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Free Spirit’s Guide to Forest Bathing and Leaf Peeping

Forest bathing and leaf-peeping are ways we can embrace the changing of the seasons and autumn. Or as John Keats called it the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.  Although Keats was famous for his musings while immersing himself in nature, the origins of forest bathing actually come from somewhere else…

Forest Bathing

What is forest bathing and who invented it?

The origins of forest bathing come from Japan around 800 years ago. Known as ‘Shinrin Yoku’ – the art and science of forest bathing – it’s been used as a stress prevention intervention in Japanese culture. Today, it’s a way we can disconnect from the digital world and slow down, by immersing ourselves in nature. We may be aware that being outside can enhance our mood. However, forest bathing involves being quiet and still under the trees. You can go to the woods, park, or even a tree-lined street, to experience forest bathing – the choice is yours.  Simply use your senses to tune into the environment around you…

Find your local park, wood, or a quiet street and walk through the grass. As you lie upon the grass or gaze up at the sky, listen to the rustling of leaves, insects, or other sounds around you. Feel the texture of tree trunks and observe different light and shadows as the sunlight passes through the branches. When we notice new physical and emotional sensations we remember we’re part of nature – not detached from it. Breathe in the aroma of honeysuckle, lavender, or fresh-cut grass too. You may be surprised how this experience can make things more prominent. Allowing yourself to be curious will lead you to explore and play in nature – some even choose to walk around barefoot to better connect with everything underfoot. Just be careful where you step!

For more tips and activities to help you bathe in nature refer to this forest bathing guide.

Forest Bathing Benefits

forest bathing benefits

Forest bathing can be the antidote to the stresses of modern-day living and has many benefits. To pause within a natural setting can help us switch off our nervous system. From fight-or-flight mode to rest-and-digest!

Doing this enables us to relax and respond to our senses. Soaking up a forest atmosphere and its calming effects can also reawaken thoughts, associations, and memories.

Why is it good for your health?

Forest bathing actually started as a form of preventative healthcare because of the positive therapeutic effects it has on our immune, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. In Japanese medicine and healthcare, it’s described as a form of nature therapy.

You could argue, like Keats, that forest bathing is a natural activity that we’ve been doing since the dawn of time. 2000 years later, our lives are busier, filled with work and technology, with too many hours spent indoors. This has resulted in the conscious need to return to our original state of being outdoors, Which can enhance our health and wellbeing.

The benefits:

  • An improvement in sleeping patterns because focusing on forest aromas, sounds, sights, tastes, and textures can bring a deeper sense of relaxation.
  • You will have a natural uplift in energy after you’ve been out in the sun and fresh air.
  • Forest bathing reduces blood pressure, as you focus upon simplicity and gratitude. While not being distracted by technology, other people, and the general buzz of life.
  • Your creativity and your ability to deal with stress and trauma will be boosted as psychological stress hormones and depression symptoms are alleviated.
  • Your physical and mental health will surge, leaving you refreshed and relaxed.

Like forest bathing, leaf peeping provides you with the opportunity to slow down, immerse yourself in nature, and embrace autumn.

Leaf peeping

forest bathing benefits

What is leaf peeping?

Leaf peeping is a term that comes from North America. It’s when you spend time visiting national parks and places of natural beauty. It is a great opportunity to take photos of the changing of the seasons as the leaves change from green to yellow, gold, and red.

When is leaf peeping season?

In the UK, leaf peeping season starts in late September and finishes in early November. During this time we’re given a colourful playground to walk among and a beautiful backdrop to drive along.

In the last year, self-driving holidays have grown in popularity across the UK. So why not combine your next holiday with forest bathing and leaf peeping? You could include riverside walks and wildlife watching. You could mix things up with a couple of activities to energise you physically too! Just remember to take sensible clothes and book comfortable accommodation.

Whether you go forest bathing or leaf peeping here is some inspiration for your next leafy escape. Some delightful destinations where you can immerse yourself in nature during your next UK autumn holiday.

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Forest Bathing Holidays

Where can I go forest bathing in the UK?


forest bathing in autumn

Home to the Forest of Dean, the Wye Valley, and a 500ft limestone outcrop called Symonds Yat Rock, Gloucestershire offers plenty of outdoor adventure throughout the year. In autumn, stroll through the enchanted world of Puzzlewood, while listening to birdsong. Sit within ancient woodlands and breathe in the aroma of wild garlic. At nightfall, look out for wild boar, roe deer, and pine martins.

 South Wales

Find a forest bathing retreat in  Monmouthshire, South Wales. With a trained forest guide, go on a sensory adventure in the woods! During a two or three mile walk in the woodlands of Hill Farm and the Wye Valley, you’ll learn how and why Shinrin Yoku works. At the end of the day, leave with a range of techniques to practice forest bathing throughout your everyday life.

Northern Ireland

Fancy a holiday in Northern Ireland? Spend time connecting with nature at Killeavy Castle Estate, located at the foot of the mystical mountain, Slieve Gullion.Within the magical Ring of Gullion. Ann Ward, accredited Meditation Teacher certified in Shinrin Yoku, will empower you to get the most out of forest bathing. Connect with nature by entering an immersive experience! Focus on one sense at a time. Then nourish your body by tucking into locally sourced food.


For a short break visit Blackwood Forest in Hampshire. Home to the Purple Emperor butterfly! During your peaceful woodland escape, follow the trails of marked paths. Or discover your own unmarked woodland trail and spot some of the most unique wildlife in the UK. To learn more about the local wildlife, book a guided nature walk with a forest ranger.

Also in Hampshire is The New Forest…

Leaf Peeping Holidays

Where can I go leaf-peeping in the UK?

The New Forest

There are many places to go leaf peeping within the New Forest’s ancient woodlands. Tread carefully down the Knightwood Oak Trail, listed as one of the best in the UK to view autumnal colours. Cycle along Arboretum Ornamental Drive (a top leaf peeping spot). Which will lead you to Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. Throughout the forest, you’ll also spot pigs that’ll be tucking into acorns that adorn the forest floor during pannage.

The Forest of Dean, Walesleaf peeping holidays in the uk

The only place in the UK to have a leaf peeping drive is the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley. Home to 20 million trees of mixed species, such as ash, birch, and beech, embrace the changing of the seasons throughout a long weekend during a 50-mile drive! Start from Symonds Yat Rock. Then stop at 10 leaf peeping viewpoints on the route. Drive through dense deciduous woods. Cling to the Wye along ash riverbanks, to arrive at Tintern Abbey. Then trundle deep into the Forest of Dean to Puzzlewood and throughout unbroken woodlands. Before crossing the Kern Bridge.

The Lake District, Cumbria

Visitors are always welcome to explore the Lake District during leaf peeping season, from mid-October. Situated three miles south of Keswick, is Borrowdale. Once full of scattered hamlets, take a stroll through Borrowdale’s wooded valley. Here, admire the leaves from dense forest trees, of ruby red, burnt orange, golden yellow, and deep purple. Also, a visit to Friars Crag will provide you with enchanting views of old trees that sit around lovely Lake Derwentwater.


Leaf peeping in Scotland is always going to be magical. If you’re an avid photographer, capture its beauty in its best light by visiting at the end of the summer, beginning of autumn. There may be a slight chill in the air – all the better to invigorate you as you wander throughout the colourful woodlands. In Southern Scotland, follow the Glentrool Trail around Lock Trool. Feel refreshed at The Falls of Dochart, in The Trossachs National Park. Or look out for red deer amid the ancient Caledonian pinewoods of Glen Affic, within The Highlands.

Once you’ve decided where to go leaf-peeping and/or forest bathing, you’ll just need some suitable accommodation.

Where could I stay for a UK Autumn Holiday?

autumn holiday

Top accommodation for a leafy adventure:

  • Lounge in a luxury lodge or holiday cottage after a long day of walking with the outdoors on your doorstep.
  • Book into a converted woodland barn with a cosy pub or two around the corner.
  • Stay in a top hotel with breakfast included, with a bar and private dining on-site.

Free Spirit Travel Insurance for Autumn Holidays

However you wish to embrace autumn and immerse yourself in nature. Forest bather beginner or leaf peeper. Take Free Spirit UK Travel Insurance along for your autumn adventure! Our UK travel insurance is included with all annual multi-trip policies. Plus Coronavirus cover is included as standard too.


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