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Explore The New Forest: Your Ultimate Travel Guide

The New Forest, located in Hampshire and stretching into Dorset and Wiltshire, is one of the most beautiful and ancient woodlands in England. This National Park offers a unique blend of dense forests, open moors, charming villages, and stunning coastline. This guide will help you explore the best of The New Forest with detailed recommendations on what to do and how to do it.

1. Discover Lyndhurst

What to Do:

  • Visit the heart of The New Forest in Lyndhurst, often referred to as the "capital" of the forest. Explore its charming streets, historic sites, and local shops.

How to Do It:

  • New Forest Heritage Centre: Start at the New Forest Heritage Centre to learn about the area’s history, wildlife, and culture. It’s free to enter and provides a great overview of the forest.

  • St. Michael and All Angels Church: Visit this historic church with its beautiful stained glass windows and the grave of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland."

  • Shopping and Dining: Enjoy the local shops, cafes, and restaurants offering a range of local products and cuisine.

Tips:

  • Visit the visitor center to get maps and information about walking and cycling routes in the area.

  • Lyndhurst is a great base for exploring the rest of The New Forest.

2. Walk or Cycle Through the Forest

What to Do:

  • Experience the natural beauty of The New Forest by walking or cycling through its many trails. The forest offers over 140 miles of trails perfect for all levels.

How to Do It:

  • Walking Trails: Popular walks include the Tall Trees Trail, the Blackwater Arboretum Trail, and the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary Trail. Maps and guides are available at visitor centers and online.

  • Cycling Routes: Hire a bike from one of the many rental shops in the area and explore the forest on two wheels. Recommended routes include the Ornamental Woods Ride and the Beaulieu to Buckler’s Hard path.

Tips:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and bring water and snacks.

  • Respect the natural environment by sticking to marked trails and not disturbing wildlife.

3. Visit Beaulieu

What to Do:

  • Explore the village of Beaulieu, home to the famous Beaulieu Estate, the National Motor Museum, and the historic Beaulieu Abbey.

How to Do It:

  • National Motor Museum: Discover an impressive collection of over 250 vehicles, from classic cars to modern supercars. The museum also features exhibitions on the history of motoring.

  • Beaulieu Abbey: Visit the remains of this 13th-century abbey, including the conserved cloister and the abbey church. The abbey is set in beautiful gardens perfect for a leisurely stroll.

  • Palace House: Explore this former gatehouse of the abbey, which has been the Montagu family home since 1538. The house features Victorian-style rooms and picturesque gardens.

Tips:

  • Purchase a combined ticket for access to all attractions within the Beaulieu Estate.

  • Check the Beaulieu website for special events and exhibitions during your visit.

4. Enjoy the Wildlife at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary

What to Do:

  • Visit Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary to see wild deer up close and enjoy the scenic surroundings.

How to Do It:

  • Viewing Platform: The sanctuary features a viewing platform where you can watch the deer being fed by Forestry England rangers.

  • Walking Trails: Several walking trails start from the car park, ranging from short strolls to longer hikes through the forest.

Tips:

  • Bring binoculars for a closer look at the deer and other wildlife.

  • Visit during feeding times (usually midday) for the best chance to see the deer.

5. Explore Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway

What to Do:

  • Discover the stunning Exbury Gardens, known for its beautiful landscapes, and take a ride on the Exbury Steam Railway.

How to Do It:

  • Gardens: Explore over 200 acres of gardens, including the famous rhododendron and azalea displays. There are also tranquil ponds, wooded areas, and a rock garden.

  • Steam Railway: Enjoy a ride on the narrow-gauge steam railway that takes you on a scenic tour of the gardens. The railway operates regularly throughout the day.

Tips:

  • Visit in the spring to see the gardens at their most colorful.

  • Check the Exbury Gardens website for train times and special events.

6. Experience the Coastal Village of Lymington

What to Do:

  • Visit the picturesque coastal village of Lymington, known for its Georgian architecture, bustling market, and marina.

How to Do It:

  • High Street and Market: Explore the high street with its independent shops, cafes, and restaurants. Visit on a Saturday to experience the vibrant market, one of the oldest in the country.

  • Lymington Marina: Walk along the marina and enjoy views of the yachts and boats. The waterfront is a great place for a leisurely stroll or to sit and enjoy an ice cream.

  • Sea Water Baths: Swim in the UK’s oldest open-air sea water baths, which offer a fun experience with inflatables, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.

Tips:

  • Take a ferry from Lymington to the Isle of Wight for a day trip.

  • Enjoy fresh seafood at one of the many local restaurants.

7. Discover Burley

What to Do:

  • Visit the charming village of Burley, known for its witchcraft and smuggling history.

How to Do It:

  • Cycling and Walking: Burley is a great starting point for many of the New Forest’s walking and cycling trails. Bike hire is available in the village.

  • Witchcraft Shops: Explore the village’s quirky shops, such as A Coven of Witches, which sell items related to witchcraft and folklore.

  • Burley Wagon Rides: Enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride through the forest, offering a unique way to see the sights and learn about the local history.

Tips:

  • Visit the Burley Fudge Shop for a sweet treat.

  • Learn about the village’s history of smuggling and witchcraft on a guided tour.

8. Go Horse Riding

What to Do:

  • Experience the New Forest on horseback with one of the many local riding schools and stables offering guided treks and lessons.

How to Do It:

  • Booking: Choose from several riding schools such as Burley Villa School of Riding or Ford Farm Stables. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons.

  • Routes: Enjoy a range of trails that cater to different skill levels, from beginners to experienced riders.

Tips:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear.

  • Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly.

9. Visit Lepe Country Park

What to Do:

  • Enjoy a day out at Lepe Country Park, offering beautiful coastal views, nature trails, and picnic areas.

How to Do It:

  • Activities: Walk along the beach, explore the park’s trails, or enjoy a picnic with views of the Isle of Wight.

  • History: Learn about the park’s role during World War II at the D-Day remains and memorials.

Tips:

  • Visit the park’s café for refreshments.

  • Check the tide times if planning to explore the beach.

10. Stay in a Traditional New Forest Cottage

What to Do:

  • Experience the charm of the New Forest by staying in a traditional cottage or a cozy bed and breakfast.

How to Do It:

  • Booking: Many options are available on platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, or local rental agencies.

  • Locations: Consider staying in one of the forest’s picturesque villages such as Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, or Burley.

Tips:

  • Book well in advance, especially during peak seasons.

  • Look for accommodations that offer amenities like bike rentals or guided tours.

Conclusion

The New Forest is a magical destination with a rich history, diverse wildlife, and endless opportunities for adventure. Whether you're exploring charming villages, walking or cycling through ancient woodlands, or simply relaxing in the natural beauty of the park, there's something for everyone in The New Forest. Use this guide to plan your visit and create unforgettable memories in this enchanting part of England. Enjoy your time in The New Forest!

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