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East Med Wanderer/ via Flickr

A Weekend Away in the New Forest

27 December 2017 | Helen Dalton

Covering a large swathe of rural Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset, the New Forest is a beautiful area populated by picturesque villages and wild ponies. The name is a bit of a misnomer - since the area is certainly not new (it was named by William the Conqueror) and is made up of a mixture of open moorland and small woods, rather than thick forest. However, it is an incredibly pretty landscape, and a weekend away here will leave you feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and renewed.

Saturday Morning
Begin your New Forest adventure with a trip to Hurst Castle, found to the extreme South of the forest area. Built at the end of an exposed spit projecting into the sea towards the Isle of Wight, this English Heritage site can only be reached by a short ferry ride or by walking along the beach. Open from April to October each year, the castle is well worth a visit to discover local military history and take in some inspiring views and the fresh seaside air.


Hurst Castle. Image credit: Robin Crumby/ via Flickr

Saturday Lunchtime
Less than an hour's drive from Hurst Castle is Lyndhurst, a pretty village known as "the capital of The New Forest" where you'll find plenty of options for lunch. Enjoy a classic cream tea at Lyndhurst Tea House, or head to the Forage Deli & Eatery for a friendly welcome and tasty lunch. Be warned, Lyndhurst can get busy in the summer as it is a popular tourist destination – but if you can’t get a table you can always enjoy a picnic outside! Lyndhurst is also home to the New Forest Centre, an exhibition and tourist information centre where you can find answers to any questions you have about the area, and spend some time planning the rest of your weekend.
 
Saturday Afternoon
There are plenty of options for your Saturday afternoon activities. Head to Beaulieu where you’ll find a plethora of attractions to explore all on one estate. There’s the 13th century Beaulieu Palace House, historic Cistercian site Beaulieu Abbey and the National Motor Museum, where you can see hundreds of fascinating cars and an extensive collection of automobilia. Alternatively, why not visit Furzey Gardens, an informal woodland garden with lots of quirky touches. This is a gorgeous space to while away a few hours, with plenty of winding paths for children to explore.


Beaulieu Palace House. Image credit: Mike Smith/ via Flickr
 
Saturday Night
As a popular tourist destination, the New Forest is amply supplied with places to stay - including many campsites and glamping spots. There are also plenty of hotels, guesthouses and B&B options. Ideal spots to find accommodation include the picturesque villages of Brockenhurst, Burley, or Cadnam; all are well placed to give you access to the forest without being as busy as tourist-heavy Lyndhurst.
 
Sunday Morning
Of course, the main appeal of visiting the New Forest is exploring the beautiful countryside. And Sunday is a great day for a walk! You will find lovely walks suitable for all ages and abilities in every area of the forest, from an easy stroll around the Wilverley Inclosure to a hike along some of the popular Solent Way – which passes through the New Forest and offers a number of longer walking opportunities. The New Forest’s landscape is beautiful throughout the year, so there’s always something to see. Expect blankets of bluebell in the spring, gorgeous heather in the summer and brilliant, bright leaves in Autumn. In the winter, you’ve often got a better chance of spotting some wildlife, as there are less people to scare away animals and birds. If you don’t fancy walking, there are many places where you can hire bikes or even try out horseriding – both fantastic options for exploring the forest and enjoying some fresh air.


Horses in The New Forest. Image credit: Adam Tanner/ via Flickr

Sunday Lunchtime
Sunday lunchtime means roast dinner. And after all that walking in the morning, you deserve it! The New Forest has lots of lovely traditional pubs where you can enjoy a hearty Sunday lunch. The Oak Inn in Lyndhurst offers a classic English pub atmosphere and tasty, locally sourced food. The Monkey House in Lymington has a great reputation for friendly service and good quality meals, including many nice vegetarian options. On the other side of the National Park, the Rockingham Arms offers a hearty Sunday lunch menu with all the traditional trimmings.
 
Sunday Afternoon
After a late lunch its time to say goodbye to the New Forest! Drive slowly through the area for some last glimpses of the pretty scenery – if you’re lucky you’ll see some of the famous wild-roaming ponies wondering across the moorland or stopping to crop the grass is one of the quaint villages.
 
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