Try a New Forest: Discovering Europe’s Top Forests
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a keen hiker or perhaps a budding photographer, a woodland retreat is always a thoroughly relaxing and restorative experience.
If you know every heather-covered heath, ancient oak and the grassy plain of the New Forest Trails, it may be time to change things up a bit.
We take a wander off the beaten tracks and trails of the New Forest and explore some of the most enchanting woodlands Europe has to offer.
Planning your forest break
Navigating a getaway based around secluded woodland is often a little trickier than planning your average city break!
When heading out to more remote areas, it can sometimes be difficult to get the balance right of feeling like you’re escaping into nature whilst ensuring you’re not miles away from where you need to be!
For that reason, many travellers prefer to book more rural breaks with providers who offer fights and hotels as part of a package. Booking holidays with Opodo for example, will mean that in just a few clicks travellers can see which hotels are available at the time of flying and how far away they are from their chosen destination. This makes the process far more straightforward, and often less expensive, than booking everything separately.
Ashdown Forest, UK
Ashdown Forest, located in Sussex offers plenty of walking trails alongside ample opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. There are a number of picnic tables dotted around offering some fantastic views whilst you enjoy an alfresco lunch!
Perhaps the best thing about Ashdown Forest is its charming literary connection. The location is the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood in A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Visitors can explore the actual sites featured in the stories such as the Enchanted Place and Pooh Sticks Bridge.
Despite its rural and peaceful charm, Ashdown is only a 30-minute drive from Gatwick Airport. If you’re travelling by train, the nearest station is East Grinstead and regular buses run to the area
Epping Forest, UK
Epping Forest is a large ancient woodland spanning northeast London and parts of Essex. The area is a designated Special Area of Conservation, known for its diverse flora and fauna.
The forest has a rich history, with evidence of human habitation dating all the way to the Mesolithic period. It later gained prominence as a royal hunting ground and was used by monarchs including Henry VIII and Elizabeth.
Today, Epping is a popular recreational space and a favoured destination for walking, cycling and enjoying the diverse ecosystems and wildlife.
The closest major airport to Epping Forest is London Stansted which is only 19 miles away. If you’re travelling by train or tube, hop on the central line to reach Epping Station which provides access to various entrances and areas within the southern part of the forest.
The Black Forest, Germany
The Black Forest is a dense and picturesque forest and mountain range situated in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg in southwestern Germany.
The forest offers numerous outdoor activities such as hiking a skiing and there is a large network of well-maintained trails, taking visitors through waterfalls, lakes and meadows.
The region surrounding the forest is steeped in culture and heritage, from its cuckoo clocks to traditional food. It is renowned for its connection to folklore and fairy tales, making it a particularly atmospheric and magical place to visit.
The Black Forest is vast so the closest airport depends on which specific part you intend to visit. Stuttgart, located in the northern region is easily accessible from the UK and provides easy access to various parts of the Black Forest.
The Foret de la Grande Chartreuse, France
This beautiful forest is located in the Chartreuse Mountains in southeastern France and is renowned for its stunning scenery comprising of mountains, forests and valleys.
There is a diverse range of flora in addition to a variety of wildlife including deer, chamois and several bird species. The forest is particularly tranquil and a great place for some quiet reflection whilst enjoying the natural beauty and views of the surrounding mountains.
Located within the forest is the head monastery of the Carthusian Order. The monastery is still inhabited by monks and whilst not open to the public, guests can visit the museum and learn more about the order or even sample some of the famous liquor made by the monks!
Whilst geographically, the nearest airport to the Foret de la Grande Chartreuse is Chambery, it isn’t the most accessible. Instead, you may be better off flying to Geneva and then taking the train or bus from there.
Hallerbos Forest, Belgium
Hallerbos, also known as the Blue Forest, is famous for its enchanting carpet of bluebells that flower during spring, creating a rather breathtaking atmosphere.
Although the blooming of the bluebells is a highlight the forest remains beautiful throughout the year and there are plenty of well-marked trails and paths leading visitors around the forest.
Hallerbos is situated around 15 km from Brussels with regular trains taking you to the forest in just 15 minutes, making it easily accessible.
Whether it’s ancient woodlands, whispering leaves or an opportunity to take in the wildlife, a stroll through the forest is one of the simplest yet most invigorating experiences life has to offer.
With an array of enchanting forests on offer all across Europe, it’s time to stick on the hiking boots and explore further afield.