WHAT’S THE SCOOP? If your idea of a dream getaway is a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, Forest Holidays has just the thing. OK, “in the middle of nowhere” might be exaggerating a little but if you stay at one of their nine idyllic sites across the UK, you’ll certainly feel a million miles away from fast-paced modern life. We checked in to the Blackwood Forest resort in Hampshire and our luxurious cabin – one of 60 hidden away in 270 hectares of woodland – was a real delight. All Forest Holidays sites are on land owned by the Forestry Commission and have been designed to blend in with their woodland surroundings. Not only will your break help fund the organisation’s important work but it will also support local communities.
ARE MUDDY PAWS WELCOME? Most definitely. Each Forest Holidays site has plenty of dog-friendly accommodation and it costs just £10 per pet per night to bring your four-legged friend along for the ride. Up to four dogs are allowed in the cabins but you’ll need to bring your own beds and bowls as they are not provided. Make sure you pack plenty of towels for drying off after muddy woodland walks, too! Dogs must be kept on a lead around the site.
AND WHEN I’M DOG TIRED? Head back to your modern cabin and soak up the views of surrounding forest – it never gets boring. Forest Holidays offers several different grades of accommodation with Copper Beech being the most basic, yet providing all the comforts of home. Silver Birch is the next level up, boasting a hot tub on the outdoor decking, while Golden Oak is the most luxurious, coming with fluffy robes, a wood burning stove… the works! The cabins sleep between two and eight people, and you can even upgrade to a treehouse if you’re feeling adventurous. Our two-bed Silver Birch lodge had fabulous floor-to-ceiling windows in the open-plan lounge area, plus underfloor heating, which felt rather decadent. The fully-equipped kitchen had everything we needed and we could choose where to eat, too – at the dining table or al fresco on a picnic bench. We spent hours gazing up at the trees from the hot tub during our stay (the tub is in a separate gated section on the deck, so there’s no need to worry about child or dog safety) and there was also an en-suite to the master bedroom, which was a welcome addition.
HOW ARE THE SCOOBY SNACKS? The cabins are self-catering but the stylish Forest Retreat – at the heart of the site – sells basic groceries and has a small café. It also stocks a range of local produce and souvenirs, not to mention dog toys. There are several supermarkets a short drive away and a couple of pubs, including The Dove Inn, a mile up the road in Micheldever. The delights of Winchester are a little further afield – if you can get past the stuffed animals on the walls, we found The Black Boy to be incredibly dog-friendly and very cool to boot.ANY FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS TO PLAY WITH? No, but your dog probably won’t be the only one onsite so you won’t have to look far for playmates.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? Everywhere! You do realise you’re in the middle of a forest, right? There are countless woodland trails to explore so dogs will be in heaven. Make the Forest Retreat your first stop before heading out – it has plenty of information about local walks and hikes and lots of leaflets to take away. If you’re keen to learn more about the surrounding area, speak to one of the onsite Forest Rangers who are woodland experts. They offer a range of daily activities and walks – you can even do one after-dark with night vision goggles or sign up for a survival course.
WHAT ERNIE LOVED: The woodland walks literally right on our doorstep, keeping an eye on the forest beasties at night, making friends with the neighbours
WHAT I LOVED: The peace and tranquillity, the hot tub, being amongst the trees, the cool design of the cabin
GET ON THE DOG AND BONE: Short breaks at Blackwood Forest start from £395 per cabin. For further details, call 03330 110 495 or visit forestholidays.co.uk.