It consists of granite, and these volcanic rocks are believed to be among the oldest in the world. There are a number of places with quite spectacular outcrops.
Until the 19th century, there were very few settlements in the forest, but a number of religious esatablishments, of which the ruins of Ulverscroft Priory may still be seen.
The only villages within the forest were Swithland, famous for its slate, and Woodhouse. In the mid 19th century, Woodhouse Eaves was developed, largely as a place of recuperation from illness.
The very picturesque Newtown Linford stands at the gates of Bradgate Park, in which are the ruins of Bradgate House, the home of the tragic Lady Jane Grey, Queen for nine days.
Charnwood Forest is now part of the new National Forest.