A visit to Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean

by Jan

A visit to Puzzlewood should be high on your list of things to do if you’re visiting the Forest of Dean.  Whether you’re a child, nature lover or Star Wars fan, you will love it.

Puzzlewood is a magical, ancient woodland with unique tree and rock formations in the heart of the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire.  It is a popular family attraction and somewhere we knew we must visit on our recent visit to the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean.

Come with us to discover everything you need to know for a visit to Puzzlewood.  We’ll share information on parking, opening times, parking charges and the best time to visit.  We’ll also share the best things to do near Puzzlewood, so you can have the best day out in the Forest of Dean.

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First impressions at Puzzlewood

Boy on Walkway into Puzzlewood, Coleford, UK

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

Firstly, we followed a muddy path which leads 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 vibe at Puzzlewood are Scowles.  They are the labyrinthine hollows that run between the rocks.  Scowles are unique to the Forest of Dean and can be attributed to its long history of iron-ore mining.

You can find out more about the iron-ore mining at the Forest of Dean Heritage Centre.

Brief history of Puzzlewood

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

The site at Puzzlewood has long history, which dates back to Roman times when the iron ore was extracted for the manufacture of weapons.  In 1848 workers found over 3000 Roman-era coins in earthenware jars, concealed in the rocks.

Open-cast iron ore mining continued for hundreds of years, contributing to the unique landscape we see today.

Puzzlewood opened as a tourist attraction in the 1800s, when a local miner created a forest pathway to entertain his friends and family.  Later, he opened the pathway to Puzzlewood to the public to raise money for the local Clearwell Church.

Nowadays, Puzzlewood is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Forest of Dean, attracting thousands of visitors a year.

Yet, despite its popularity, Puzzlewood did not feel too busy and we mostly felt that we were in our own private enchanted world.  However, I would advise going early, especially in the peak season.  We visited at the start of the day in October, which meant we could avoid the crowds.

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 unusual features of Puzzlewood forest have inspired many film producers and it has been the filming location for many films.  Some of the most popular films include Star Wars, Merlin, Dr Who and more recently The Secret Garden.

However, the inspiring 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

Without hesitation, yes.  Puzzlewood is definitely worth a visit.

Once we’d completed the forest trail, we loved it so much we wanted to go back round again.  It is only short, but has several routes, so we went back and crossed the other bridge.

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

How long does it take to visit Puzzlewood?

It probably takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to visit Puzzlewood.  As well as the forest, they have a small collection of farmyard animals, a small playground, a willow maze, and musical play.

Opening hours and admission prices at Puzzlewood

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

Eating at Puzzlewood?

Puzzlewood Café offers a selection of light lunches and snacks.  You can buy sandwiches, baguettes, cakes and drinks.

There is also an area with picnic benches, if you wish to take a packed lunch.

Things to do near Puzzlewood

Boys kicking through Autumn leaves on Walk at Soudley Pond, Forest of Dean, UK

We spent the afternoon at Clearwell Caves, which are just a couple of minutes’ drive from Puzzlewood.  This is one of the best things to do if it’s a rainy day in the Forest of Dean, as it’s all underground!

Outdoor things to do near Puzzlewood are a walk at Soudley Ponds, the Sculpture Trail at Beechwood, the Cannop Cycle Centre or Go Ape at Mallards Pike.

Getting to Puzzlewood

By car

Puzzlewood is just south of Coleford in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire in England.  The easiest way to get there is by car.  It is signposted from Coleford.

On arrival, you’ll find a large, free car park, just in front of the ticket office.

The postcode is GL16 8QB.

By train

The nearest train stations are Lydney and Chepstow.

Lydney is over 5 miles away and Chepstow is 10 miles, so you would ned to book a taxi in advance.

By bus

If you are using public transport, it is probably easier to take a bus.  You can get a National Express coach to Chepstow or Gloucester, then take a bus to Coleford.

Puzzlewood is a 10-15 minute walk from Coleford, or you could take a taxi.

Accommodation near Puzzlewood

There are several hotels near Puzzlewood.  The Wyndham Hotel is a 3-star, traditional hotel in Clearwell or you could try the Bells Hotel in Coleford, which has its own golf course.

If you prefer self-catering accommodation, you’ll find plenty of good options.  Liberty Lodge is on the Woodlands View Holiday Park and is walking distance to Puzzlewood.  Alternatively, Foxglove Cottage is a really cute cottage near Clearwell.

We stayed in a cottage is Upper Redbrook, which was a really good base for exploring the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley.

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!

Avatar for Jan
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.

Avatar for Jan
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!

Avatar for Jan
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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