Fallen trees and Scowls at Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean, UK

A visit to Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean

by Jan

When our boys heard we were planning a trip to one of the filming locations for Star Wars and Merlin they were beyond excited. We were spending half-term in the Wye Valley and a day out at Puzzlewood in the nearby Forest of Dean was top of our list of things to do.

Read on for everything you need to know about a visit to Puzzlewood.

First impressions at Puzzlewood

Boy on Walkway into Puzzlewood, Coleford, UK

Excited though we were, our first stop was the picnic area and lunch.  From here we could see the farm area, which houses small farmyard animals including goats, ducks, and donkeys. The boys enjoyed a quick meet and greet with the animals and then we were ready for our forest adventure.

Firstly, we followed a muddy path which led into Puzzlewood Forest.  A few steps in all seemed normal and we questioned whether we’d just paid to go for a walk in the woods.

But then we turned the corner and completely changed our minds.  “This was not just a walk in the woods, this was an M&S walk in the woods!”  Quite honestly, Puzzlewood forest is unlike any we have ever seen.

Ancient woodland

Gnarled tree roots in Ancient Woodland, Puzzlewood, Coleford, UK

With its ancient woodland, gnarly roots and moss-covered rocks, Puzzlewood has a very otherworldly feel.  The forest trail follows for about 1.5 miles over stepping stones and wooden bridges, leading through gorges and under large, twisted trees.  It has a dramatic, natural landscape and its no wonder it’s been the set for so many fantasy films.

A combination of unusual roots, deep ravines and gigantic yews provide the perfect set for a primeval world.  The paths wind round corners, so you never know what to expect next and at each turn the landscape is more magical than the last.

Our kids just loved it.  And what’s more, so did we!

It can get very muddy and slippy, so wear appropriate footwear.


Magical Puzzlewood. Coleford, Forest of Dean, UK

The curious archaeological features that create this mystical feel are Scowles.  They are the labyrinthine hollows that run between the rocks.  They are unique to the Forest of Dean and can be attributed to its long history of iron-ore mining.

Brief history of Puzzlewood

Wooden bridge, Puzzlewood. Coleford, Forest of Dean, UK

The Forest of Dean is an ancient forest, just south of Coleford in Gloucestershire.  People have mined iron-ore at the site since the Roman times, when they used it to make weapons.

Today Puzzlewood is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Forest of Dean.   It is also a fantastic day out if you are staying nearby in the Wye Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

However, it is not a new attraction.   In fact, a local miner laid the forest pathway in the 1800s to provide entertainment for his friends and family.  And we are so glad he did.

Later, it became open to the public, with an honesty box to raise money for the local Clearwell Church.  Despite its popularity, Puzzlewood did not at any time feel busy and at most times we had the feeling that we were in our own private enchanted world.

Filming locations at Puzzlewood

Boy Star Wars pose, Puzzlewood, Coleford, Forest of Dean, UK
Film set doors in woods, Puzzlewood. Coleford, Forest of Dean, UK

The boys were keen to spot the film locations at Puzzlewood.  The unusual features of the forest have inspired many film producers.  It’s easy to see why they would choose this setting.  Some of the popular films include Star Wars, Merlin, Dr Who and more recently The Secret Garden.

And the landscape is not exclusive to the film world.  Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien took his inspiration for his Middle Earth from here.

Is Puzzlewood worth visiting?

Muddy Steps between rocks, Exploring Puzzlewood, Coleford, UK

Once we’d completed the forest trail, we decided we’d loved it so much we wanted to go back round again.  The trail has several junctions where you choose between 2 options, such as the low bridge or high bridge.  We wanted to see what you’d see if we chose the other option.

A visit to Puzzlewood is one of the best family days out in the Forest of Dean.  And it’s not just for children.  Whether you love a walk, stunning natural scenery, or fantasy films, Puzzlewood is worth a visit whatever your age.  It definitely gets our vote!

Practical Information

Directions to Puzzlewood

Puzzlewood is just south of Coleford in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire in England.

The postcode is GL16 8QB.

The nearest train stations are Lydney and Chepstow, but you would then need to take a taxi.

Opening hours and admission prices at Puzzlewood

For details of the opening hours and admission prices at Puzzlewood please click here.

Have you been to Puzzlewood yet?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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Avatar for Jan
John Quinn 7th December 2020 - 1:17 am

Plenty to see there. I love those strange root formations. And what an amazing name for it.

Avatar for Jan
Jan 7th December 2020 - 7:46 pm

Yes, the roots are fantastic!

Avatar for Jan
Vyki from Museum Mum 6th December 2020 - 9:05 pm

Such a magical place! It really does feel otherworldly – I can see why it inspired Tolkein! Going on the visit wishlist. Thanks for joining in with #CulturedKids

Avatar for Jan
Jan 7th December 2020 - 7:45 pm

It’s definitely worth a visit!

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Scarlett Roitman 25th November 2020 - 11:41 am

Never heard of Puzzlewood or scowles! What a magical name and what an inspiration it must have been for Tolkein. #CULTUREDKIDS

Avatar for Jan
Jan 7th December 2020 - 7:46 pm

No, we’d not heard of scowles before we went either.

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lannie travels 24th November 2020 - 6:45 pm

Fantastic post! I’ve never heard of Puzzlewood. But I absolutely love it from your post and the photos! I can totally see the inspiration for Middle Earth and love that its been a filming location! You know I like that sort of thing 😉 It’s on my radar now and hope to visit when I go to Wales… post-covid!

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Jan 24th November 2020 - 7:37 pm

You’ll have to visit on your way to Wales – it’s on the English side of the border!

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Laureen Dixon 9th November 2020 - 6:45 pm

Great photography – again.

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Jan 9th November 2020 - 6:54 pm



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