Why forest bathing is more than just a walk in the woods and the 9 best places to do it

Various, UK

Find some of the best woodland and forests to ease your mind with a new relaxation technique

If you spent last night wide awake at 2am mind racing, palms sweating, panic raging about whether you’d get a seat on the train during tomorrow’s commute, then take a deep breath, close your eyes, and follow us for some forest bathing. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is an ancient Japanese relaxation and healing practice of improving health and wellbeing using the natural environment. More than just a bracing ramble through the woods it’s about being calm and quiet amongst trees and nature. Experts suggest moving very slowly, looking out for interesting colours and patterns, breathing deeply, and leaning against or touching the trees. Some even say, lie down beneath the trees and look up through the branches, but try not to spook the dogwalkers. The crisp, cool autumn air and crunchiness of leaves beneath your feet make this time of year great for woodland walks and forest bathing. With that in mind, where are the best forests to escape the soul crushing stress of that meeting that could have definitely been an email?

Friston Forest

Beechwood Friston Forest is nestled within the South Downs National Park, just a short 18-minute drive from Eastbourne.

Bathability: 3/5 There are plenty of trails to walk, and plenty of space to breathe in the stunning landscape and views of the Cuckmere.

Nearest town: Eastbourne

Great Hockham

Great Hockham in Thetford Forest has two walking trails and a picnic area, but what makes it a great place for forest bathing is its pingos.  

Bathability: 4/5 Pingos are a type of hill, only formed within permafrost areas, meaning these were formed during the last Ice Age!

Nearest town: Thetford

Wareham Forest

Listen to the sweet sound of the woodlarks and keep your eyes peeled for sika deer in this wildlife filled forest.  

Bathability 4/5: Wareham provides a patchwork of habitats including bog lands, streams, heathland, and dense forest.

Nearest town: Wareham

Canonteigh Forest

Set in the hills of Dartmoor National Park, Canonteigh Forest is home to idyllic walks along the Beadon Brook.  

Bathability: 4.5/5 Enjoy the tranquillity of the woodland at the stream or challenge yourself to one of the hikes through the trees.

Nearest city: Exeter

Leigh Woods

An open and airy forest with a number of glades, woods, and wide paths on the outskirts Bristol.  

Bathability: 5/5 With a huge amount of space to relax and recharge, Leigh Woods is the perfect place to practice forest bathing.

Nearest city: Bristol

Haughmond Hill

Haughmond Hill is full of history. Discover the Iron Age enclosure or look out over the quarry on the viewing platform.  

Bathability: 3.5/5 Follow the trails for picturesque views across the River Severn and Shrewsbury whilst drinking in the nature around you.

Nearest town: Shrewsbury

Wharncliffe Woods

Find the hidden quarry workings within this coniferous wood and follow numerous streams down the hillsides under the trees.  

Bathability: 4.5/5 The steep terrain within Wharncliffe Woods is not for the faint of heart but the views are worth the walk.

Nearest city: Sheffield

Allerthorpe Wood

Enter this nature reserve for a reconnect and keep an eye out for adders in this flat, peaceful woodland.  

Bathability: 4/5 This small pine wood can be found in the Vale of York and is a great place for a relaxing, slow stroll under the trees.

Nearest city: York

Chopwell Wood

Enjoy miles of pathways through this 360-hectare mixed woodland, making Chopwell Wood a great place to try forest bathing.  

Bathability: 5/5 Chopwell is also part of Forestry England’s Feel Good in the Forest project, aimed at improving mental and physical health. Find out more

Nearest city: Newcastle-upon-Tyne