The Royal Forest of Dean covers 204 square miles, and contains 20 million trees. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and a great place to visit if you ever get the chance.
The people who live there are called ‘Foresters’, and it’s a Royal Forest because from the Norman period it was used for centuries as a hunting park for the Royal family. Even now it is full of wild dear and boar. If you ever visit keep away from the boar, as they have been known to attack people and can be lethal. There are even rumours of one, or several, big cats on the loose (possibly panthers).
There’s a lot of things to do in the forest if you like the outdoors and/or history. But my favourite thing to do there is to just take walks through the forest.
Royalty aren’t the only ones who have made The Royal Forest of Dean famous. Firstly, several Doctor Who episodes have been filmed in the area, both above and below ground. Then there’s Merlin and the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens film which have both been filmed here. Plus, JRR Tolkien visited the area a lot and based the forests of Middle Earth on The Royal Forest of Dean.
Then there is this:
It’s called St. Briavels Castle, and you can actually spend the night there as it’s a YHA. It dates bake over 900 years, and has been used for many things, including a Royal Hunting Lodge, a munitions factory (making iron cross bow bolts), a prison, and a school just like Hogwarts (I’ll be coming back to this shortly). And on a spooky note, there are a lot of ghost stories connected to this castle, but don’t worry they can’t hurt you. The reason I know this is because I spent a year working there, and not once did anything bad ever happen to me, so you’ll be perfectly safe. It’s a fantastic building, and so easy to imagine it as Hogwarts (there was even a Harry Potter fan group who came all the way from Germany to stay here and have one big weeklong role-play while I worked there, which was absolutely awesome). As it’s a YHA it is really cheap to stay there, and you are also able to hire out the whole castle for groups, parties, and ghost hunts (which is obviously more expensive than just one room for a night). You can find out more and book at www.yha.org.uk/hostel/st-briavels
This isn’t the only place to stay in the forest, you can visit www.wyedeantourism.co.uk for more places to stay, and more about the things you can do while you are there.
Now for the Harry Potter connection. The forest is the place in which Harry and Hermione go to after Ron leaves in The Deathly Hallows, and where he finds them again with the help of Dumbledore’s deluminator to destroy the necklace. The forest was actually used to film this part of the story.
The biggest Harry Potter connection for the forest is that JK Rowling grew up there, in a small village called Tutshill. She went to school at the nearby Wye Valley School (now called the Bourne End Academy) and has been back there to visit students since becoming the author of the best books in history. She doesn’t live there now, so please don’t go knocking on doors hoping JK Rowling will invite you in for a cup tea and slice of cake. This could end up getting you into you lot of trouble. I don’t know if she ever visited St. Briavels Castle, but the castle is well known in the area so I always liked to think that she at least knew about it.
“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” Steve Jobs.