The incredible wildlife and nature of the breathtaking New Forest draws travellers from all over the UK on short breaks, romantic retreats and weekend getaways.
The New Forest casts its spell over anyone and everyone in need of an idyllic retreat, from you and me to ancient kings. Back in 1079, the New Forest underwent a period of upheaval when William the Conqueror declared it his own personal hunting ground. Allegedly, he displaced more than 36 parishes so that he could hunt the abundant wildlife in the area, in particular, the deer.
It was declared a Royal Forest, but the New Forest wasn’t so easily controlled. Two sons of William the Conqueror, Prince Richard and King William II, both died while in the Forest. According to local folklore, these deaths were a response to the crimes of their father. This is just one of the few myths, legends and pieces of folklore that surround this ancient part of the UK.
There are a whole host of New Forest cottages you can stay in, from where you can explore and take in the beauty that drew William the Conqueror all those years ago.
Travelling from London?
The New Forest is the perfect getaway for anyone living the city life in our capital. With coastal getaways, countryside hideaways, and the chance to visit Southampton or hop across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, it’s no surprise Londoners escape to the New Forest year after year.
By train: It is about a 2-hour train ride from Waterloo Station to Brockenhurst Station, depending on when you choose to travel.
By car: It can take between 2-3 hours travel by car via the M3 to reach the New Forest, although this again depends on what time of day you are driving.
You may be expecting to come across the New Forest ponies that wander across the landscape and the deer with their beautiful white-flecked coats. But would you expect to see pigs? They are let loose every autumn as part of an old tradition known as Pannage. It involves the pigs eating the acorns and chestnuts that have fallen from the trees, which are poisonous to ponies, and therefore preventing the ponies from eating them.
You can also find the hardy donkey wandering through the countryside and cattle that graze and roam freely. This eclectic mix of large, peaceful mammals provide a fantastic holiday experience and many locals interact with the animals daily as they are allowed to roam freely through the villages. Make sure you head to Brockenhurst, Burley or Beaulieu, all villages where you might spot a New Forest pony grazing just outside the window.
Often a holiday is synonymous with the seaside, whereas a holiday to the New Forest may put you in mind of long country walks, grazing animals and evenings spent in a cosy village pub. Few consider the fantastic coastline and sandy beaches that are on offer in this unique part of the UK.
You could visit Hengistbury Head Nature Reserve for some great walking among the woodland, heathland and saltmarsh, not to mention the fantastic bird spotting opportunities here.
If your idea of a perfect holiday is digging sandcastles, splashing through waves, and eating fish and chips, take a trip to one of the fantastic beaches: Avon Beach, Friars Cliff Beach and Highcliffe-on-Sea Beach.
The best way to get close to nature during a short break is to get out and about on the walking routes that crisscross the county. Why not follow your feet on one of these trails and see what wildlife you discover?
Abbots Well and Fritham (9 miles)
Explore the open heathland found in the north-west of this National Park. Beginning at Abbots Well, this path will take you up to the fantastic panoramic views found at Hampton Ridge before leading you back down through the local village, heathland, and past a winding stream.
Millyford Bridge Walk (2.5 miles)
This may be more what you’d expect in a county named after its ancient forest. You’ll follow this trail through woodland made up of a mix of oaks and conifers, and continue along the steep-sided Highland Water which makes for a wonderful river walk.
Bolton’s Bench and Lyndhurst Stroll (7 miles)
This trail will take you around the village of Lyndhurst, a delightful village with shops, galleries and cafes – the perfect place to grab a bite to eat. This walk also takes you through woodland, past the Beaulieu River, and up hills to vantage points where you can take in the wide horizon.
A walk is a fantastic way to take in the surroundings so make sure you pick a holiday escape with a walking trail nearby.
Get away to this beautiful part of the UK that William the Conqueror tried to claim for his family line. Filled with stunning wildlife and ancient heritage, it’s a wonderful escape, especially for Londoners who feel they are in need of a short break to an idyllic holiday destination.