Enchanted forests

‘My children loved this place. It was like visiting a fairy-tale. They imagined fairies dancing in the waterfalls and trolls under the bridge. It was a safe and magical environment that brought back a bit of the child in me too.’
- Diana F at Shanklin Chine, near Borthwood Copse on the Isle of Wight

Weird and wonderful things happen amongst ancient trees. They’re home to fairies, boggarts and all manner of wild creatures so it’s no wonder that forests are featured in so many stories for children. Visit one of our enchanted woodlands to become part of the story and enter a mysterious world where Mother Nature is queen.

    Acorn Bank, Cumbria

    ‘My favourite enchanted forest is Acorn Bank, Cumbria. Pixie houses can be found in the roots of the trees and little boats are moored up on the pond.’
    - Jo Day, ranger

    Alderley Edge, Cheshire

    Alderley Edge has long been associated with tales of a wizard who travelled with a farmer through the area and into the underworld. Follow our family-friendly wizard walk to uncover the full story.

    Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire

    ‘To many our monument is Rapunzel’s tower, the shooting lodge is the witch’s house and the crossing between the two is troll bridge.’
    - Coralie H, member of staff at Ashridge

    Ashridge Estate has more than enough space for children and their imaginations to run wild. Rare breeds of deer, bats and songbirds all call this mystical forest their home. But watch out - it’s also home to the evil fairy from Sleeping Beauty. Disney’s new film, Maleficent, was filmed here.

    Dinefwr, Carmarthenshire

    Dinefwr is the only designated National Nature Reserve in Wales and the woodland is home to some of the oldest trees in Britain. At the right time of the year you can see dragons, in the form of freshwater dragonflies.

    Also in Wales, amongst the ancient oak woodlands of Beddgelert, is a hill called Dinas Emrys. This area has links with Merlin, King Arthur and legend has it that this is where the red dragon of Wales comes from. Find out more about the legends of Beddgelert.

    Hatfield Forest, Essex

    The ancient trees of Hatfield Forest are like living sculptures. Some are 1,200 years old and occasionally become known as ‘walking trees’. This happens when the middle of the tree becomes so rotten that they fall over, re-root and grow again. Just imagine what these trees have lived through and the stories they could tell.

    Longshaw, Derbyshire

    At Longshaw children can go Boggart hunting. These mythical goblin-like creatures are said to live in woods and on moors. ‘They’re very good at hiding from adults, getting up to no good and looking after the places they love. You can pick up a Boggart trail from the café. This will take you to all kinds of special places, including a giant Boggart hole and through tunnels in the rhododendrons.’
    - Jenny G, member of staff at Longshaw

    Lydford Gorge, Devon

    ‘The Devil's Cauldron inspires young children's imagination.’
    - Hannah W, visitor

    Lydford Gorge is an ancient forest with a deep secret. This old secret takes the form of a spectacular 30ft (9m) waterfall. You can also walk out over the Devil’s Cauldron, a naturally formed pot hole. Visit to discover more about the myths and legends surrounding this magical place.

    Runnymede, Surrey

    The Ankerwycke yew, near Runnymede, is thought to be our oldest tree. At around 2000 years old if any tree is enchanted, this is the one. Discover the secrets of the Ankerwycke yew on the park circular walk.

    Shervage Wood in the Quantock Hills, Somerset

    Shervage Wood, on the western side of the Quantock Hills, was once home to a fire-breathing dragon called the Gurt Worm. The dragon was eventually defeated and cut into two halves. These halves formed the Quantock Hills so be careful where you tread.

    Not far away is the magical Horner Wood. Here ancient trees are draped with mosses and rare lichens.

    Ullswater, Cumbria

    Hidden in the ancient woodland of Ullswater is a tumbling 65ft (nearly 20m) waterfall. Undiscovered glades are the perfect place for a picnic and strange red creatures, with bushy tails, watch you from amongst the trees.

Kids can also let their imaginations run wild at our fairy-tale castles and magical mansions and gardens.