The first lovely surprise on our trip to the Forest of Dean was that you can get there in three hours.

After crossing the Severn Bridge we were soon at our beautiful cottage with a stunning view over the miles of this jaw-dropping landscape.

We had not considered the area for a holiday before and the natural beauty of the forest was a real eye-opener. The area suits walkers, cyclists or – what I would class us as – amblers.

To be fair, we had our six-month-old son and four-year-old daughter with us so we were never going to be taking on the serious hikers.

The forest is so vast that we would go on a stroll and barely see a soul.

From our cottage we could walk into the ancient oak woodland to go blackberry picking and follow the paths to make our way back again without any kind of trouble.

The forest has deer, buzzards and wild boar, and it is great to see how it has been protected against any large scale development.

The real jewel in the crown of our stay as a family was the facilities at Deanwood Holiday Cottages, found through Cottages Direct.

They have a huge new barn with a bouncy castle, ride-on electric cars, space hoppers, a bowling game and pool table.

Our daughter’s face was a picture when she saw it all and it was so nice to have access to such fun activities right on our doorstep.

The site also had a lovely garden with a small football goal and children’s play area.

We even had a barbecue next to the cottage so she could play there while I was cooking up my mackerel, lamb chops or sausages.

The site also had a field for camping and a caravan area, complete with that stunning view across the forest.

There are plenty of days out, too.

We enjoyed a lovely time at Lydney and enjoyed its parks. In fact there is a wealth of cosy villages to choose from in the area.

The beautiful Chepstow was also only 11 miles away. And the forest is also not far from Cheltenham, if you fancy a day out there.

Our other trip out was to the magical Puzzlewood, part of the forest used by the BBC to film scenes for Merlin.

It is easy to see why they would shoot footage there. The pathways take you through spectacular scenes of caves and rock formations, over bridges and past strange and spookily shaped trees.

JRR Tolkien was a frequent visitor there and you can imagine being with Frodo and Bilbo Baggins as you pass through the magical ancient woodland, which may have inspired the Ent tree-people in the legendary books.

The Dean Forest Railway was also walking distance away from our cottage, running from Lydney to Parkend.

And Mallards Pike Lake is also close by for a stroll and a picnic. For those who fancy an adventure in a canoe, the River Wye is just down the road.

We enjoyed a visit to a pub in Yorkley and bought some gorgeous honey from a cottage while strolling down one of the country lanes. We were there after the summer and the Forest of Dean struck us as a great all-year round location for a break as it is not far away and to see the woodland at all times of year.

I would love to go back and try out the cycling when the children are older and there are so many other parts of the forest and the Wye Valley we would still like to explore.


Stilwell’s Cottages Direct is a well-established book-direct brand offering self-catering holiday accommodation throughout the UK and Ireland.

In 2014 it will celebrate its 20 year anniversary. Its popular website – – has around 2,000 properties of all sizes and types in rural, coastal, village and town locations. The website has search filters allowing site visitors to find their preferred type of accommodation and location – there are over 15,000 towns and villages listed.

There is the option of online booking with credit card for many properties. Special offers and discounts are prominently displayed from the Home Page.

Arron Hendy stayed at Coachman’s Cottage (ref 249721).

At the same location there is Squirrel Cottage (ref 249722) and Ivy Cottage (ref 249720), found at Coachman’s and Ivy each have two bedrooms and sleep four people and Squirrel Cottage has one bedroom and sleeps two people. They are located three miles from Lydney in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.

For Coachman’s and Ivy cottages, prices start from £250 for a week early in 2014 rising to £460 in July and August. For Squirrel Cottage, prices for 2104 start at £210 and rise to £350 in July and August.