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Walking at Symonds Yat.

River Wye seen from the viewpoint.

This illustrated post is here to help those who want to visit this spot and inform those who’ll never get there. I hope it serves those purposes and entertains along the way.

The smaller car park.

Where is Symonds Yat, and why is it so called? This local beauty spot is on the north-western edge of the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire, England. Click here for a Google map. The name stems from a 17th-century local sheriff called Robert Symonds coupled with the regional dialect for ‘gate’ or ‘pass’, which is ‘yat’. It’s said you can view Monmouthshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire from the viewpoint at the top of the hill.

One of two scuptures in the car park, by Tom Harvey

The River Wye runs in a large U-shaped bend around this steep, wooded promontory as it flows through the Wye Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Detail of the sculpture

The approach road is narrow, steep in places, and follows the natural lie of the land, so wanders along the route of the rolling English drunkard made famous by G.K. Chesterton in his poem, The Rolling English Road.

The ferry is hand-driven and can be used by pedestrians wanting to cross the river.
The ferry in use.

There are two car parks in the village. The first is where the public toilets are located, opposite the Saracens Head Inn, on the right as you drive in. A couple of sculptures in wood stand impressively on view here. Definitely worth a look. And, close by, you’ll find the landing place for the pedestrian ferry, a man-hauled affair that runs more or less on demand to transport visitors from one side of the river to the other. It costs £1.10 for adults.

Approach road to larger car park.
The large car park

The second car park is further along the road, at the end, and belongs to the Royal Lodge Hotel. Both make the same charge, which in 2019 is £4.00 for the day. We used the larger space near the hotel, but you need to know the approach road is very narrow and often littered with wandering pedestrians; care is needed, to avoid being tossed into the river by locals you’ve almost run over!

The footpath starts just left of these steps.

Actually, the local folk and those running and staffing the local eateries and drinking places are very affable.

The early part of the walk.

The path leading up to the beauty spot starts close to the entry to the car park and winds through woodland, often climbing steeply and sometimes aided by man-made steps and the occasional fenced section.

The path joins a short stretch of a local road.

There are a couple of alternative routes and we ascended along the one that includes a section of the small road running down to the village. Here, you have to be aware of the possibility of encountering local drivers as well as the less practiced visitors in search of the other car park located at the top of the hill near the café. This is the best one for the infirm, or the downright idle.

In places, the track is an easy climb.

The initial track starts as a relatively level gravelled path but quickly becomes a hilly, well-trodden, meandering trail through trees with occasional rocks protruding through the soil.

For a short way, it follows the road leading to another car park up the hill.
It winds through the trees.
It climbs steps and is fenced in places.

Good footwear is highly recommended! Some climbs are quite severe, so be prepared to rest from time to time and take in the views. Of course, the fell-runners will easily trot up to the top.

There’s a lengthy stepped stretch approaching the area where the cafe sits.

And almost at the top you come upon a wide-open area with picnic tables and a small café, with public toilets attached. The food and drinks at the eatery are surprisingly good and reasonably priced considering the captive nature of the clientele.

The cafe sits at the edge of the picnic area, with the upper car park and public toilets sited just beyond, through the trees.
As you approach the final stage of the climb, the views of the countryside open up.

Walking through this space takes you to a well-maintained and wide wooden walkway that leads to the final climb up to the viewpoint.

This wooden walkway is wide and well maintained.

Here, you’ll find members of the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds with their telescopes set up, often focussed on a bird of prey crouched in the small crevices in the face of the rock that is known as Symonds Yat Rock.

Members of the RSPB set up their telescopes to view the birds of prey.

Some of them will let you look through their optics, and pass on their knowledge of the birds inhabiting the area. Amongst others, you’ll find Peregrine Falcons, Goshawks and Buzzards, which you can watch in flight below you as you overlook the valley.

Just one of a number of landscapes possible from the top.

As we walked the wooden causeway approaching this spot, I inadvertently caught the control dial on my camera (a Nikon D3400) and somehow managed to site it between the ‘Manual’ setting I generally use and the ‘Effects’ setting I hardly ever use. The ‘effect’ was to convert my early pictures from the viewpoint into what passes for a ‘painting’ representation. So, sorry if some of the illustrations are not as clear as I’d prefer!

Another view of the river valley.
One of the accidental ‘effects’ shots that I rather like.
A large circular guide is set in a stone pillar to indicate what can be seen in all directions.
Looking down on the circular guide.

I finally realised the error with my camera and returned it to my normal mode. Unfortunately, by this time, the sun had retreated behind cloud!

A more ‘normal’ view of the river valley.
The views really are very lovely.
You can look over the village of Symonds Yat.
Part of the Wye Valley AONB.
One of the viewing points is quite restricted and can be a little crowded!

The views over the river are spectacular and there are places you can use to see both sides of the promontory to overlook the River Wye as it curls around the rock. It’s worth allowing time to absorb the natural beauty up here.

The cafe.
The picnic area gets well used.
There’s another viewpoint at the edge of the picnic area.

Afterwards, we returned to the café and had a bite to eat and a pleasant drink together at one of the picnic tables before setting off back down the hill. This time, we used the woodland walk the whole way.

The way down can be steep and rocky
It passes through attractive woodland.
This fallen tree is so studded with half buried coins it’s almost impossible to find space for a new one!

Again, the trail takes in slopes, stony ground, many different trees, and the occasional fenced and stepped descent. In one spot, near the end, a fallen tree has been commandeered by the superstitious and those who still worship the goddess of the woods by hammering small coins into the bark. It’s a practice common at a number of sites around the UK.

More steps aid the descent.
And the car park comes back into view.

Finally, we emerged back into the car park and spent a short time enjoying the placid river before setting of back home.

The River Wye as it passes through the village.
Though in winter, and after heavy rain, the river can be turbulent, on the day of our visit it was serenely calm.

It’s a worthwhile visitor experience and something definitely recommended if you’re ever in the Forest of Dean, which is itself a very lovely swathe of woodland with many different walks and a variety of wildlife. Enjoy!

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