A guide to Thetford Forest holiday cottages

A guide to Thetford Forest

Julie Smith 10 May 2023

The largest lowland pine forest in England, Thetford Forest covers more than 18,000 acres of scenic East Anglian countryside. The site is managed by the Forestry Commission and the vast collection of trees and plants here is not only a haven for local wildlife but is also filled with numerous walking and cycle trails.

So whether you are looking to get some exercise in the great outdoors, want to take a romantic stroll through the trees or have a fun-filled family day out, there’s something to keep everyone happy at this wonderful forest park.

Here are some of our top things to do at Thetford Forest during your next short break or holiday to Norfolk.

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Wonderful walks

Walks in Thetford Forest

If you fancy exploring Thetford Forest on foot, you’ll find an array of scenic walking trails from all six of the main visitor sites. Here are just some of our favourite routes to try:

High Lodge Nature Trail – this is a flat mile-long walk through the woods which will take you from the main High Lodge Visitor Centre to a wildlife-spotting hide. It’s a great choice for doing with children as there is a range of activities to try with handy information boards along the trail.

Heritage Trail – this 2.5-mile circular walk is accessible to all and suitable for wheelchair users and mobility scooters. There are a variety of shelters, benches and rest points along the way and interactive monitors and audio panels provide lots of information on the history and heritage of High Lodge.     

Scenic walks in Thetford Forest

Lynford Stag – park up at the popular Lynford Stag picnic site and you’ll find a couple of coloured trails to follow through the trees. Each of the pretty woodland walks is around a mile in length and can easily be combined together into a longer walk. Look out for the large metal stag that this part of the forest is named after.

Orange walk at St Helen's – if you fancy a slightly longer forest trail, the orange walk, which starts at the St Helen's picnic site, is a great option. The route is 5 miles long and will take you through the Forest Nature Reserve and across the Little Ouse River. 

Scenic cycle trails

Cycling in Thetford Forest

A range of bicycles can be hired from the High Lodge Visitor Centre including the latest electric assist bikes to help you power along the various cycling trails that crisscross Thetford.  

Markers will help you find your way through the forest with the various cycle trails colour coded according to their level of difficulty:

Green trails – the green trails at Thetford Forest are the easiest routes with wide roads and pathways that are suitable for most types of bikes. If you’re cycling with little ones, the Shepherd Trail is a family-friendly 5-mile trail that will take you on the wide forest roads around the High Lodge Visitor Centre and can be navigated with child seats and tagalongs.  

Blue trails – these are suitable for riders with moderate skill and all types of mountain bikes. The Beater Trail has either 6-mile or 11-mile loop options with winding tracks between the trees and possible small obstacles along the way, so it’s a perfect option for a more challenging ride. 

Cycling with friends in Thetford Forest

Red trails – with challenging climbs and steep descents, these trails are suitable only for experienced mountain bikers with a good level of fitness. The Lime Burner is a 10-mile trail over a range of different terrains with tricky features that give an exhilarating ride for skilled cyclists.  

Black trails – there are various black-rated bike pits and features that are scattered around High Lodge with wonderful names like Squirrel Scamper and Tom’s Bomb Hole. These are only suitable for very experienced riders using quality off-road mountain bikes so should be tackled with great care. 

If you fancy a longer bike ride, Peddars Way is a 50-mile Norfolk cycle trail between Thetford and Holme-next-the-Sea. The route takes in much of the wonderful Breck landscape with sections you can follow through the pine-filled woodland. 

Relax and unwind

Forest bathing in Thetford Forest

What better way to escape the stresses of everyday life than by surrounding yourself with peaceful forest scenery? Here are some of the most relaxing and tranquil ways to enjoy your time at Thetford Forest.

Forest bathing

This natural well-being therapy originated in Japan and uses the restful feeling of being immersed in nature to calm and relax the mind. If you fancy trying out forest bathing (or shinrin-yoku as it is called in Japan), you should aim to visit Thetford Forest at a quiet time of day and pick a peaceful spot amongst the trees away from the main picnic spots and visitor centres. 

Turn off any electronic devices, breathe deeply and take time to observe the nature around you to really get the most from this mindfulness technique.   

Yoga sessions

Yoga at Thetford Forest

If you fancy trying out some outdoor yoga in the forest, look out for the regular classes that are held close to the High Lodge Visitor Centre. Booking is required in advance for all the outdoor classes which are suitable for a range of ages and abilities.

Lynford Arboretum

From a carpet of pretty flowers in the spring to a riot of colourful trees in the autumn, Lynford Arboretum is a delightful part of Thetford Forest that’s well worth visiting at any time of year. Highlights of the arboretum include a double-rowed avenue of sequoias that were planted in the 1800s to honour the Duke of Wellington and a peaceful lake where you may well spot a kingfisher or two. This part of the forest is a haven for birdlife so it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled as you walk around any of the tranquil trails.   

Family-friendly activities

Go Ape at Thetford Forest

There’s lots to keep the kids happy during a visit to Thetford Forest with a range of fun-filled activities for children of all ages.

Go Ape 

Unleash your inner Tarzan and go swinging through the trees on one of the Go Ape treetop rope courses. The trickier Tree Top Challenge is suitable for daredevils that are at least 10 years old, while Tree Top Adventure is a thrilling course for younger children or older participants who prefer a gentler ride. Both Go Ape courses feature climbs, ropes, tree crossings and an awesome zip-wire ride at the end. 

Forest Segways

Take an off-road journey with a difference on an eco-friendly Segway, one of the most joyful ways to travel we can think of. You’ll be given expert tuition and the chance to practice on the Segway before setting off on one of the twisting forest trails. The hour-long adventure is led by a Thetford Forest safari guide and must be booked in advance.   


Archery at Thetford Forest

Whether you already know what you're doing and want to fine-tune your aim or you fancy shooting a bow and arrow for the first time, you can book a range of hour-long archery sessions in Thetford Forest. Lookout Archery offers expert tuition and all the equipment you need to have a go at this activity during weekends or school holidays.  

Gruffalo Trail

A great activity for younger kids is seeking out a selection of carved wooden characters from the popular children’s book, The Gruffalo. These are tucked away in the forest near High Lodge and the child-sized carvings make for a perfect photo opportunity.  

Adventure play

Adventure play at Thetford Forest

Also at High Lodge (and ideal for little ones) is the children’s adventure play area which includes a den-building area, a Gruffalo sandpit, and various things to climb up and clamber over. There’s a helter-skelter to slide down, a treehouse to hide in, giant swings to play on and lots of space for kids to run around and generally let off some steam.   

Picnics and BBQs

There are lots of spots around the forest where you can enjoy an al fresco feast with family or friends. Wooden tables are available at High Lodge, Lynford Stag, St Helen’s picnic site and Great Hockham where you can sit down to your picnic or, if you fancy cooking up a storm, you can hire one of eight fixed BBQs at High Lodge during certain times of the year. If you decide to wander away from the main picnic sites and set up a blanket amongst the trees, remember that you should leave only footprints in the forest and take any rubbish away with you.  

Animal adventures

Dog at Thetford Forest

Thetford Forest is a dream destination for dogs and there are plenty of walking trails where pooches can meet up with other four-legged friends, burn off some energy and spend lots of time sniffing the various trees. Dogs can be taken into most parts of the forest, but they should be kept under close control at all times. 

Dog agility course

If you have a particularly nimble dog, they can test out the dog agility course which is close to the Lynford Arboretum part of the forest. There are a series of hurdles for dogs to jump over if you fancy trying something a little different than the usual walkies.  

Horse riding

Horse riding at Thetford Forest

There are a couple of riding options in Thetford Forest: pony trekking sessions for ages 2 and over from High Lodge, plus a bridleway that runs along Bambridge Lane in the Great Hockham part of the forest. The bridleway is only suitable for more experienced riders but tuition and equipment are provided as part of the pony trekking so this is a good option for beginners.   

Wildlife spotting 

Thetford Forest is a haven for wildlife including tawny owls, goshawks, squirrels and three types of deer (red, roe and muntjacs). It’s also one of the best places in the country to spot woodlarks, especially during March and April, and other birdlife you can see in the forest include song thrushes, goldfinches, skylarks and red crossbills. 

Forest Live

A festival in the forest

Thetford Forest plays host to an annual summer music festival where you can enjoy some fantastic live performances in this glorious woodland setting. Previous years have included performances from Tom Jones, Gary Barlow, Olly Murs and UB40. The family-friendly festival is known for its relaxed atmosphere, and concert-goers are welcome to bring along picnics, blankets and folding chairs to make the most of the day of live outdoor music.

Stay near Thetford Forest

A track in Thetford Forest

A visit to Thetford Forest is just one of the wonderful things to do on a getaway to Norfolk and there are lots of lovely holiday cottages where you can rest your head after days of exploring the county’s coast and countryside.

If you have been inspired to visit, take a look at our cottages near Thetford Forest for your short break or holiday.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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