Why the forest is one of the safest places for a UK staycation
Like it or not, life as we once knew it dramatically changed over the past few months and thoughts of booking a holiday again felt a bit like venturing into the unknown.
But the anxious feelings about going away for the first time since lockdown quickly disappeared after confidence was fully restored during a few long-awaited days indulging in the peace and tranquillity of the forest.
A four-night break with Forest Holidays in the Forest of Dean, near Coleford, was a chance to reconnect with the world that had been waiting to be seen since the Covid-19 outbreak devastatingly brought the travel industry to a standstill.
And with no planes, beaches or big crowds to worry about, a secluded woodland cabin nestled in the glorious Gloucestershire countryside seemed like the perfect place to take those first tentative steps away from home and help kick-start the 2020 holiday season.
Check-in wasn't until 5pm after measures were put in place to allow time for a deep clean, but arriving early provided an opportunity to stretch the legs, walk the dog and take in the beautiful surroundings.
You won't have to queue for long for your cabin key, but the one-way system and clear social-distancing markers inside the spacious Forest Retreat makes check-in an easy and stress-free process.
The 120-cabin Forest of Dean location is the largest retreat in the Forest Holidays portfolio, but there are many other slightly smaller offerings dotted around the UK, including two sites in Scotland, two in North Yorkshire and one in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.
Most of the cabins - all classed as luxury - come in 'Golden Oak' and 'Silver Birch' standards, with the larger ones housing up to 10 people at a time and some are pet-friendly too. There are also a few special 'treehouse' and 'romantic hideaway' options for those looking for something more unique.
All cabins are self-catering and equipped with mod-cons such as a giant flat-screen TV, en-suite bathroom and fully-fitted kitchen including an oven, microwave and dishwasher.
Pots and pans are also provided so all you need to think about is food and drink and it's up to you whether you take your own or buy it from Forest Holidays' own Feast & Fodder menu, which includes a variety of dishes from the Forest Ranger breakfast and Fondue Fries to Stonebaked Pizzas, Gourmet Burgers and ice cream desserts.
TV remotes are currently omitted from all cabins, but viewing preferences can easily be controlled using your own smartphone.
Outside there is a decking area with a dining table and gas barbecue, with every cabin also boasting the lavish perk of a hot tub which is maintained and refilled daily so you can sit back and unwind with a drink or two while listening to the peaceful sounds of nature.
Watch out for the squirrels because although cute to look at, they will happily scamper onto your decking in search for food which makes life interesting if you have a dog that wants to chase.
Surrounding the retreat are many interesting walking and cycling routes, including the trail to Symonds Yat rock, where you can admire the panoramic views of the Gloucestershire hillside and enjoy one of the best places in the country to spot peregrine falcons.
The much shorter Woodlands Trail is suitable for families with younger children and the Bracelands to the Wye walk, which winds its way down the hillside, leads to the path running alongside the river towards Symonds Yat village, where the Saracens Head pub provides a welcoming pit stop.
Times have been tough, but if you're looking to get away from it all a break with Forest Holidays will give you space, freedom and a chance to reconnect to the beautiful world we almost forgot was out there.
Price for a two-bed cabin for four nights is £570