I’ve always wanted an excuse to explore more of the UK, but the temptation of feeling sun on my skin and the heat that you only get abroad often is too much of a draw. With a ‘hot holiday’ put on the back burner (pun intended) for this year, we decided to try and see more of Great Britain. From Cornwall’s coastal charm to the Peak District’s pretty landscapes, there is plenty to see and do on our beautiful island!
We decided to book a trip to The New Forest for the end of August as neither of us had ever been. It’s only a few hours from us, and as we were looking for somewhere to visit for the weekend it fitted the bill nicely. We both love the great outdoors, so a good spot of nature bathing (read: hopefully not treading in dog poo or dying of hay fever) was in order, especially after a stressful year and a half.
Loaded down with luggage, plenty of snacks and that nervous excitement that you get before going on holiday, we headed off…
Our Airbnb was so beautiful. Set in the grounds of a large house and even larger lake, as the deer on the lawn greeted us we knew that we were going to be in for a magical few days.
After an explore of the grounds, we got into our comfy clothes, I cooked us up some cheesy pasta and we crashed out in front of the TV.
We had a flick through some of the guides that our host had helpfully left for us, and clued ourselves up on the ‘New Forest code’ – aka don’t feed or pet the horses as they’re wild.
The next morning we enjoyed a frothy coffee in bed while watching some old school Simpsons (Homer at the Bat – ICONIC) before we got showered and headed into Lyndhurst for the day.
There is a large circular walk you can do around Lyndhurst which is very varied and scenic. We parked in the car park near the New Forest Heritage Centre – a great little place with lots of information about the whole of the New Forest. We had a little wander through the town and picked up some hot chocolates and a panini. Matt also treated himself to some foccacia from the cute little bakery called Bakehouse24. After a quick bite to eat the town started to get busy, although we’d kept our masks on we decided it was time to get out into some open space and see what we’d be waiting for – wild horses!
The total walk is just over 11km but we ended up doing about 9km in total. We stopped off for a refreshing drink on the way too. There’s nothing like a pub Coke is there?!
It was really mesmerising to see the horses in their natural environment. Unfortunately there were a lot of people encouraging their kids to go up and feed/pet them. Our Airbnb owner said this sort of thing means the animals can become aggressive and start demanding food, which can eventually mean they have to be put down. It’s actually so much more magical to see the horses at a distance (any photos I’ve shared are taking using a huge zoom or from a stationary car). We’d be walking through a forest and suddenly spot one standing in between the trees. The New Forest isn’t a petting zoo and from reading around it seems the tourist board is trying to combat this issue. So if you do visit – remember the New Forest code!
After a long day walking, we headed back to base for a chill. The weather was actually really sunny, so I spent some time sitting in the little courtyard garden reading.
We then got ready for dinner at The Red Shoot in Ringwood. The drive from our cottage in Cadnam to Ringwood was one of the most scenic yet; thick forest opening out to fields of heather with donkeys, horses, cows all roaming free. We had to stop the car a couple of times as they have a habit of wandering into the road. All the better for getting a close look!
We had a nice meal in the pub and were seated at a private table. Joined to a campsite, this pub has a nice family atmosphere mixed in with some locals. It isn’t gourmet dining, but the food is good and the staff very friendly. Driving home we spotted a HUGE white horse in the forest on its own. I was certain it was a unicorn, it just looked so ethereal standing there as the sun was setting around it. Beautiful!
The next day we were greeted with bright sunshine again. We’d got up nice and early, and firstly drove to the Tall Trees Trail at Blackwater. This is a relatively short walk at 1.5 miles, but is an opportunity to see some of the biggest trees in the New Forest including towering Redwoods and Douglas Firs.
After this we headed into Brockenhurst with plans for another long walk. First was lunch though, as you always need fuel for these things! We found a nice table at a pub called The Snakecatcher. I had a massive salad with loads of tasty halloumi. After lunch, we set off on another long walk. Matt had bought me some really nice Timberland hiking boots (we walk a lot and I normally just wear trainers) and although slightly more expensive they were so comfortable. I don’t think my feet would have survived without them on this holiday!
We decided to do the Brockenhurst Village Walk – a walk that starts and finishes at the train station. It was overwhelming to try and choose which walks to do in each place, but we kind of went with the focus that we wanted some variety, a good pub pit/drink stop on the way, and plenty of opportunity to see the animals. This walk is around 5 miles long, and takes you first across this natural phenomenon called the ‘Watersplash Ford’. The road is lower than the water meaning it runs across the road. Here I spotted these three characters holding up the traffic!
This walk is mainly open fields, some forest, a bit of main road walking and some dirt trails. It was varied, but a lot of it was walking down LONG tracks as opposed to the Lyndhurst Circular where the scenery is constantly changing. That said, there are some really pretty views to admire on the way and we enjoyed ourselves, even though I went into mild panic when a group of horses started running towards us! Luckily they slowed and we just gave them a wide berth, but it is a reminder that these animals could still do some damage and it best to be as respectful of them as possible.
After this it was time to head back to the cottage and get ready for something I’d really been looking forward to – dinner at The Pig Hotel! I’d managed to get a table by chance, as they were fully booked but called the day before and they had a slot available at 9pm. We decided to arrive a little early to explore the grounds of the place. I’m in the process of writing a dedicated blog post on our experience at The Pig, which you’ll be able to read on the food section of my website. Keep your eyes peeled for it very soon!
After a delicious dinner we headed home, absolutely shattered after a full on few days exploring the New Forest.
We’d already packed our cases, so in the morning we had a final breakfast, said goodbye to the beautiful cottage and grounds we’d spent the last few days in and headed to the final destination on our whistle stop tour of the New Forest, The Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. Parking is free, and it’s one of the best places to spot deer as there is a dedicated viewing platform which overlooks the meadow. However, it didn’t seem like we could see anything so we decided to just go for a walk anyway. We ended up stumbling upon some deer tucked away so that was a nice surprise.
After a morning at the sanctuary, we began the drive home. I really enjoyed the New Forest and while we only had 2 and a half days there, it felt like we managed to fit a lot in. I’d love to return as there is just so much to see and I feel like we only scratched the surface!
Have you been to the New Forest before?