Walk Distance: 5.7km
Walk Duration: 1hr 20 (at a leisurely stroll)
OS Map: OS Landranger 175 Reading & Windsor; OS Explorer 160, Windsor, Weybridge & Bracknell;
Suitable for: Pushchairs, bikes, all the family;
Walk features: Forest walk, playground, teashop, Lookout Discovery centre, baby changing, historic interest, mountain biking area;
Swinley Forest is located between Bracknell and Bagshot in Berkshire and is fantastic family friendly place for walking and cycling. Swinley Forest, which is part of the Windsor Estate, offers 2600 acres of pine forest to explore and a great kids’ playground and refreshments to enjoy after. For the more adventurous, you can also discover the forest by zip wire and climbing ropes at Great Ape. Swinley is recommended for those murky winter days when you’re not quite sure what the weather will throw at you or for scorching hot summer afternoons – all those trees offer quite a bit of protection from the elements and if it’s really bad you can check out the Look Out science and discovery centre (also has weekday activity centre for toddlers during term time). If you prefer to join a guided Ranger walk or outdoor activity, there is always plenty going on – find out more here.
The walk starts from the Lookout at Swinley Forest ‘s main gateway. There is a pay and display car park (very busy at weekends) where you can park for £2 for 4 hours or £4 for all day (season tickets available). The car park is open from 0700-1800 October -March and 0700-2030 April – September. Compacted paths make a pretty good surface for most sturdy pushchairs and bikes, although the tracks can get muddy or puddle-y in places when it is very wet, when it is advisable to use an all-terrain pushchair. If anyone over 16 is cycling, you will need to pick up a bike permit for £1 from the Look Out before setting off. For the budding mountain bikers in the family, pick up a map showing the location of the dedicated mountain bike park!
There is a signpost just in front of the entrance to the Look Out centre – follow the one to ‘The Walks’. You will find the main entrance to Swinley Forest just next to the Go Ape centre. Go through the barrier and start your walk in Swinley Forest on the main trail beyond.
At the first crossroads of paths, turn right along the track, sign-posted to Swinley Forest Walks – Short All Ability Trail.
You will walk for a short while before coming to another crossroads. Go straight over and through the gate, continuing to walk straight on the path beyond. There is a bit of a gentle uphill here.
At the next small crossroads keep walking straight over on the same track. The ground has levelled out here and continues down-hill – pushchair racing is not advised!
The path joins a larger track. Turn left here onto this track and at the next crossroads, turn right along the sign-posted Ramblers’ Route. You will walk past a small reservoir on the right hand side as you approach another path intersection. This stretch of the walk can get quite waterlogged after prolonged periods of rain so be ready for some puddle-hopping. Alternatively, there are plenty of other paths you can take to avoid any boggy sections – make sure you have brought your own map!
At this large path intersection, take the second path to the right, signposted Devil’s Highway. Walking down the Devil’s Highway, enjoy the wide straight path with its forest views – a give-away clue to its ancient status as a Roman Road to Silchester. Continue to walk along the Devil’s Highway until you come to another cross-road of paths. Turn right here, taking the smaller path. The walk gets a little more hilly here but nothing too taxing. Continue past the former Heathland Corridor on your right hand side at the top of a small hill and at the next small cross-roads, walk straight over.
At the next path intersection, you will find the entrance to Caesar’s Camp – an iron-age hill fort which despite its name, was dug out of the earth by bare hand and basic tools a good 700 years before the arrival of the Romans in Britain. Unfortunately, the entrance to Caesar’s Camp is via a small kissing gate and you are unable to explore the area with a pushchair or on bike. There is an information board just by the gate here though and you can leave pushchairs by the gate if you fancy a quick walk in the hill-fort. The fort has not been excavated but the distinctive flat area of ground beyond makes it clear that this is not a naturally sculpted landscape.
Facing the camp entrance, turn right and walk downhill away from Caesar’s Camp. This stretch of the walk is reasonably hilly but other than keeping an eye on those mini-bikers, they shouldn’t present much of a challenge. At the bottom of the hill you will pass a small forest pond on your right hand side and shortly after the walk takes you to a t-junction, where you should turn left and join the larger track. This path will in turn merge into a larger path again – walk straight on towards the left onto this path.
Continue on the main track until you reach a sign-post. Cross straight over and you will find yourself at the back of the Look Out Centre and children with energy still to burn will enjoy the adventure playground which is within sight! There are plenty of different play areas here and lots of picnic tables for adults to enjoy a hot drink whilst keeping an eye on the children.
Map of Route:
Swinley Forest is easily accessible from Bracknell, Reading, Woking and beyond. The Look Out Centre is found on Nine Mile Ride to the South-East of Bracknell and is only a 15 minute drive from Junction 10 of the M4 Motorway, making it a perfect family friendly service station alternative for long journeys (find other recommended M4 motorway stops here).
You can find more detailed directions on the Bracknell Forest page here. Please do not use the Look Out postcode in a Sat Nav as this will take you to the wrong place – instead use the longitude and latitude co-ordinates – N 51.388, W0.74 which can be used with most Sat Navs and with Google Maps.
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