of the animals that can be found are the infamous New Forest ponies. They aren’t wild animals but roam freely alongside pigs and cattle. It also has Britain’s only venomous snake the adder, as well as Britain’s rarest reptile, the sand lizard.

New Forest is home to five varieties of deer (Red, Roe, Fallow, Sika and Muntjac). You can see some of them at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary

6. Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire

Forests in the UK by Steve_BramallForests in the UK by Steve_Bramall

One of the most famous forests in England, Sherwood Forest has been associated with the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men for over 600 years. 

The outlaws are celebrated every year with the Robin Hood Festival alongside a busy calendar of events from informative and inspirational guided walks to heritage forest trails and even challenges. 

One of the most famous attractions of Sherwood Forest is the Major Oak that’s been standing between 800 and 1,000 years! 

In its lifetime, it has survived fires and brutal snowstorms, and marks itself as one of the most impressive ancient trees in the forest.

Sherwood Forest is also home to a variety of wildlife, from willow warblers and woodpeckers to rabbits and deer. It also has an abundance of fungi, with more than 300 species recorded. 

7. Ashdown Forest, Sussex 

Forests in the UK by Matthew GibsonForests in the UK by Matthew Gibson

One of the largest forests in South East England, Ashdown Forest welcomes 1.5 million visitors every year—and for good reason.

It’s famous for being the Hundred Acre Wood from the Winnie-The-Pooh stories, where visitors can follow in the footsteps of the iconic characters.

Ashdown Forest has conservation initiatives to help preserve biodiversity and protect ecosystems from climate change.

Some of the wildlife includes the incredible Nightjar that comes from Africa to breed, ancient breeds of sheep, cattle and ponies, and rare insects and spiders.

Ashdown Forest also has an impressive history with evidence of human activity dating back more than 50,000 years and a Roman road stretching across the forest. 

8. Hainault Forest, Essex 

Consisting of 113 hectares of mainly ancient woodland pasture and 54 hectares of arable land, Hainault Forest is home to a wealth of wildlife and plant species. 

It’s one of the few remaining sections of the former Forest of Essex which covered Britain just after the ice age. In 1851, Parliament allowed over 100,000 trees to be cut down to make way for agriculture. 

After mounting public pressure, part of the remaining Forest of Essex was retained in 1903 and became a Country Park in 1906. 

With an astonishing 158 bird species recorded, this is an ideal spot for bird watching. In early summer, it is possible to hear the nightingale or a turtle dove or spot the bounty of butterflies that call the forests their home.

9. Grizedale Forest, Cumbria 

Located in the Lake District, Grizedale Forest is home to the last native herd of Red deer. 

It also shelters squirrels, badgers, grouse and the rare white-face darter dragonfly.

Some of the activities you can find here alongside the standard walking trails are mountain biking trails (with bikes to hire), a family-run campsite, and an aerial assault course. 

There are also sculptures placed throughout the wooded areas for you to find.

Easy-to-navigate trails are situated throughout the 8,000-acre land, with ‘easygoing trails’ suitable for wheelchair users.

10. Forest Of Dean, Gloucestershire

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If you’re wondering, “Where is the most beautiful forest in England?”, the Forest of Dean is up there.

Covering about 26,000 acres with 20 million trees, this ancient forest has a long history, although not always to its benefit. 

Evidence of iron-ore mining dating back to around the Roman era has been found here. After the Norman conquest of 1066, it was used as a royal hunting forest. 

Later the Tudors sourced timber for their ships and by the Victorian era, it was an industrial site for coal mining. 

In 1938, it became the first National Forest Park. Managed by Forestry England, it’s now a source of sustainable timber, a popular backdrop for filming locations and a place to enjoy the outdoors. 

Explore the moss-covered Puzzlewood (seasonal opening times), delve into the Clearwell Caves, discover the ancient hillfort at Symonds Yat Rock or cycle around Beechenhurst. 

11. Epping Forest, Essex and London

Located on the border of Essex and London, Epping Forest stretches across 6,000 acres and is a beautiful expanse of native trees with over a hundred lakes and ponds. 

Once a royal hunting forest, Epping Forest is home to 50,000 ancient pollard trees, an astonishing 85% of the UK’s veteran beech pollards, and is consequently an area of national and international conservation importance.

It has rare plants like the knothole yoke-moss which only grows in three places in the UK. 

It’s also one of the most diverse habitats for fungi as there are over 1,500 recorded species—including the rarest beech deadwood-dependent fungi in Europe.

12. Wye Valley Forest Area, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire & Monmouthshire 

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Bordering England and Wales, the Wye Valley Forest Area is made up of a collection of adjoining woods in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the River Wye. 

Its impressive variety of habitats comprising heathlands, dry grassland, broad-leaved and coniferous woodland and inland rocks has made it a designated Special Area of Conservation.

Some of the creatures that call the Wye Valley Woodland their home are the lesser horseshoe bats, one of the smallest bats in the UK, otters, mink and even reintroduced beavers that haven’t been in Britain for around 500 years.

The Best Forests In Wales

13. Gwydir Forest, Conwy 

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Among the large forests in the UK, Gwydir Forest is located within the heart of Snowdonia National Park and takes its name from the ancient Gwydir Estate. A breathtaking mix of forests, lakes, and mountains, the forest covers 7,250 hectares.

There are many established walking trails with different grades of difficulty that run throughout the forest, including tracks of long-forgotten roads to disused lead mines.

As part of the National Forest For Wales, Gwydir Forest is under the commitment to create new areas of woodland, enhance existing woodland and restore Wales’ ancient woodlands.

Gwydir Forest is famous for its towering Douglas fir and Norway spruce trees. 

It is also a popular spot for wildlife watching due to the variety of birds including buzzards, peregrines and goshawks. 

14. Clocaenog Forest, Denbighshire & Conwy

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Covering 6,000 hectares, Clocaenog Forest lies in the heart of Mynydd Hiraethog and is one of three remaining outposts for Wales’ red squirrel population. 

Clocaenog Forest is also vital to the rare black grouse. Visitors can find buzzards, sparrowhawks and goshawks. During the spring, birdwatchers can even see wood warblers, willow warblers and many more.

A mixture of moorland and farmland, the wooded areas are dominated by Sitka spruce, the forest is also populated with Norway spruce, larch, and pine which make a habitat for tree bumblebees, wood ants and the rare small pearl-bordered fritillary.

15. The Spirits Of Llynfi Woodland, Bridgend

The Spirits of Llynfi Woodland is a ten-year project (2015–2025) to transform a former industrial site into a 75-hectare community woodland park. 

It’s part of the National Forest for Wales, an initiative with the aim to create a network of connected woodlands that span the length of Wales like a great green nature corridor. 

With over sixty thousand trees planted, from broadleaves to fruit, the woodland was designed and developed with the community in mind.

It’s famous for the statue named The Keeper of the Colliery, an oak sculpture of a miner to celebrate the lives of the hundreds of miners who once worked throughout the valley. 

The woodland includes footpaths, cycle trails and running trails for those seeking to exercise in nature.

16. Wentwood, Newport 

Once a part of Chepstow Castle, Wentwood is 873 acres of a much larger 2,500-acre forest. It’s the largest block of ancient woodland in Wales and is the remainder of the continuous forest that once stretched from the River Usk to the Wye.

During the 17th century, many of these ancient UK forests were lost to deforestation but they’re now being regenerated thanks to the reintroduction of native trees.

As for wildlife, Wentwood is a great attraction for birdwatchers as there are over 70 bird species here. 

Likewise, there are 23 species of butterfly, many varieties of fungi like fly agaric and chanterelle, and a host of creatures.

The Best Forests In Scotland

17. Loch Ard Forest, Stirlingshire 

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Loch Ard Forest is a forest tucked between Aberfoyle and the foothills of Loch Lomond. It skirts around Loch Ard, a freshwater loch which sits within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. 

It makes up part of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, a 19,665-hectare forest which stretches from the eastern shores of Loch Lomond to the mountains of Strathyre, creating one of the biggest forests in the UK

There is a network of trails for walking, cycling and horse riding around the loch, some of which are decorated with sculptures created by the local environmental artist Rob Mulholland.

Wildlife to spot here include deer, red squirrel, woodpecker, osprey and capercaillie. You can make the most of wildlife hides dotted throughout the forest to get a closer look without disturbing them. 

18. Coille na Glas Letire, Wester Ross 

Do they have wild forests in the UK? 

Yes! Set within Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, Coille na Glas Letire is one of the few truly wild landscapes in Britain, having existed for at least 8000 years. 

The forest’s preservation was one of the key reasons why this area around Beinn Eighe became Britain’s first National Nature Reserve in the 1950s. 

The woodland area is composed of a large ancient pinewood, a freshwater loch that has islands of historical significance, and a view of the summit of Beinn Eighe. 

There is also an onsite Scottish Natural Heritage visitor centre where you can engage with an interactive experience of the wildlife and history of the area.

The panoramic views make for an incredible walking destination, as well as a place for a perfect picnic, complete with a designated picnic area.

19. Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries & Galloway 

Forests in the UK by Flavio VallenariForests in the UK by Flavio Vallenari

Galloway Forest Park holds the title of the biggest forest in the UK. Sprawled across nearly 200,000 acres in southwest Scotland, this magnificent forest has a myriad of ancient woodlands framed by dramatic scenery of lochs and mountains. 

There are 27 waymarked trails to explore on foot or by bike, with plenty of chances to spot wildlife along the way, including birds, red squirrels and red deer. 

The forest park’s incredible wild landscape made it an internationally recognised Dark Sky Park in 2009. It was the first designated dark sky area in the UK and it’s one of over 100 Dark Sky Places in the world. 

At night, the skies above the forest are free from light pollution and you can see over 7,000 stars, including the Milky Way. 

If you’re lucky in the winter, you might even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. 

20. Ariundle Oakwood National Nature Reserve, Lochaber 

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Ariundle Oakwood is one of the best forests in the UK to catch a glimpse of the last surviving temperate rainforests that once covered Europe’s Atlantic coast.

The National Nature Reserve joins a network of similar woodlands that surround Loch Sunart and they make up the largest continuous area of a rare type of oak woodland in Britain. 

In Ariundle, you can find ancient oaks covered in lush green lichen, mosses and liverworts. There are also the more elusive pine martens, otters, and wildcats that call the ancients their home.

Explore the forest on a woodland or nature trail and look out for interpretation boards explaining the environmental significance of these rare oak trees. 

21. Glen Affric, Highland 

Glen Affric is a mixture of native pinewoods, lochs and moorland, creating an amazing variety of landscapes for biodiversity.

 These pinewoods are one of the largest ancient Caledonian pinewoods in Scotland, forming one of the top forests in the UK. 

The region was saved sixty years ago from becoming an area to grow commercial timber, and the dense conifers were only planted in some parts of the glen. It’s now part of a tree planting initiative which aims to restore some of Scotland’s lost forests. 

In addition to Caledonian ancient woods, tree species include Douglas fir trees, Loch Beinn a’Mheadhain, Plodda Falls, Dog Falls, and River Affric. There is so much to see and explore. 

The wildlife that calls Glen Affric their home range from red deer stags to otters, and is also a site for osprey.

The Best Forests In Northern Ireland

22. Castlewellan Forest Park, County Down 

Set against the Mourne Mountains, Castlewellan Forest Park is a park which covers 460 hectares in County Down. 

In its centre, you’ll find Northern Ireland’s most famous lakes and the Victorian Castlewellan Castle located on its shores. 

Popular activities here include camping, kayaking, fishing, horse riding, cycling and walking along its many scenic trails with panoramic views. 

There is a Peace Maze made from six thousand yew trees which commemorate the peace and reconciliation efforts of Northern Ireland. 

The walled Annesley Garden and Castlewellan Arboretum have some of the best international shrub and tree collections in Europe. 

23. Tollymore Forest Park, County Down

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Covering 1,600 acres, Tollymore Forest Park was the first state forest park in Northern Ireland and is considered an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

Rumour has it that it inspired C.S. Lewis’ land of Narnia. 

The area has a rich history stretching back to the twelfth century when it was controlled by the Magennis clan. Visitors may stumble across the various stone monuments and architectural features that are centuries old.

The Shimna River flows through the park and is considered an Area of Special Interest due to its ecology and geology. 

Wildlife here includes badgers, otters, pine martens, deer and red squirrels which are protected by the volunteer-run Tollymore Red Squirrel Group.

24. Gosford Forest Park, Armagh 

Composed of mixed woodland and parkland, Gosford Forest Park covers 240 hectares. 

Many trails are running through the forest for walking, running, cycling, and horse riding. They also offer off-road, battery-powered vehicles as part of their ‘All Out Trekking’ scheme.

The forest is known for its many outdoor play areas, including five unique superstructures, as well as wildlife spotting, a deer park, and adventure sports—so there are many activities to do with the family. 

Depending on the season, Gosford Forest Park also hosts a multitude of activities.

The forest itself is composed of conifers and broadleaf woodlands with trees from around the world which is home to a variety of birds, including ducks and buzzards. Some ponds provide a water habitat for other ecosystems, too.

25. Glenariff Forest Park, Antrim 

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Glenariff Forest Park is one of the nine Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland, covering over a thousand hectares. 

Composed of planted woodland, lakes, conservation areas and outdoor recreation spaces, Glenariff Forest Park is an ideal location for walking, horse riding and touring.

Within the park, there are rocky gorges and a river that support a range of mosses, liverworts and ferns, and it is because of this biodiversity that Glenariff was designated as a National Nature Reserve. 

Visitors can see the river first-hand by walking along the timber walkway built around 100 years ago.

If you’re not dying to know what just around the riverbend, plenty of other trails can be taken around the park, including a Waterfall Walk Trail that allows visitors to bask in the beauty of Glenariff’s nature. 

Notable creatures that are protected in the nature reserve include the red squirrel, hen harrier and the Irish hare.

26. Slieve Gullion Forest Park, County Armagh

Slieve Gullion Forest Park is ideal for little nature enthusiasts. 

The forest park has popular child-friendly activities including an Adventure Playpark, Sensory trail and the Giant’s Lair Storytrail. 

The forest sits at the base of Slieve Gullion which belongs to the Ring of Gullion. It’s an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and geological formation which was formed by a volcanic eruption about 2,000 years ago. 

For the best views of the forest and its surrounding landscape, follow the Slieve Gullion Forest Trail through woodland and heath. 

27. Ballysallagh Forest, County Down

Forests in the UK by Suzi ParryForests in the UK by Suzi Parry

Ballysallagh Forest got its name from the old burial cairn situated in the native broadleaved forest.

Home to resident red squirrels and more, Ballysallagh Forest has a permanent orienteering course as well as ongoing conservation of the squirrels and native trees – including beech, oak, birch, alder, rowan, holly and a few conifers.

As well as the beautiful landscapes, Ballysallagh Forest has an array of songbirds among its rich wildlife.

Closing Thoughts On The Best Forests In UK

It’s no secret that the UK’s natural landscapes are heavily depleted. Between 2001 to 2021, alone, the UK lost 105,000 hectares of tree cover, according to Global Forest Watch. 

Many of these lost trees belong to ancient and irreplaceable woodlands. 

So, how many forests are there in the UK now?

There are approximately 1.42 million hectares of certified woodland, which includes all Forestry Commission, Forestry and Land Scotland, Natural Resources Wales and Forest Service woodland.

Around 44% of all UK woodland is certified.

However, every forest—certified, or not—provides a vital habitat for flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. 

One of the most impactful ways to protect the UK’s forests is to make your voice heard. Hainault Forest in Essex was saved thanks to mounting public pressure. 

So, get outdoors and explore your local woodlands and nature walks with this list of forests in the UK. Building an appreciation for nature helps us all become better stewards of it and create a legacy of conservation for decades to come.