|Oxford sunshine (Christ Church university buildings)|
The Forest of Dean is in Gloucester and borders the English Cotswolds region on one side and Wales on the other. We stayed in a Forest Holidays cabin, which means we were part of a large but well set up complex. Forest Holidays have links with the Forest Commission and their 9 UK sites feature eco-friendly cabins in beautiful locations. It was a different approach to our usual style of booking independent self-catering holiday homes, but one we were pleased with.
One of the highlights of the cabin was its hot tub, which was delightful to dip into after walking or sightseeing outdoors. We were lucky to have clear days for most of our time away, but the temperatures were still cold - as evidenced by the picture below with ice on the hot tub cover. We were also thankful for the effective underfloor heating within the cabin itself.
The Forest of Dean has plenty of walking (and cycling) trails and the scenery is beautiful. It is the sort of setting that allows you to forget day-to-day life and issues of work.
Whilst we certainly saw other people around, we were also fortunate to have lots of open space to ourselves and at no point encountered crowds. There are advantages to travelling in the off season...
When not walking within the forest, we enjoyed views from the various winding roads and small towns in the region. Some of the larger town highlights included Cheltenham, a refined spa town in the heart of the Cotswold's, and Hay-on-Wye with its numerous bookshops.
One of the quaintest small villages was Painswick, with narrow winding streets and honey-coloured stone buildings. It's the sort of place it is hard to imagine living - you would have to drive elsewhere for anything more than milk and bread - but it has a tranquil setting.
We also took in the ruined Tintern Abbey, a stunning site although rather cold and windy on the day we visited. We did have it entirely to ourselves though!
More sheltered, on account of being entirely underground, were the old mining caverns at Clearwell Caves. These were fun to wander and impressively large, with multiple separate caves connected by pathways.
On our way home, we took in the beauty of Bath, which I hadn't visited since I was a child. I had forgotten just how beautiful it is. The imposing cathedral sits elegantly in refined shopping arcades and grand streets of houses.
Our meals on holiday were a mix of self-catering, take-away and restaurant fare. I will share some highlights in a separate post but will mention Bath's The Green Rocket here. It is a vegetarian cafe/restaurant in the heart of the city, with seating over two floors. The picture below is deceivingly empty as when we arrived there were no tables available; shortly after I took this the next wave of customers filled the room up again.
Mr Bite ordered the 'Somerset Mature Cheddar sandwich served with homemade tomato and red onion chutney' and pronounced it good although not outstanding.
I was deliberating between menu options, including the 'Warm salad of roasted squash, puy lentils and slow roast tomatoes, topped with marinated hemp seeds and either feta, halloumi or marinated tofu' and the 'Courgette spaghetti salad with raw salsa romesco and either feta, halloumi or tofu'. In the end, I chose the 'Sesame Ramen Noodles with Lime Satay', described as crisp vegetables and tofu with ramen noodles. It was an enjoyable meal although with more satay sauce than I could eat, and a bit heartier than I usually have for lunch (not a criticism).
All in all, we had a lovely 5 days away and I can highly recommend the region if you are after a low-key but beautiful break with plenty to see and do.
Have you enjoyed any travels lately?