Holiday at Home: Symonds Yat and the Forest of Dean

January 1, 1970

by Hayley Russell

Symonds Yat and the Forest of Dean, United Kingdom

The unspoilt beauty of the Wye Valley has been a tourism hotspot for hundreds of years. While over the years many modern BnB’s, hotels and forest lodge style accommodations have sprung up, the ancient hand-ferries and agrarian landscape have barely changed. Whether you want to hike, climb and canoe or relax and soak up the beautiful views, the Gloucestershire-Herefordshire-Monmouthshire border area has something for you.

What Not To Miss:

Symonds Yat Rock Viewpoint

Me and my buddy Anna exploring the local area

  • Probably one of the best known viewpoints of the area, the breath-taking beauty of the view from Symonds Yat Rock is nigh unparalleled. With the options of an all-day car park and wheelchair accessible ramps or plentiful hikes through the surrounding Forest of Dean, or even a challenging climb from the riverside below, Yat Rock should be on everyone’s itinerary. Bird lovers can see many birds of prey here including Peregrine Falcons, who next on the opposite cliff face.
  • The Kymin; a national trust site, this adorable white turret sits high on the skyline above the town of Monmouth. From the top you can see all the way to the Black Mountains and Malvern Hills on a clear day.
  • Canoe or Kayak the Wye; several companies offer hourly, half day or full day canoeing and kayaking all the way along the Wye. Start in the market town of Ross on Wye and finish in Symonds Yat, or further down and go over the world famous white water rapids in Symonds Yat and finish over the border in Monmouth. Hugely popular with tourists and locals alike, I would advise booking in the summer months to avoid disappointment. Everything is provided – just turn up in sensible shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting wet!
  • Take the ancient hand ferry from Symonds Yat West to East. It’ll cost you a few pounds (unless you’re a local) and experience the most traditional form of transport across the river. Either from Ye Olde Ferry Inn or the Saracens Head (if no one is around ask in the pubs.) Bikes and Dogs are welcome.
  • Watch the jousting at Goodrich Castle: Goodrich Castle is one of the better preserved X century castles built to fortify the Welsh Boarder. With an active schedule of events, particularly fun are the Jousting competitions; a great day out for the whole family.
  • Hike the Forest Sculpture Trail: Combine an art visit with the great outdoors; there are 17 sculptures around the Forest of Dean; follow the clearly marked trails and find the sculptures along the way. While some are more out there than others, kids will love the sense of adventure and exploration. Dogs also welcome.
  • Get lost in the Amazing Hedge Maze. We’d lived in the area for nearly 4 years before trying the maze and were surprised at how good it was! Old fashioned fun for everyone, the maze is well maintained and situated next to a great little café, butterfly zoo and garden centre. You can also do outdoor Lazar Tag and take a relaxed guided cruise down the river Wye nearby.
  • Go Ape! If you’re after a real adrenaline rush, hit the treetops with the high ropes course at Go Ape! A little more expensive, and booking is strongly recommended, but it is a lot of fun! Expert guides ensure the safety of your group and guide you through some of the higher, scarier parts! Easier alternative routes offered. 
  • Have afternoon tea at Speech House.
  • Go underground at Clearwell Caves. The Caves date back to about 4500 years ago, dug by prehistoric folk looking for Ochre to make paint. Since then, they have been used to mine Iron Ore, and these miners expanded the underground warren like network and lived and worked in the huge caverns.
  • Get adventurous at Beechenhurst Lodge. The lodge is set in acres of woodland and open green spaces. A very popular picnic spot, it also offers a café and BBQ facilities. Lots of activities for the whole family are available, including my personal favourite; an outdoor climbing wall.


Best Eats:

  • The New Inn, Located a few miles out of Coleford and about a 5 minute driver (35 minute walk) from Symonds Yat Rock, the New Inn serves pub food from 12-3 and 6-9 every day, including a traditional roast on Sundays. Hugely generous portions, great food with good vegetarian options and reasonably priced. Restaurant and Bar area, sports show, beer garden, large car park. Families welcome. Booking highly recommended especially for peak times.
  • Mokos Mexican Restaurant: Church St, Monmouth. Unusual to recommend a Mexican Restaurant in Wales, but Mokos is a hugely popular restaurant serving delicious Texan style Mexican Food. A selection of burgers and all day breakfast is also available for those less adventurous. Offers a lunch and evening menu and an upstairs tequila bar. Booking recommended for weekends.
  • Coleford Tapas and Cocktail Bar: On the slightly odd recommendations, the Forest town of Coleford offers a lovely Tapas and Cocktail bar. Beautifully decorated, great food and very reasonably priced wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails.
  • The Old Court: For more traditional fare, the Old Court at Symonds Yat West offers a high end restaurant and pub menu. Set in a gorgeous old court in beautiful grounds near the river, the Court offers Bed and Breakfast and is a popular choice for wedding receptions and other events.
  • The Saracens Head: If you’re on the other side of the river, The Saracens Head is a riverside pub with a great menu. A little more expensive but worth it for the food and location.


Where to stay:

  • I would always recommend renting a holiday cottage; there are many options from one bedroom snug barn conversions, like Wyedean Cottage (link: to larger properties for all the family. Self-catering cottages place you in the middle of it all; whether you want to hike the forest trails, have an amazing view of the rolling hills or be down by the river.
  • Camp: camping is popular in the summer months with large riverside flat campsites such as the Biblins. Alternatively head into the hills and discover hidden gems like the Doward Park Campsite (which is still walking distance from the amenities in Whitchurch and Symonds Yat West.)
  • If you’d rather stay in a little more comfort, there are many very well located, quality BnB’s and Hotels within a few miles of Symonds Yat.
  • Alternatively stay in the market towns of Ross-on-Wye or Monmouth, which both ooze small town charm but also have more amenities such as cinemas, theatres, festivals and restaurants.

As an alternative to international holidays, why not explore the English-Welsh border this summer? Travelling by Car is recommended for the freedom to explore.

Royal Forest of Dean

The sun sets in the Forest of Dean

Hayley Russell

By Hayley Russell

Hayley is a student, theatre producer, writer and adventurer. Bitten by the travel bug very young and currently living in Siena, Tuscany on her Year Abroad, she is using her ERASMUS to facilitate further travels.


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