Christmas for us starts when we walk into our log cabin and see the game of scrabble set up with the word “welcome”. There is always a welcome hamper to explore, and the real Christmas tree in the corner, ready waiting to be decorated with the kit provided.
Everyone excitedly helps to unpack the car and the carrying of presents, bags and food down the dark forest path begins. Torches are much needed!
Slowly a pile of presents forms under the tree, the bags are unpacked, fridge filled, beds claimed and everyone can start to relax!
We have been going to Forest Holidays for Christmas for the last 4 years and its starting to feel like home. There really is nothing quite like waking up in the middle of a forest in a homely but modern cabin with heated floors and your very own hot tub under the stars.
Looking out of the window you can see the trees, the squirrels and the occasional robin in the peaceful forest.
The children look forward to doing the Christmas trail – a treasure hunt in the forest to find answers to a puzzle for a prize they can claim from the forest retreat. They love to run around outside, explore the forest, build dens and cross rivers. They love the hot tub, the provided board games and the entertainment package which means they can stay up late, cuddled up on the massive, comfy sofa, with a hot chocolate watching the latest movies.
If you want to you can order food from the forest retreat through the TV, although we have found the meals not to be great value and prefer to make our own in the well equipped kitchen. There is a full oven, microwave and dishwasher.
Christmas dinner is easily prepared and we have even had visitors Christmas day and managed to cook for 9.
We have visited three different Forest Holidays sites. Our favourite being Sherwood Forest where the cabins are very much surrounded by trees. The forest itself is fun to explore with great play areas for all ages.
The Forest of Dean site has two areas and you can either have a cabin in the forest or in the meadow. The meadow cabins look less private and the hot tubs are more overlooked.
We have been to the Cropton Forest Holidays site twice. It is best to pick your cabin in advance here, as again, some are in the middle of a clearing and others are more privately on the edge of the forest.
At Sherwood we tried a night vision walk. We weren’t overly impressed with the night vision goggles, which enabled us to see the outline of a sheep in the dark. The children, however, enjoyed the adventure into the forest in the dark and got to take it in turns to carry a real owl!
There are many other forest ranger led activities you can try but we prefer to explore by ourselves. You can also hire adult bikes, childrens bikes and bikes with trailers.
The other activity we have endulged in is more a treat for the adults. You can arrange for a beauty therapist to come to your cabin and do massages and facials etc. This is costly but worth it. They also offer mini treatments for teenagers and younger children.
It is worth noting that Forest Holidays take Tesco vouchers for up to 1/3 of the payment towards a holiday which can cut the cost considerably. It is not worth paying the extra to stay in a gold cabin as the only difference between this and silver is the provision of towels and dressing gowns, and a log burner which you dont need due to the heated floors. The prices do seem to have increased considerably for Christmas 2017 so I am keeping an eye on them to see if they reduce nearer the time. There is hardly ever any mobile phone signal in the cabins but wifi is provided with the entertainment package.
Forest Holidays with an autistic child?
The cabins are private and peaceful. The hot tubs are outside so not accessible unless you open the door. The lights are adjustable. The kitchen is off the living room with no door. If your child likes the outdoors and water like ours then Forest Holidays is ideal. I would probably avoid the organised activities and stick to relaxing in the cabin or exploring by yourselves.