I LOVE visiting England!
Since my home town is London, it is a must that I venture outside of it whenever I pilgrimage back to Blighty. Perhaps fellow Londoners can relate: when you live in the Capital, you’re so busy that you barely step outside of the M25. That circular motorway seems to act like a membrane, preventing any form of osmosis. Unfortunately most foreign visitors also flock to just the Big Smoke and think that it is a true representation of England.
Thankfully, there is much more on the menu. A taste of the rural English charm and splendour is only a hop, skip and jump away.
You can shift Big Ben aside and a mere 2 hour drive South-West of London will take you through Hampshire to New Forest National Park.
For those of you unfamiliar with this south country wonder, the clue is not really in the name. It’s definitely not new and nor is it largely a forest. But the truth of what it really is, can be described as something close to a national mystique.
It is: effortlessly harmonious
It is: home to stunning old villages that have true ‘English heritage’ vibes
It is: honoured with lush biking trails
Is something close to a fairy tale. The hundreds of wild horses, ponies and donkeys that roam the area. Slowing down the car because they are hanging out in the road is somewhat a New Forest pastime for visitors. Including me. It always feels magical.
But, if driving around dwarfed horses isn’t quite your thing, then there’s lots on offer to occupy your time. Catering for multiple age groups is also possible as, after all, I was on a family weekend away. We had ages 6-60, and somehow I managed to get everyone on a bike!
Biking in Burley
There are PLENTY of bike routes here, or running/walking tracks, depending on your taste. With a few hire shops to choose from, I settled for Forest Leisure Cycling. This meant we could finish up with a Sunday lunch at the lush Burley Manor. Unfortunately though, it didn’t quite go according to plan!
We had a gorgeous off road trail most of the way round this loop. Ferns sat beautifully among the forestry, horses greeted us and a traditional tea house lay in the middle of nowhere. It was bliss.
The owners at Burley Rails Cottage were so welcoming and the smell of freshly baked cakes drew us in. This dreamy setting made a perfect half-way pit stop to treat our gobs and offer relief for our sore butts.
Now, time for the bit that didn’t go to plan!
Those of you familiar with the Great British weather, will know that it is unpredictable at the best of times. With sunshine weeks before I arrived, it wouldn’t be home without a bit of rain. So it did.
All the way back to Burley. My poor Mother who is now put off of cycling for life. (Although coming from the tropics, I found it a little revitalising!)
Sadly, The Burley Manor will have to wait until next time. But thankfully there were plenty of gastropubs in Lymington to choose from, which is where we were staying.
This Port town is a popular stay for people visiting in New Forest. Although it is the biggest development around, L-ton is only home to less than 10 thousand and still maintains a big village feel. It was lovely dining and hanging out by The Ship Inn pub, with peaceful views of the marina and observing the lives of folk whom still live on their boats.
3 things to do here :
- If you have more time in the area, take a scenic, coastal walk to Hurst Spit and jump on a ferry to Hurst Castle. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, a slightly longer ride lands you on the Isle of Wight.
- Heading West from Lymington, Milford-on-sea is a 10 minute drive away. After awing at the views and walking on its sandy beach, visit gastropub ‘The Beach Hut‘ for some tasty local grub.
- Saturday Markets: I loved walking through these! The whole town comes together and it’s a real local affair. The offerings are wide ranging and high quality, from artisan bread, to farm fresh produce and other goods like household items, plants and crafts.
There are many other offerings in NF during the summer too. In no particular order, you can:
- Venture to Goodall’s Strawberries to pick a range of seasonal berries and cherries. They also have a tea garden for you to enjoy a brew and some homemade cakes.
- Setley Ridge Vineyard in Brockenhurst offers tastings and lush views of the vineyard. After a tipple, you can eat lunch at the boutique eatery Rosie Lea Kitchen and step into their farm shop to stock up on staples.
- In July, a Curious Arts Festival pitches up, showcasing a wide range of family friendly, arts based fun and offers sleepover options.
- Let Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway transport you to their dreamy, colourful world; throughout the year there are other events held here, like art exhibitions and Halloween antics.
- Swing through the trees at Go Ape, for adrenaline-fuelled, zip lining fun.
- Head to the water for activities such as kayaking, canoeing and deep sea fishing.
If like me you have no luck with the weather (it rained e-v-e-r-y day!) and as most of these activities are outdoors, then a good old English pub will keep you in high spirits 🙂
Being based in Asia Pacific for the past 4 years, I have really missed a traditional English pub. I forgot quite how many are situated within close distance of each other in , practically on every corner. (This worked quite well for a mini-pub crawl in Lymington!)
Most pubs in New Forest have a British heritage meets modern country feel, whilst being generous with the ale offerings and serving up scrummy, modern food.
Here’s just a few (out of many!) I’d recommend:
Delicious food with a modern British gastropod menu. Superb staff and real cosy.
This place was a fab social/food stop during the rain! A lovely outside area is available for al-fresco dining or venturing into the woodland; there’s a decent range of ales/beers on tap and great quality food.
Traditional British pub food and a superb marina location. This was Burley Manor replacement closer to home!
Highly recommended by a local but I didn’t have time to go! It’s situated in the ancient village of Boldre, with the menu boasting local, seasonal and traditional dishes.
Towns to trail
Passing through for just a weekend, I only had time to wander through Lymington, Burley and Ashurst. But there are plenty of other quaint villages that offer fully instagrammable streets and delightful shops within a rural setting.
Top tip when travelling here:
- Book accommodation early! During the school holidays, particularly in the months of July and August, sees a heap of visitors to NF. I booked a house 6 months in advance via Airbnb and struggled for somewhere that would accommodate 6.
- Bring your rain mac, wellies and a decent umbrella. Don’t let the Great British weather stop you from getting outdoors!