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Did you know that there are many Merlin filming locations in the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley that you can visit?
That’s right and one of the most popular is the incredible Speech House Lake which featured as the mystical Lake of Avalon in the series.
Merlin may have featured on TV screens over a decade ago now but that doesn’t mean that this popular fantasy TV series doesn’t have a loyal fan base today.
In fact, with the show featuring on streaming services like Netflix, iTunes, Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer, it now has a worldwide audience and it’s going through a bit of a renaissance.
I am a huge fan of Merlin and I recently re-watched the show all over again. So, I just had to visit some of these magical filming locations for myself in the Forest of Dean.
Here is a guide on how you can visit the Speech House Lake Merlin filming location or the Lake of Avalon for yourself!
Speech House Lake history
Speech House is a luxury hotel in the Forest of Dean today but what you may not know is that it started out as a 17th-century hunting lodge that was built for King Charles II.
The name Speech House comes from when this historic property hosted the “Court of the Speech” for the Verderers and Free Miners in the area.
This was a ‘Forest Law Courts’ which laid out the rules for the ownership of the land, game, and mineral extraction in the area.
Here, they used to serve up a local dish called ‘Speech House pudding’ which is a rich sweet sponge with jam and custard. This is now a famous centuries-old recipe that featured on an ITV cooking show and you can learn to make it yourself at Hart Barn cookery school.
Although it was severely damaged in the Revolution of 1688, it has relatively remained unchanged since then.
In the 1840s, Speech House became an Inn and eventually a popular hotel for tourists at the end of the 19th-century with the introduction of the railways. It continues to serve as a hotel today.
Speech House Lake has been part of the Royal Forest of Dean for centuries and is now a popular fishing lake. But, for many fantasy lovers, this lake will always be the Lake of Avalon from Merlin!
What is the Speech House Lake Merlin Connection?
Although for many Speech House Lake is a very simple fishing lake in the Forest of Dean, to Merlin fans it means a lot more than that!
Many fans of the hit BBC TV series Merlin, which is set in medieval Camelot, will know this scenic place as the Lake of Avalon.
In the Arthurian tales, Avalon is an island that is meant to be where the legendary sword of Excalibur was forged, the Holy Grail is located, home of Morgan le Fay, and the final resting place of King Arthur.
So, it stands to reason that the Lake of Avalon featured in many notable episodes of the hit Merlin series that was loosely based on those stories. But, in Merlin, this magical world is known as the Kingdom of Albion.
If you wanted to visit a ‘real’ Isle of Avalon, then I would recommend heading up Glastonbury Tor! This is a spiritual place in the UK which many know as Avalon and Glastonbury Abbey is thought to be where Arthur and Guinivere are buried. Click here to read my complete guide for visiting Glastonbury Tor and the Arthurian legends connected with it.
What episodes of Merlin were filmed at Speech House Lake?
Die-hard Merlin fans will not need reminding of where Speech House Lake featured in the TV series as some of the most emotionally charged scenes were filmed here.
The most famous episode, or what Merlin fans know this lake as is the Lake of Avalon which featured in the first series in The Gates of Avalon episode. This is where Merlin sees the Sidhe (pronounced she) who are nasty fairies!
We also see this lake in the episode Excalibur where Merlin hides the iconic sword which forms part of his destiny with Arthur.
We also see this in the Lady of the Lake episode where Merlin says a tearful goodbye to his dying love Freya. He gives her a Viking burial and she enters the water to become the Lady of the Lake. Then, we see this lake again in The Coming of Arthur Part 2 episode
It also featured in the third season during The Changeling episode where we see the Sidhe again.
Finally, in the epic finale The Diamond of the Day part 2, this lake was where Merlin says goodbye to Arthur and he sends him off in the boat that takes him to Avalon *sniff*!
So, visiting this beautiful lake is a must if you’re a Merlin fan as it will transport you straight into the episodes again.
Where is Speech House Lake in the Forest of Dean?
Speech House Lake is located in the Forest of Dean within the county of Gloucestershire in the South West of England.
More specifically, this lake can be found in Coleford. This place is where many other Merlin filming locations can be found nearby. So, it makes a convenient stop if you’re on a Merlin road trip in the Forest of Dean!
Coleford is easily accessible via the M4 motorway, by heading over the Severn Bridge and onto the M48. You can then drive to Coleford routing through Chepstow. Or, if you’re heading in from Gloucester it can be located on the A48 road.
Once you’re in the Forest of Dean and Coleford, you’ll need to make your way towards Speech House Road for the Lake of Avalon location.
How to find the Lake of Avalon or Speech House Lake Merlin filming location
So, if you wanted to find the real Lake of Avalon for yourself in the Forest of Dean then you’ll be happy to know that it’s really easy to do. It’s also a really cheap and free activity and a MUST if you’re a true Merlin fan.
It may not look exactly the same on your visit though as they put in a backdrop of the mountains with some clever CGI. But, it’s still completely magical!
I would suggest that the easiest way to get there is by car as it’s in a remote location. Plus, by driving you can make the most of your time and visit a couple of Merlin filming locations in one day.
I know driving isn’t ideal for everyone. So, If you’re planning on getting public transport around the Forest of Dean, there are a few bus services from the city of Gloucester.
There are direct trains from London to Gloucester which take around 2 hours. Then, you can hop off and catch a bus to Coleford in around 30-45 minutes.
Some of these bus services stop at Speech House Road on the way, you can alight here then walk to the lake!
Click here to check the Stagecoach website to plan your route to Speech House
1. Firstly, park at Cyril Hart Arboretum Car Park
The easiest place to park to find the Speech House Lake Merlin Filming location is the Cyril Hart Arboretum Car Park which is run by the Forestry Commission.
How you find it is to firstly drive down the Speech House Road on the B4226, then take the turning that is directly by Speech House.
Keep driving past Speech House on that road (which conveniently has no name) until you come to the Cyril Hart Arboretum Car Park on your left on Spruce Ride Road. This road is eventually blocked off by a gate so you will need to park up in the car park.
The Forestry Commission-owned Cyril Hart Arboretum Car Park is the closest to Speech House Lake and it’s only a five-minute walk from there on a clearly marked track through the woodland.
The Postcode is GL16 7EL but this only directs you to Speech House itself. You’ll need to navigate to the car park which is just beyond this on turning for Spruce Ride Road.
Don’t park in Speech House Woods, Beechenhurst, or The Speech House itself for this walk as it will be a lot more complicated than it needs to be!
This car park is completely FREE but is quite a small one so you may struggle to find space, especially on weekends.
2. Head through the gate all the way down the Speech House trail path
Once you’ve parked up, you’ll need to find the large metal bridleway gate that is located at the back of the car park.
This will have a wooden gate next to it which allows you to access the public pathway for pedestrians.
You can’t miss this pathway as it’s a huge exposed trail with woodlands on either side. Simply, keep walking down this path until you reach a crossroads.
It’s good to know that this is a flat and well-maintained path the whole way down so it’s fine for mobility scooters and pushchairs.
3. You’ll eventually see a sign for Speech House Lake or Avalon on your right!
Once, you have reached the crossroads, look to your right and you’ll see a sign for Speech House Lake! Yep, it really is that easy to find the Lake of Avalon from the Merlin TV series.
Turn right and then head towards the lake. By now, you’ll see a Forestry Commission sign which talks about no swimming and no canoeing on the lake, also no BBQs etc.
If you head to the right of the lake, this is where you’ll find the Speech House Lake Merlin filming location.
You’ll see a small muddy bank where the lake ends and this is where they filmed the Gates of Avalon and plenty more for the Merlin BBC TV series!
In fact, this is where they filmed many scenes in Merlin here like when he sees the Fairy King, where Merlin meets the Lady of the Lake and receives Excalibur, where he says goodbye to his girlfriend Freya and this is even where he says goodbye to Arthur *sniff*.
Exploring the Speech House Lake Merlin location
Okay, so I don’t know how you will feel but when I finally arrived at the Lake of Avalon I was pretty taken aback and even a bit emotional to be honest which took me by surprise.
Granted, it’s been years since Merlin hit the TV screens but because I had seen this lake featured so many times, it really transported me straight back to Camelot.
They filmed some of the most poignant scenes here, so it was really touching to finally be there.
I have to admit, there’s not a great deal to see here beyond the lake and the woodlands behind. But, if you’re a Merlin fan you will be made up and feel the visit is totally worth it!
With the trees reflecting in the lake, the slow pace of the water, and the wind brushing the trees – it’s a really peaceful place to spend a moment or two.
If you head up the lake to the left, you’ll eventually come across a bench. In front of this, you’ll find a jetty. This is where Merlin says goodbye to Arthur.
Things to do around Speech House Lake
So, once you’ve had a little squeal or cry after you’ve visited Avalon, you’re probably wondering what there is to do around Speech House Lake after your visit!
Well, as well as this a picnic site, there are lots of things to explore here and you can even go fishing if you have your permit/license.
Head out on the Speech House Lake trail
If you wanted to explore more of Speech House Lake than just the filming location, it’s actually a huge body of water.
There is a Speech House Lake trail that goes all the way around the lake, so you could do a loop around it which is incredibly scenic.
You’ll see lots of pond life, birds and there are three small islands at the top part of the lake which are quite mysterious. This is why Speech house Lake is often called ‘Three Islands’.
It will take you around the lake and through the woodlands and you’ll eventually come back around to the main pathway. There are some benches where you can sit awhile or eat your sandwiches if you’ve packed some.
From here, you could extend your walk through the arboretum which is like a fairytale! The trees here are so tall. Plus, there are lots of cycling and walking trails to explore.
Go Speech House Lake fishing!
One thing to note is that Speech House Lake is a very popular fishing spot in the Forest of Dean.
You’ll find many people fishing here on the jetties where they will spend hours trying to catch something.
You may see some cars parked up by this lake, these are usually licensed fishers that are allowed to drive down the bridleway to drop off their fishing equipment.
If you wanted to purchase a day permit, you can contact the Yorkley Angling Club, check out their Facebook Page here.
My top tips for visiting Speech House Lake
- There are no toilets located in the Forestry Commission Car Park the closest would be Beechenhurst Visitor Centre.
- The pathways to access the lake are extremely flat and well maintained. They are ideal for pushchairs and mobility scooters if needed.
- Dogs are allowed in Speech House Lake and I saw many loving their paddle in the water to cool down!
- There are no restaurants or cafés at Speech House Lake, the closest is The Speech House. They are open daily for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
- This is a picnic site, so feel free to bring your own sarnies. Obviously, take any rubbish home with you. BBQs are strictly not allowed.
- As Speech House Lake is a fishing lake, swimming and canoeing is strictly not allowed here. You wouldn’t want to anyway as the water is pretty mirky!
Looking for more Merlin filming locations in the Forest of Dean?
Did you know that there are many places around the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley that were used for Merlin filming locations?
Near Speech House Lake, the main location you’ll recognise is Puzzlewood. A magical forest that looks like you have travelled to another world!
Here, they filmed many recognisable scenes like the Labyrinth of Gedref, the Eye of the Phoenix, and plenty more! They even have Morgana’s hut left behind to check out.
After that, you can visit Clearwell Caves as it featured as the Druid’s Cave in Arthur’s Bane. Cannop Ponds is another filming location where they filmed The Darkest Hour.
In the Wye Valley, you can visit Raglan Castle that was where Merlin had the battle with Nimueh. After, you can visit Goodrich Castle which was home to the sorceress Morgause. Even the aMazing Hedge Puzzle near Monmouth featured in the Labyrinth of Gedref.
Plus, you can visit King Arthur’s Cave in Biblins that featured in The Sword in the Stone part 2. But, this is hard to locate. Click here to read my complete guide on how to find this cave!
Where is Camelot Castle filmed in Merlin?
The impressive Camelot Castle used for the series was actually filmed in France. The BBC production team used the amazing Château de Pierrefonds as a base for five years to film the show. So it’s not an easy visit for Merlin fans based in the UK, unfortunately.
Château de Pierrefonds featured as Camelot Castle in all five seasons. This includes the location of the surrounding village where Gwen lives and the famous tavern that Merlin ‘disappears to’.
Also, this impressive château is where they filmed the tournament grounds, the scenes in the castle courtyard, prison cells, and where Merlin meets the Great Dragon.
You will also find filming locations in the surrounding Forêt de Compiegne nearby. So, if you’re a big Merlin fan, this spectacular place should definitely be on your bucket list!
Luckily, it is a tourist attraction that you can visit and it’s only a small trip over the pond. If you have the money and fancied a bit of an adventure, you can visit quite easily from Paris. It’s even included in the Paris Pass.
To get there, simply take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Gare du Nord station. Then, switch to a train heading to Compiegne. From Compiegne, you can take a bus or taxi to Pierrefonds and you’ll soon arrive at Camelot Castle!
Where to stay near Speech House Lake?
There are plenty of campsites, budget B&B’s, and luxury hotels to stay in around the Forest of Dean if you wanted to extend your stay.
But, the closest hotel to Speech House Lake would be the historic Speech House which is just inches away.
It’s an independent hotel that used to be a 17th-century hunting lodge for King Charles II and provides the perfect forest retreat!
There are plenty of rooms onsite to book and they benefit from a restaurant onsite. You could even have afternoon tea in their Orangery after your journey to Avalon.
Discover the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley!
The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley is a truly underrated part of the country to explore on a UK Staycation.
There are plenty of villages and attractions to visit here as well as lots of walks in amongst the natural beauty of the countryside.
From here, you could head out on the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail which is an extended walk to see some pieces by incredible artists. My favourite was ‘Cathedral’ which is a 15-foot cathedral window suspended in the treetops!
There’s also the incredible Symonds Yat and the Rock viewpoint is a must-visit and also doubles up as a Harry Potter filming location. Sex Education was also filmed here at the Swiss Cottage.
The city of Gloucester and its incredible cathedral cloisters were also used for Hogwarts in the movies. I have a complete post of all the Harry Potter filming locations In Gloucester Cathedral here.
There’s also Hopewell Colliery where you can head underground to see what it’s like to be a freeminer. Or, drive over to Lydney Harbour which is a historic dockland!
The Forest of Dean railway is a fun trip for all the family, plus there are plenty of cycling and walking trails.