Treat yourself to a weekend or midweek break in the New Forest
1 February 2019
There is nothing like a bit of nature to restore the spirits so although it may be a little over 90 minutes from the centre of London (especially during the Friday night rush hour), the time it takes to get to the New Forest for a weekend away or mid week break is most definitely a worthwhile investment.
Whether you are looking for a quiet break for two, a walking weekend with the dog or an active fun filled adventure for all the family, the New Forest National Park has you covered.
Created by William the Conqueror as a deer park and royal hunting grounds, the New Forest covers 285 square miles of open woodland predominantly in Hampshire and is ideal for walking, riding and cycling. Close also to the Solent and the historic cities of Winchester and Southampton, there really is something for everyone.
Out and About in the New Forest
Whatever the season there are plenty of things to do in the New Forest.
For the active:
The Forest provides walking for all levels – whether you are after a simple stroll through the forest or are on a walking holiday and want a long distance hike through the Forest’s towns & villages and along the beautiful coastline there is endless choice available. Here are a few suggestions close to our recommended inns but for many more choices and detailed maps go to www.visithampshire.co.uk.
The Solent Way is a truly picturesque walk along the Hampshire coast, taking in views of the Hampshire countryside, Solent and Isle of Wight. 60 miles in total but available to walk in 8 sections, starting at Milford on Sea and running as far as Emsworth. Being along the coast, this is a walk suited to any time of year.
This route follows quiet country lanes through the New Forest, taking in the Rufus Stone, to the village of Minstead where the famous detective writer and spiritualist Sir Arthur Conon Doyle is buried in the grounds of All Saints Church.
The Lyndhurst Parish Circular Walk is beautiful route starting and finishing at the New Forest’s Bolton’s Bench where you are likely to be surrounded by New Forest ponies. There are plenty of pub and tea room stops en route.
This stretch of the Solent Way, which follows a section of the South Coast, offers two options: a riverside walk and a woodland walk, meaning that you can take one route there and another on the return journey. Enjoy the tranquil views of the Beaulieu River before reaching the scenic maritime village of Bucklers Hard and returning with a gentle woodland stroll.
Here there are 3 short walks, all clearly marked, with deer spotting in mind – between April and September the National Park Ranges will often be seen feeding the deer in the middle of the day:
The Deer Watch Trail – 0.5 miles (Yellow Route) – A short stroll from Bolderwood car park leads you to a deer viewing platform overlooking fields where wild herds of fallow deer are regularly seen.
Jubilee Grove Trail – 1 mile (Green Route) – Starting from Bolderwood car park this meandering route leads you past the deer fields.
Radnor Trail – 2 miles (Red Route) – This trail skirts the fenced boundary of Mark Ash Wood, an Ancient and Ornamental Woodland and has great places to stop for a picnic.
The New Forest has more than 100 miles of off-road routes that are ideal for cycling. If time allows, head over to the Isle of Wight and enjoy an exhilarating cycle ride over the Downs, accompanied by glorious sea views and magnificent scenery.
For Golfing enthusiasts, there is an excellent array of golf courses to choose from with the Bell at Bramshaw offering excellent guest rates at its own courses.
Horse riding in The New Forest is one of the finest ways to experience the natural beauty of the National Park and to admire the 3000 New Forest ponies roaming freely – there are numerous riding schools catering for all standards.
For the family
The New Forest National Park is home to some famous attractions so if entertaining the children is key, plan your itinerary to include:
Paultons Park is a much loved family theme park with over 70 exciting rides and attractions. There is a great variety of things to entertain the children (including the UK exclusive and world’s first Peppa Pig World) and all set within 140 acres of beautiful parkland on the edge of the New Forest National Park.
Set in 50 acres of beautiful New Forest countryside and lakes, there’s something for everyone at the New Forest Water Park – including WakeBoarding, Kayaking and Stand-up Paddle Boarding.
Hurst Castle is situated at the seaward end of the shingle spit that extends 1.5 miles from Milford-On-Sea. Built by Henry VIII as a coastal fortress it is in the perfect location to defend the western approach to the Solent and enjoys spectacular views of the Isle of Wight.
Just a stone’s throw from the Master Builders you’ll find the internationally-renowned National Motor Museum – one of the world’s largest collections of vehicles and motoring memorabilia dating back more than a century.
A free-entry museum, gallery and reference library situated in the heart of Lyndhurst, the New Forest Heritage Centre is dedicated to sharing the history and traditions of this diverse and beautiful area.
For the gardener
Exbury Gardens is a must during the spring and early summer with its stunning displays of world famous azaleas, rhododendrons and woodland flowers. A short drive from Beaulieu and created by Lionel de Rothschild, a member of the famous banking family, there are also superb woodland gardens and peaceful walks down to the banks of the picturesque Beaulieu River. The gardens are dog-friendly and also have a miniature steam railway so are ideal for all the family.
Take it back home
To make the most of your stay, fit in a visit to one of the local artisan producers and suppliers – tour the brewery that brewed your favourite pint, visit the shop on the farm that reared your delicious Sunday roast beef, and seek out the roadside stalls selling the local crab and samphire on the inn’s menu. Here are some top suggestions from the New Forest where you can try and buy, or if you simply feel like some unadulterated retail therapy, Lymington has a great selection of independent shops and boutiques plus a hugely popular street market every Saturday:
Prize-winning producers of artisan cheeses such as Old Winchester and Stoney Cross, made on the farm using milk from their own dairy herd.
Having previously trained as a baker and chocolatier in France, owner Trevor Smith set up the chocolate factory in 2006, taking over what was the village patisserie. His successful range of 30 different filled chocolates, along with bars and gifts are all made, displayed and sold on site.
A family-run business set in the middle of the New Forest, Paul Girling and his wife Hayley grow the grapes in their vineyard, from which they produce five different varieties of wine. These are stocked in the oak-framed farm shop, along with other produce from local suppliers, including jams and chutneys, cheeses and cakes.
Set up in old barn close to the sea in 2014, the Dancing Cows craft ale and the artisan gin can be purchased from the barn (Monday to Friday 9am-4.30pm), or at local markets, and tours can be enjoyed Wednesday, Thursday & Friday evenings.
Founded in 1978, Ringwood brewery is well known for ales such as Forty Niner and Boon Doogle. Stock up in the shop located in the brewery yard and time a visit for one of the brewery tours that include a complimentary drink in the Pin Room.
Traditionally brewed Cider from the heart of the New Forest, here you can try the unpasteurised, real cider straight from the barrels, there is usually dry, medium, sweet, Kingston Black and Perry as well as a selection of bottled ciders including the handcrafted Cider Bouche and the very popular Champagne method Cider.
On the last Saturday of each month, this well attended farmers’ market has a range of stalls selling excellent local produce.
Inn Places our top recommendations of great places to stay:
So, if you have decided to go, where will you stay? Here are our top recommendations within the National Park but if you want to stay further afield, visit www.innplaces.co.uk/hampshire
Ponies wander past this classic country pub with rooms, the 18th-century Bell Inn at Bramshaw, set deep in the New Forest National Park and surrounded by ancient forest and open heathland. Refurbished in country-chic style, it’s the perfect family holiday base, with safe, off-road cycling trails, a vast network of footpaths, a riding stables up the road, and a challenging ‘forest’ 18-holes golf course next door (owned by the Bell Inn) for a cracking round of golf.
A striking Forest inn (close to Burley) within a grand house deep in the New Forest which is a haven for country lovers looking for good pub food, a relaxed vibe and stylish country-chic bedrooms of which there are 20. The roaring fires in the bar make this the place to be after a glorious heathland walk or a round of golf. For a really special stay, book super indulgent Holmehurst and soak in the round tub in the bay window. As you might expect, there is wonderful walking from the front door.
It’s a timeless village setting for this rambling old inn set beside the Beaulieu River on the edge of the New Forest and oozing with historic charm. Secluded nooks and corridors open out into a sprawling bar with giant hearths, and the smart restaurant, tables on the rear terrace and the chic feature bedrooms command uninterrupted views over the Beaulieu estuary. The Master Builder’s will welcome you and your dog – dog friendly accommodation is taken to a whole new level with its very own doggie room service menu – order a 4oz rump steak, free range chicken, or sausages and gravy!
Two miles west of Lymingon, close to the coast and the New Forest you will find this 17th century former mill, now an informal pub with rooms, set in over five acres of grounds beside the River Avon with a stunning terrace overlooking delightful gardens which is a magnet for wildlife. Explore the rambling ‘Secret Garden’ – the Art Walk is full of unusual artworks, sculpture and exhibits – whilst inside you will find a relaxing bar with roaring log fires, two beamed lounges, smart, light and airy dining rooms and charming country-house style bedrooms. Book into your room early and on sunny days enjoy afternoon tea (with fizz) on the terrace.
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