Ever wondered why it feels so good to go into the woods? Why it seems so magical? Well maybe it’s because the stuff of legends is born there.
What do we mean? Well, if you go down to the woods today, you’re more than likely stepping into a setting of myth and legend. In the deepest, darkest depths of the forest, there lives many a tale of intrigue and magic, all waiting to be discovered.
So we’ve done a bit of research, and just for you here is a rundown of what we’ve come up with as a top five of where to discover those mythical, magical fantasy woodland worlds:
1. Savernake Forest, Wiltshire
If you like your fantasy with a side of things that go bump in the night, this is the forest for you.
There’s something a little spooky about Savernake. It seems to have attracted the maddest of myths over the years, which include the fact that on any given visit, you might well come across the ghost of a white deer, a phantom coach and horses, a headless woman riding a horse or a pack of black hounds which bring bad luck to all who see them.
Fancy your chances against that lot? If so, you’ll also be sure to enjoy the 1,800 hectare ancient forest, which includes a beautiful Capability Brown landscaped beech avenue, and a 1,000 year-old Big Belly oak, which inspired the Radiohead album name, King of Limbs. There’s also a forest campsite to bed down in if you’re looking to make a proper outdoor adventure of it.
2. Shervage Wood, Somerset
OK so we may have included this one because, well, how could we not include somewhere that has a mythical fire-breathing dragon known as the Gurt Wurm which was chopped in half by a whortleberry picker called Joe Tottle?! Best mythical names ever!
However, if you do fancy a visit to the home of the Gurt Wurm, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view across the Bristol Channel, and the aforementioned whortleberries, which can still be found at Shervage Wood, a National Trust site which is also close to the magical Horner Wood where ancient trees are draped with rare lichens and mosses.
3. Slieve Guillon Forest Park, County Armagh
Another legendary figure with an equally legendary name has to be Fionn mac Cumhaill, or Finn McCool, as it’s pronounced. Finn was a giant hunter-warrior found in Slieve Guillon Forest Park, who accidentally ate a bit of the Salmon of Knowledge, gaining wisdom, and later killing Aillen, the fire-breathing fairy. He’s also the big man himself who built the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim. So this really is the stuff of fairy tales!
Today’s modern forest goer can enjoy a 2km mature forest walk which comprises stunning views across the Mourne and Cooley mountain ranges. And if you happen to see a giant footprint on your travels? Well, you’ll know it was put there by someone super McCool…
4. Pressmennan Wood, East Lothian
We’ve included this entry as we love the fact that within the Woodland Trust owned Pressmennan Wood, myths and legends are being created this very day for future generations to enjoy. Wood sculptor Robin Wood (another great and very apt name!) has designed a beautiful sculpture trail which, if you’re lucky, will lead you to the homes of the Glingbobs and Tootflits.
They’re very shy creatures, however, so it may be that you just spot their little doors and windows carved into the side of tree trunks instead. If so, don’t be disheartened; you’ll still have the beautiful ancient woodland and the tiny stained glass masterpieces to enjoy.
5. Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
Obviously, the jewel in the tree crown when it comes to fantasy has to go to Sherwood Forest Country Park. Whether you fancy yourself as Robin Hood or Maid Marian, Sherwood Forest allows the visitor to enjoy the 1,000 oak trees on site, including the 800 year old Major oak, whose hollow trunk you can just imagine served as a hideout for outlaws.
Fancy getting into the Sherwood swing? There’s even a Robin Hood Festival which takes place annually at Sherwood Forest!
No matter what myth tickles your fancy, there’s something so magical about going into the woods. Get yourself kitted out, choose your favourite deepest, darkest forest and let your fantasy take flight!