Holidays in the New Forest
The New Forest is an incredible area of natural beauty and, nestled in the Hampshire countryside, it’s just down the road for those of us who live in the East. Here are some of our favourite unmissable sights you need to see when visiting the New Forest:
Things to do in the New Forest
For the more active visitor, there are lots of outdoor adventure style activities to participate in, as well as more relaxed tours and walks in the New Forest countryside.
New for 2016, the guided foraging walks are set to be a hit with visitors, showing you what’s safe to eat and how to harvest the various wild foods found in the forest – find out more about foraging walks here.
If you prefer something more active, you can take a 2 hour tour with an expert in large 2-3 seater Canadian canoes or one man kayaks along the riverbanks of one of the world’s very few privately owned rivers – the tidal Beaulieu River, salt marshes and Key Haven nature reserve. This is a chance to get up close and personal to Mother Nature, breath fresh sea air muddled with the scent of woodland trees mixed with vibrant sounds of the forest – you can even nibble on wild samphire!
Or stick to something a little more conventional and hire a bike to explore over 100 miles of New Forest cycle routes. New Forest Activities hire bikes out for £12 for a half day or £18 for a full day. You can download cycle routes here.
More activities from New Forest Activities
Where to stay in the New Forest
The New Forest is an increasingly popular destination for short breaks and longer holidays and with its close proximity to the East of England, it’s the ideal spot to explore and enjoy.
There are lots of really nice places to stay too, including hotels and some gorgeous independent New Forest holiday cottages. Self catering in the New Forest is a really popular option, thanks to the wide range of shops and farmers markets which stock the finest New Forest produce, and the range of restaurants and cafes to enjoy.
Beaulieu is a really popular village thanks to its history and the Abbey and Estate there, and its proximity to Peppa Pig World makes it the ideal base for a fun filled family holiday. If you like to be near the coast, villages such as Lymington and Keyhaven have lots to offer. Brockenhurst is famous for its ponies which freely roam the streets (you’ll often have to shoo a pony out of the way just to get into the supermarket!).
Beaulieu is a gorgeous village in the New Forest. One of the main attractions there is Beaulieu Abbey, a historic gem also known as Cistercian Abbey.
Enjoy tranquility at the Abbey, which sits as ruins since being destroyed on the orders of King Henry VIII in 1538. Today, the well kept gardens and preserved bricks make for a great place to reflect and be calm.
Beyond the Abbey, the Beaulieu Estate has lots to offer visitors of all ages. The Motor Museum is a well-known attraction for car enthusiasts while the grounds of the Estate are home to an abundance of wildlife from ponies to stags to birds of various varieties.
There are some really nice places to stay in and around Beaulieu, including The Old Telephone Exchange, which used to be the exchange for the whole estate and is today a lovely holiday cottage for two people.
Find out more about the Beaulieu Estate
The Rufus Stone in the New Forest
The Rufus Stone is perhaps the most exciting reminder of the New Forest’s rich history. It was here in 1100 AD that King William II was fatally wounded by an arrow during a royal hunting outing in the forest.
The name Rufus comes from the King’s nickname and every year thousands of history enthusiasts travel to see the stone. The man who fired the arrow, a Sir Walter Tyrell, hit the King by accident and afterwards fled the scene, but history tells us that he needn’t have done so, the King himself being rather unpopular at the time and therefore no one really too sorry about his demise.
The Rufus Stone sits in the heart of the New Forest landscape and visitors can combine their viewing of the stone with a walk or cycle ride through the Forest and across the moors, making for a lovely day out.
Learn more about the Rufus Stone
Beaches in the New Forest – the sea wall between Keyhaven and Lymington
The New Forest beaches are home to some of the most breathtaking coastlines in the UK. Keyhaven and Lymington are coastal towns connected by a sea wall which visitors are welcome to walk along and from which, on clear days, you can see the Isle of Wight.
Lymington is also home to The Nave, an old chapel which was recently converted into a luxury family holiday property. Visitors from across the UK come here to experience chapel living, which is the ideal base for a coastal holiday in the New Forest.
Find out more about New Forest beaches
The Royal Oak pub at Fritham
The Royal Oak at Fritham is one of the oldest pubs in the New Forest and has been acclaimed by CAMRA for its range of real ales and traditional pub atmosphere. With its part thatched roof, log fireplace and old fashioned beams, this pub is the ideal watering hole for fans of beer or history, or just those looking for a warm and cosy retreat.
The Royal Oak has long been a popular destination and has served visitors to the area for centuries. Once popular with smugglers, today the pub welcomes lots of walkers as it makes a great start or finish point for walks across the local moors. It also has a lovely beer garden with views across the fields and, being part of a working farm, there are lots of ponies grazing just outside. Of course, this makes it a popular location in the summer months, so be ready for it to be quite busy.
The New Forest is home to an abundance of wildlife, from the well-known New Forest ponies to deer to birds and a whole range of mammals.
The huge population of wildlife in the New Forest makes it the perfect place for families to visit and children to learn more about animals. Bird watching enthusiasts rave about the best places to see birds including the Ornamental Drive in Bolderwood and the woodland around Minstead. The whole patch forms the biggest area of continuous woodland in the UK, meaning you’ll see plenty of woodland wildlife here.
Fallow deer are plentiful in the New Forest too and it’s rare to take a walk out and about without seeing one of these majestic creatures. The New Forest ponies are iconic of the area and can often be seen wandering down the village streets as in most places, they still have right of way.
Experience The real life Downton Abbey in the New Forest
Downton Abbey is one of the most popular programmes on TV today and the castle used as Downton Abbey in the show is located within easy reach of the New Forest!
Highclere Castle is a stunning piece of British architecture, chosen by Downton’s makers for its grandeur, befitting to the upper class residents portrayed on the show. Major renovations in the 18th and 19th century remodelled the house in the Georgian style you see today, and visitors can peruse the gardens and interior at leisure.
It’s worth noting that the Castle is only open 60 days of the year, so be sure to check their website for dates.
Plan your trip to Highclere Castle
By Gemma Dalton, New Forest Living
Find out more about New Forest villages