Forests and woodland have forever been entwined with British folklore, including the heroic forest-dwelling outlaw, Robin Hood. According to legend, Robin was a highly skilled archer and swordsman who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. Every August he is celebrated at the Robin Hood Festival, which transforms his home – Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest – into a medieval gala of entertainment, food and drink, activities, and live-action re-enactments bring Robin Hood’s exploits to life.
Now in its 33rd year, the 2017 festival takes place from 31 July – 6 August. Entry is free and activities are based at two main locations in Sherwood Forest Country Park: the Visitor Centre and Major Oak (less than 15 minutes’ walk from the Visitor Centre). Each year Nottingham’s famous legend makes his appearance at the festival, along with his band of merry men, to see off the Sheriff of Nottingham and take from the rich to give to the poor.
Make like Robin Hood and explore forest fun and adventures around Britain. Be enchanted by unique treehouse accommodation, thrilled by treetop zip-wires, and fascinated by foraging and bushcraft courses.
Located in Nottinghamshire in the north of England, Sherwood Forest is best known for its association with the legend of Robin Hood. The tale of this bow-and-arrow wielding hero is so popular that it’s inspired countless film and TV adaptations, starring actors including Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe. Legend asserts that Robin and his band of Merry Men would use an enormous oak tree known as Major Oak as their hideout from adversaries including the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Getting there: Sherwood Forest is in the north of England, three hours north of London by car.
Proclaimed a royal forest in 1079 by William the Conqueror, the New Forest in southern England first appeared in historic manuscript the Domesday Book in 1086. Now England’s largest royal forest, it’s associated with many myths and legends. A designated national park since 2005, visitors today can enjoy its many miles of cycle paths, picnic areas, and other attractions such as the New Forest Wildlife Park, which specialises in Britain’s native wildlife. The area is also home to the iconic New Forest ponies.
Getting there: The New Forest National Park is in southern England, one hour and 40 minutes south-west of London by car.
Britain’s first tree-top ropes course was opened in 2002 by Go Ape in Thetford Forest in Suffolk, eastern England. The company now operates at 30 beautiful woodland sites throughout England, Scotland and Wales. Each course is unique, and comprises rope ladders, bridges, and challenging treetop obstacles including Tarzan swings and zip wires. Located within Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in Scotland, the Aberfoyle course boasts two of Britain’s longest zip-lines.
Getting there: Aberfoyle is in Scotland, one hour north of Glasgow by car.
The woods of Brentwood in Essex are home to the exhilarating WildForestGym – Britain’s first obstacle training centre and natural movement gymnasium. This forest-sized site includes a 2.3km course with 32 race-size obstacles and a natural movement outdoor gym where you can monkey around and develop natural movement techniques.
Getting there: Brentwood is in south-east England, 90 minutes north-east of London by car.
For a truly wild experience, take a bushcraft course and learn how to light a fire by friction, eat wild food fresh from the hedgerows, or make a watertight shelter for the night using sticks and leaves. Hone these and other survivalist skills on a course run by Woodland Ways. Led by experienced instructors, these award-winning courses take place at woodland locations across England and Scotland.
Getting there: Courses run throughout England and Scotland.
Amazing arboreal accommodation
If you think a treehouse is a haphazard cluster of floorboards nailed together by someone’s dad and accessed via a bit of knotted rope, think again! Britain boasts an array of amazing treehouses, ranging from Tolkein-esque retreats to boutique-style boltholes. Some are available to rent as self-catering holiday homes via websites such as AirBnB and Sawday’s Canopy & Stars.
Set deep in the woods of north Wales, close to Snowdonia National Park, are Living Room Treehouses. Perfect for an isolated, off-the-grid experience, these six curvaceous treehouse pods resemble the Ewok village in Star Wars. Set in the treetops, each one is designed for a couple or family of four, and feature rustic details such as a cosy wood-burner and an outdoor shower that uses heated spring water.
Getting there: The Living Room Treehouses are in north Wales, two hours 40 minutes north-west of Cardiff by car.
An even more expansive option can be found in the trees surrounding Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, a five-star country house hotel in the New Forest in southern England. Positioned high in a verdant forest canopy are luxury hotel suites with amenities such as private deck with hot tub and bespoke marble bathrooms – all suspended 35 feet above ground. A first for any British hotel, guests staying in these opulent treehouses enjoy indulgencies such as a breakfast hamper delivered daily, whilst being just a minute’s walk from the hotel’s gourmet restaurant and cookery school.
Getting there: Chewton Glen is in south-west England, two hours 15 minutes south-west of London by car.
Co-owned by the Forestry Commission, Forest Holidays currently operates at nine stunning woodland locations in England and Scotland. Each site has between 35 and 120 luxury cabins and treehouses. There’s a programme of forest ranger activities, ranging from gentle woodland walks to more active adventures such as pony trekking and kayaking – although guests may prefer to enjoy the comfort of cabin living, because each one has a private hot tub, whilst in-cabin spa treatments and a private chef service can also be requested.
Getting there: It’s in forests throughout England and Scotland, specifically North Yorkshire, Cornwall, Norfolk, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Argyll and Stirlingshire.
Robin Hood Festival