Having spent a fantastic few days there last weekend, here are my top 5 reasons why to visit the New Forest:
1) The nature & landscape of the New Forest National Park
A combination of dense forest, pasture land and stunning heathland. Best time of year to go is apparently just as it is turning autumn as the heather turns a beautiful purple colour. We were exceptional lucky with the weather and the sun had a lovely way of shining through the autumn leaves in the forest and casting a beautiful light on our path. The forest and heathlands often seem endless and devoid of people. Keep your eyes open and you may see a deer or a fox or, in our case, an extremely fat pig eating acorns like there was no tomorrow.
2) The New Forest Ponies
They are everywhere. And for horse lovers like me this was a serious bonus. They are wild (though technically owned by the New Forest Commoners) but not scared of people. They graze happily and if you come near they ignore you and in most cases walk away, totally unfazed. We found some little shetland ponies hiding under a low fruit tree. They were so fluffy and cosy I didn’t want to leave them. The ponies are really and truly one with the New Forest, having been grazing there for centuries. Even in the towns and villages you will see a few, trundling along contently, snatching at some weeds along the pavements. Some tourists obviously found them a little more irritating than I did, especially when one of them stood in front of their car in the car park and would not budge.
3) The Activities
For the outward bound type this is the place to be. Most towns or hotels will have bikes you can rent and there are endless cycle paths (which are all relatively flat) stretching through the New Forest and leading you from one cute village/town to the other. We rented bikes for half a day and cycled for miles, avoiding the A roads as much as possible (which is recommended). The walking paths across the heather and through the forest are also breathtaking and while I am not a big walker I thoroughly enjoyed our two hour walk. Most hotels will give you a map of local cycle/walking routes so you don’t get too lost. If seeing the ponies is not enough and you actually want to get on one, riding is of course also a possibility. The official New Forest website has information on stables in the New Forest.
4) The Hotels/Restaurants/Pubs/Villages
We stayed at The Pig (see last blog post) which was heaven. But there are plenty more cute Bed & Breakfasts scattered across the New Forest as well as The Pig’s (older and more expensive) sister hotel the fabulous Limewood. The 25 Mile Menu is fantastic at the Pig, but again, there is no lacking of good restaurants throughout the New Forest. The villages and towns of the New Forest are charming. Especially if you have a car, drive to Lymington on the coast, which is meant to be lovely (and has a famous Saturday morning market). Lyndhurst and Borckenhurst are very cute and Buckler’s Hard is meant to be beautiful. Characteristically the villages and towns are all stuffed full of adorable tea houses and cafes serving melt in your mouth scones and other delectable pastries and cakes.
Lastly there is also nothing better than cycling/walking to a pub. We stopped at the Oak Inn Pub (at Bank, just outside Lyndhurst) for lunch (all animals welcome!). It’s fair to say the scallops on a bed of butternut squash mash was not what you’d expect from your local pub! If you want to go, I’d recommend booking a table in advance.
5) Distance and ease to get to from London
The New Forest could not be more contrasting to London. The air is fresh. It’s so quiet. The landscape is breathtaking. The locals are friendly. And you don’t really bump into any tourists. So you’d think to find a place like this would be a nightmare to get to from London. Wrong.
Quickest and best way to get to Brockenhurst (one of the prettier towns in the New Forest) is by taking the train. From Waterloo or Paddington there are direct trains which go regularly and take 1.5 hours. Could not be easier. Driving is also an option which means you have also have the car if you want to see places and parts of the New Forest to far to cycle/walk.
Train tickets from £30 return.