Are you a hopeless romantic at heart? A lover of literature and poetry? A history buff or a film fanatic? Would you like to visit woods with some surprising connections to the UK’s rich history and culture, some of which have featured in books, films and TV? Then look no further than our list of seven woodlands with some intriguing tales to tell.

1. Kinclaven Bluebell Wood, Perthshire

Kinclaven Bluebell Wood is seriously rich in all sorts of flora and fauna. Located in a bend of the River Tay, this mix of ancient and recently planted woodland was once part of the Ballathie Estate. Hiding in the undergrowth nearby, you’ll find the remains of Kinclaven Castle, burnt down by William Wallace in 1297. If you’re a fan of the TV series Outlander, Kinclaven was used as a location for Frasers' Ridge too.

2. Glen Finglas, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

The sublime Glen Finglas is the place to head to if you’re a true romantic. This vast and varied estate lies in the heart of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park and has inspired the poetry of Willam Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Gerald Manley Hopkins. Sir Walter Scott’s poem Glenfinlas is named after the glen and his poem The Lady of the Lake was set around nearby Loch Katrine. The real life outlaw and folk hero at the heart of Scott’s novel, Rob Roy, also lived in the area and is buried in the churchyard at Balquhidder. You can find the setting for John Everett Millais’ famous portrait of John Ruskin too.

3. Young People’s Forest at Mead, Derbyshire

The former opencast coal mine site of the Young People's Forest at Mead was once part of the Shipley Hall Estate, reportedly the setting for D.H. Lawrence’s controversial novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Lawrence grew up the son of a coal miner in nearby Eastwood and surely visited the estate, as he once wrote of its 'great, proud beeches'. Going back further, the estate is mentioned in the Domesday Book and was once even owned by Vikings!

4. Tring Park, Hertfordshire

This grand, sweeping parkland was once part of a large aristocratic estate that has been home to a number of notable people, including members of the Rothschild family. The eccentric Walter Rothschild was a keen zoologist and at one time allowed wild animals to roam the park, including 64 cassowary! He founded the Tring Natural History Museum, which you can still visit today. A walk through Tring Park will provide you with impressive views of Tring Park Mansion, designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1685. You can also see an obelisk said to have been erected in memory of Charles II’s notorious mistress, Nell Gwynn, who is rumoured to have visited the site.

5. Duncliffe Wood, North Dorset

Located in the heart of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, close to the town of Shaftesbury, this beautiful ancient woodland is said to have inspired Hardy’s much-loved novel, The Woodlanders. Duncliffe Hill, upon which Duncliffe Wood majestically perches, is also mentioned in his book Jude the Obscure. Steeped in history, the wood is mentioned in the Domesday Book and has revealed precious bronze and iron age artefacts. Visit in spring for early purple orchids and other wildflowers.

6. Cefn Ila, Monmouthshire

Once the site of a magnificent medieval manor house and hunting estate, Cefn Ila was purchased in 1846 and turned into pleasure gardens by the fantastically colourful adventurer and writer, Edward John Trelawny. He was a great friend of popular poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley and it was here that he wrote his memoir, Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron. The house burned down in 1973, but you can still see remnants of the walled garden, orchard and arboretum. 

7. Throne Wood, North Belfast

Fans of Michael Morpurgo will be fascinated to learn that Throne Wood is the real life location of the incredible true story that inspired the book, An Elephant in the Garden and the subsequent 2017 film, Zoo, starring Toby Jones. You too can walk the very same paths that baby elephant Sheila walked with her ‘elephant angel’, Denise Weston Austin, during the Second World War, to escape the air raids. Renowned poet Samuel Ferguson once lived in Throne House too, the traces of which can be found deep within the wood.

Feeling inspired to get out into the woods by all these tales of poets, artists and writers? Try taking a notepad or sketchbook with you to get in touch with nature and find your own creativity.

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