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English country cottages in The Forest of Dean

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The Forest of Dean The Forest of Dean is one of England's few remaining ancient forests, and was designated as a National Forest Park in 1938. It lies between the rivers Wye and Severn, covering nearly 30,000 acres of the western part of Gloucestershire and the borders of Wales and Herefordshire. As well as hotels, B&Bs and campsites, there's a good range of self-catering accommodation here, including log cabins, lodges, farmhouses and holiday cottages to rent in the Forest of Dean.

The natural beauty and mystical aura of the Forest of Dean have proved an inspiration to great artists and writers including Tolkein and JK Rowling. Each season brings new colours to the forest landscape, from vivid greens to rusetty autumnal leaves, bluebells, daffodils and snowdrops. There's also a wealth of wildlife to discover and abundant opportunities for outdoor leisure pursuits.

The Dean Heritage Centre at Camp Mill, Soudley Valley, tells the story of The Forest of Dean and its people. There are demonstrations of traditional woodland crafts and activities, a 'Forester's cottage', adventure playground and replica of a woodland coalmine.

Clearwell Caves and ancient Iron Mines near Coleford make up an award-winning visitor attraction. There are nine caverns to explore, and displays giving insights into both the natural geology and the making of some of Britain's oldest underground workings. Generations of local people made their livings here from mining iron ore and ochre. Adventurous visitors can go on 'deep level' visits and try out caving activities. There's also a gift shop, tea room and picnic area.

The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail starts and ends as Beechenhurst Lodge picnic site in the heart of the forest. The full trail is 3.5 miles, but can also be explored in short stretches. Pick up an up-to-date trail leaflet from Beechenhurst Lodge and you can read up on each work of art. Sculptures draw inspiration from the forest and use natural materials such as wood, iron and stone.

Arty types and food lovers will enjoy the Taurus Craft Centre, which is just outside Lydney on the edge of the Forest of Dean. It operates as a social enterprise, combining commercial activity with training and community activities. There's a gift shop, gallery and working potters wheel (which visitors can try out in holiday time). The café and shop stock 'La Bodega' Organic Food and wine from the local area.

Plenty of locals and visitors enjoy a trot through the Forest of Dean on horseback. Choose accommodation carefully and you may be able to bring your own horse with you and keep it in a nearby stable (there are plenty of holiday cottages in the Forest of Dean to rent where you can take your horse on holiday with you). Alternatively, there are plenty of centres offering the chance to ride, and tuition is available for all ages and levels of experience.

The Dean Forest Railway runs right through the Forest of Dean, and some services offer the chance to travel on an old fashioned steam train, with on board commentary and a luxurious dining car. The Railway hosts various special events throughout the year, and educational activities for children. Along the way, you can stop off at the forest towns of Lydney, Norchard and Parkend and visit real ale pubs, museums, woodland walks, cycleways and other attractions nestled within the forest. The choice of self-catering cottages in the Forest of Dean range of hideaway houses near Lydney, idyllic cottages to rent near Norchard, vacation rentals in Parkend and holiday cottages in all parts of the Forest of Dean - this is a lovely part of England for a self-catering rental holiday.

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