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Forest walks: the perfect escape for you and your pet

Forest walks: the perfect escape for you and your pet

It’s the International Day of Forests on Saturday 21 March – a day that celebrates these special places that are so important for our planet and for our wellbeing.

Right now, we can’t think of anything better than heading off for a walk in a forest with our four-pawed best friend. It’s the ideal way to relax, shake off your cares and gain a different perspective.

You can get lost in the beauty of the forest as you breathe in the sights and sounds, surrounded by trees and woodland animals. Meanwhile, your dog is in canine heaven, rushing about to sniff out trails through the bracken, chase a multitude of sticks and splash through every single muddy puddle

Discover the Japanese art of forest bathing

It will be obvious from the wagging tail and excited yelps that your dog’s having fun. But did you know that there’s scientific proof that a walk in the forest is good for humans too?

The Japanese invented the concept of forest bathing, known as ‘shinrin-yoku’, which simply means taking in the atmosphere of the forest. Experts in Japan have found that a two-hour walk through a forest can reduce your stress, boost your immune system and improve your mood.

Foraging for forest walks

How can you find the best forest walks for you and your dog? Our friends at Forest Holidays have some fabulous ideas to get you started. With pet-friendly lodges in some of the UK’s most beautiful forests, you’re bound to be inspired.

Enter our competition to have the chance to win a stay at one of Forest Holidays’ gorgeous woodland cabins. After a day roaming through the forest, you and your pooch can relax in style. While you’re soaking in the outdoor hot tub, your dog can take it easy on the enclosed deck, keeping an eye out for squirrels.

Dog sitting on rock in forest

1. Adventures in Sherwood Forest

If you stay at Forest Holidays’ Sherwood Forest location, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Explore the forest trails on site, or choose to ramble along some of the 172km of the Robin Hood Way – a route that connects places in Nottinghamshire with a link to the legendary outlaw.

You and your pooch could easily spend days exploring Robin Hood’s old stomping ground, Sherwood Forest, walking through myriad paths lined with majestic ancient oak trees. And make sure to visit the most famous tree of all, the Major Oak, which is believed to be around 1,000 years old. If you’re lucky, you might also see elusive wildlife species such as the lesser spotted woodpecker and tree pipit.

2.In the heart of Hampshire

Blackwood Forest is a tranquil woodland escape across 270 hectares that features ancient beech trees as well as pretty wildflower meadows. Once you and your dog have strolled around the woodland trails on site, you can make the most of the location to head off and explore the surrounding countryside.

Farley Mount Country Park has some beautiful woodland, where you can take a one-hour circular walk through West Wood and Crab Wood. Race your dog to the top of the hill to see the pyramid-shaped folly and enjoy amazing views of the Hampshire countryside.

3. Stone circles and waterfalls in Cornwall

Deerpark in Cornwall is something special, with its location right by a picturesque millpond, deep in a wooded valley. The whole area is steeped in history, telling stories of tin and silver mines and gunpowder mills.

Your dog will wake you up every morning, lead between their teeth, waiting for the next adventure. Take a walk through forest tracks to Duloe stone circle, the smallest stone circle in Cornwall. Or trek through the ancient oak woodland of Draynes Wood to find the Golitha Falls, a series of spectacular cascades and waterfalls along the River Fowey.

4. Forest trails and a challenging climb in Snowdonia

Isn’t it time your pup visited Snowdonia? If your favourite canine hasn’t yet got a Welsh stamp in their pet passport, you really should let them take you to Beddgelert. This tranquil location set within the 700 hectares of Snowdonia National Park is the gateway to some amazing walks.

One of the best forest trails on the doorstep starts just across the Welsh Highland Railway line in Beddgelert Forest. While you’re meandering through the forest, following the river, your dog can sniff out trails and dip a paw in a waterfall. Then, if you’re both feeling adventurous, climb through the foothills of Moel Hebog and enjoy breath-taking views across the valley.

5.Pine-covered mountains in Argyll

At the edge of the Argyll Forest Park, pine-covered mountains sweep down to meet the shore of Loch Long. The stunning location of Ardgarten in the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is hard to beat – and perfect for dog walks, too.

Lace up your hiking boots and pack your pockets with dog biscuits before you set off to explore the wild and rugged Argyll Forest Park. At the centre of the park, you’ll find Glenbranter, which offers a series of different trails. Wander through native oak, birch and hazel woodland on the Broadleaves Trail, or take a dramatic route up the Allt Robuic gorge, where trees from an ancient oak wood line the way.

Woman and her dog walking through trees

6. An undiscovered gem in Cheshire

Cheshire is often overlooked as a walking destination, but it has some undiscovered gems, like Delamere Forest. You and your pooch will feel right at home here, with a glorious forest landscape blending harmoniously into the Cheshire Plain.

Step out of your cabin and straight into a variety of easy strolls in Delamere Forest, from Blakemere Trail and Linmere Trail to Old Pale Trail. If you want to go further afield, set out for a day’s hike along the famous Sandstone Trail. A shady oasis of 972 hectares, it’s the largest woodland in Cheshire and allows you to wander through trees, enjoy Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and discover meres and mosses that are Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

7. Ancient oaks in the Forest of Dean

The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire is England’s oldest oak forest. A former royal hunting ground, it covers over 110 square kilometres of woodland which are ripe for exploration by you and your adventurous hound.

At Forest Holidays’ Forest of Dean location, any number of woodland walks are on your doorstep. It’s well worth walking to see the magnificent River Wye, and there are two ways to get there. First is the quick way: just 3.8km through the woods. Alternatively, ask your dog to sniff out the route via Symonds Yat Rock, which offers stunning views. If you’re lucky, you might also spot peregrine falcons nesting on the cliff.

Woman with her arm round dog looking at the view

8.Woodland rambles in Yorkshire

When you stay at Keldy in North Yorkshire, you have a treat in store. You’re close to Dalby Forest, on the southern slopes of the beautiful North York Moors National Park, which is a dog walkers’ paradise.

Take your pooch on the Bridestones Trail and make your way up steep paths to the extraordinary natural sandstone sculptures of the Bridestones, where Jurassic sedimentary rock has been eroded over centuries by wind, frost and rain. Alternatively, look out for wildlife on the Deepdale Habitat Trail or savour sweeping views over the Moors on the scenic 7km walk through Woodcock Way.

9.Eco-friendly delights in Norfolk

Dogs love their home comforts, so your pooch will be delighted by the eco-friendly innovations at Thorpe Forest in Norfolk. Wood pellet boilers reduce the carbon footprint, while keeping you and your four-pawed best friend cosy in your cabin. Meanwhile, your dog will probably want to test out the quality of the underfloor heating, which is provided by air source heat pumps.

When you’re not relaxing in your cabin, you’ll find it hard to resist the lure of Thetford Forest. The UK’s largest man-made lowland forest, it has acres of wildlife-rich woodland to explore. The Pine Trail and the Nature Trail are just 1.6km long and the Beech Trail and the Fir Trail are 4.8km. There’s also a Sculpture Trail for human and canine art lovers.

10.Explore forests and lochs in Scotland

Encircled by forest, loch and mountain, Strathyre is the ultimate holiday escape for you and your dog.

By day, strike out into the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, which will keep you and your canine companion happy, with everything from gentle woodland walks to more strenuous walks that offer views of Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine. Or take the Duke’s Trail and look out for red squirrels, as you climb gently up through the scented pine forest.

Back at the lodge in the evening, reward yourself for all that effort by relaxing in a hammock or in the hot tub, while your dog puts their paws up, having taken the prime position in front of the log burner.

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