Rolling moorland, stunning vistas and more quirky and quaint restaurants and cafes than you could shake a stick at. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
All of this can be found within just a 90 minute train journey from Central London, and easily accessible by road or rail from across the country. The place? The New Forest, a gorgeous area in Hampshire that truly offers something to suit all tastes, right here on our doorstep.
One of the greatest draws of the New Forest National Park is its capacity to help you escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Everything moves at a more leisurely pace here and friendly locals, amazing views and a plethora of things to do and see ensure that your mind is taken off the toil of normal life and into a much more relaxed approach to the day to day.
Perhaps the most famous of the New Forest’s inhabitants is the New Forest pony, still very much a staple part of the New Forest experience. These well-mannered creatures can be found all across the Forest, with around 3,000 more being released onto the moors each year.
Visitors to the Forest will no doubt fall in love with the sweet-natured donkeys that also reside here, as well as the many pigs, cattle, sheep and deer that also graze in the wide open spaces.
The New Forest also has some of the most breathtaking, untouched coastlines in the UK, boasting miles of pebbled shores that overlook the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Jump aboard a ferry to visit the neighbouring island or relax in one of the many waterside cafes.
If you’re looking for a slightly faster pace of life, your tastes are catered for too.
Over 100 miles of traffic-free cycle routes criss-cross the New Forest countryside, attracting cyclists of all levels and abilities every year. Look out for the range of cycling events that happen across the area.
Horseriding is also really popular here and is one of the best ways to explore the New Forest wilderness. If you’d prefer, open top bus tours are also available to show you around, or grab a map and take to the many walking routes.
Adrenaline junkies can enjoy sports including archery, sea kayaking and canoeing too.
Thanks to its secluded yet accessible location, the New Forest is a firm favourite with those seeking a romantic getaway. There are some gorgeous holiday cottages for couples to stay in across the Forest, including a cottage set on stilts above the Beaulieu River which is a popular choice amongst mini-mooners and newly weds.
Take romantic walks finding hidden rope swings or hunt for berries and wild mushrooms. Ramble through the ancient woodlands spotting the free roaming deer, ponies and pigs. In the evenings swap minimalist urban gastro pubs for quirky country pubs with fantastic locally brewed ales, open fires and hearty organic and locally produced menus.
The New Forest is also the ideal place for families looking for a short break without the hassle of putting the kids on a plane or dealing with foreign foods and weather that can put a real strain on mums and dads’ ability to truly relax.
Popular destinations for families include Peppa Pig World, the theme park dedicated to the kids’ favourite TV character, as well as Longdown Activity Farm where the little ones can get up close and personal with the New Forest wildlife. There’s plenty to learn too, with lots of activities centred around children’s’ learning available throughout the area.
Part of the New Forest’s charm is the variety of towns and villages. Those seeking something more vibrant and with a larger town feel should take a look at Lymington, a yachting haven with cobbled streets and lots of hustle and bustle, whilst those seeking a quieter retreat might prefer the smaller villages of Brockenhurst or Beaulieu. You can find a full guide to all the New Forest villages here.
New Forest Living is an independent agency, run by mum and daughter Jude and Gemma Dalton, which offers a range of luxury, hand picked holiday cottages around the New Forest, from romantic boltholes to dog-friendly cottages and family properties. They’re currently offering a number of cottages for Christmas too.