Things to see and do on a New Forest getaway
Following such a tricky time for international travel, many of us are exploring staycation options as we look to take a break from the daily grind. Fortunately, the UK has an abundance of fascinating and stunning locations to enjoy, many of which we can be guilty of overlooking in normal times, in favour of sun, beaches and foreign cities.
While we may have missed the boat for a UK beach break this year, there are still plenty of wonderful options for getaways on our doorstep, not least the spectacular New Forest.
Along with the South Downs and Dartmoor, the New Forest is among the UK’s most southerly National Parks, having been afforded the title in 2005.
Located partly in Hampshire and partly in Wiltshire, it’s made up of ancient heathland, unenclosed pastureland and forest, and was designated a royal forest by William the Conqueror, who regularly took to the land for royal hunts. In fact, the Crown still owns around 90% of the New Forest today.
The area, referred to as Nova Foresta in the Domesday Book (the only forest the book describes in detail), is unsurprisingly packed with history to uncover. The New Forest also played an important role in both World War I and World War II, with the felling of broadleaved trees and their replacement by conifers taking place to meet the wartime demand for wood.
Alongside its intriguing backstory, the New Forest’s 566 square kilometres are also home to many rare species of mammals and birds, thanks to its diverse and relatively untouched landscape.
The locals are also a friendly bunch, although you won’t get much conversation from them. The New Forest is inhabited by around 5,000 New Forest ponies, who have laid claim to the area for more than 2,000 years.
Holidays in the New Forest can be pretty much whatever you want them to be – either a back-to-nature escape, a chilled retreat away from the hustle and bustle, or even a seaside soiree -the gorgeous New Forest covers the lot. But mostly the area is ideal for outdoorsy types who love to hike, take to the water, or even cycle between quaint country pubs!
With more than 140 miles of walking trails and an extensive cycle network, it’s a wonderful place to get out and about in the great outdoors, take in some country air and experience all the beauty nature has to offer.
There are also plenty of family-friendly activities in the New Forest and nearby surrounding areas. Paultons Park – home to the UK’s only Peppa Pig World – is located in Romsey and is packed full of rides and attractions for the whole family to enjoy. Elsewhere, the New Forest Wildlife Park in Ashurst and the New Forest Reptile Centre in Lyndhurst are great options for days out with the kids. Animal lovers can also embark on a New Forest Deer Safari in Burley Park, where red deer and occasionally fallow deer can be spotted roaming in abundance.
Four larger villages make up the New Forest – Burley, Beaulieu, Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst – but there are several towns around the outskirts of the National Park itself, but still within the New Forest District, including Totton, Ringwood, Milton-on-Sea, Fordingbridge and Christchurch.
Getting there and around
The New Forest is best reached by car, which will give you plenty of freedom to explore the various towns and villages during your stay.
Equally, there are plenty of train stations dotted around the area – including at Brockenhurst in the heart of the forest – making it fairly easily accessible by public transport.
The coronavirus pandemic means that the rules around holidays and non-essential travel are constantly subject to change – please check the Gov.uk coronavirus website for the latest restrictions relating to England.
What are your favourite places to visit in the New Forest? Share your thoughts and tips below!