With ancient woodland, majestic heathland and golden coastline, the New Forest is a magical place where deer and ponies roam freely, rare birds soar in the skies and dragonflies dart across tranquil ponds.
The national park boasts myriad hiking routes that take you into the woods, by the ocean, by rivers and streams, through a patchwork fields and over heath. As the landscape is very flat, walking is very leisurely, meaning all ages and abilities can enjoy hiking here.
Oddly, the New Forest is not really new and is not much of a forest. The area was first proclaimed a royal hunting preserve by William the Conqueror in 1079 and covers mostly heathland. Do not let this irony deter you, though. The area, which was designated as a national park in 2005, is charming, beautiful, packed with wildlife and full of history.
This Collection serves as an introduction to the New Forest. Within these routes you will see the tallest and oldest trees in the national park and visit, what is arguably, the best place to see red deer in England, Bolderwood.
You will wander along magnificent coastline, through vitally important nature reserves, around popular summertime relaxation spots, along gently-flowing streams and through gardens that boast an earthly paradise. You will see castles, marinas, pretty harbors, as well as a plethora of wildlife and birdlife.
A great option to stay when visiting the New Forest is Lyndhurst. The largest village in the New Forest, Lyndhurst became the natural capital of region when William the Conqueror established his hunting grounds here. No longer the preserve of royal elites, these days the village boasts a wide range of tearooms, pubs, restaurants, independent shops and places to stay. Once there, the New Forest is well-served by a public bus network.
The best way to access the National Park by rail is via Brockenhurst station, which is served by direct trains from London Waterloo, Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth, as well as by connecting services from Reading, Oxford and Birmingham. Brockenhurst is less than four miles from Lyndhurst and there are hourly connecting buses if you catch the number six service.
For information about the New Forest National Park, visit: newforestnpa.gov.uk.
For information on public transport links in the national park, visit: newforestnpa.gov.uk/visiting/travel/public-buses.
For the timetable for the number six bus between Southampton to Lymington (calling at Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst), visit: bustimes.org/services/6-southampton-lymington.
For train tickets and timetables, visit: thetrainline.com.
This superb hike explores some of the most interesting features of the New Forest: Ober Water, Tall Trees and Blackwater Arboretum.
From Whitefield Moor car park, you head southwest over Holm Hill and cross Crab Tree Bog, which is home to a vast array of wildlife, including dragonfly, buzzard, nightjar, woodlark and warbler.
From there, you follow a circuit of Blackwater Arboretum, which houses a beautiful collection of trees from many countries, before completing the Tall Trees Trail that lines the Rhinefield Drive and is home to some amazing redwoods and firs.
After having your breath taken away by these giants, you descend to Ober Water and follow the delightful waterside trail back to the beginning. If you are here on a warm summer’s day, why not refresh yourself with a paddle in the clear and tranquil water?
Along the way, keep a look-out for shaggy Highland cattle, wild ponies and herds of red deers skipping through the heathland.
This majestic heathland circuit explores one of the New Forest’s most treasured relaxation spots, Whitten Pond.
Close to the village of Burley, Whitten Pond is especially popular in the summer months when people come to relax on the shoreline, eat picnics and enjoy the scenery. However, all year round it makes for a great place to hike.
Starting from Burbush Hill Car Park—which is free of charge—this gently undulating route takes you around the pond and over heathland until you reach The Station tearooms, where you can stop for a refreshments if you feel peckish.
From there, you head north to Naked Man. If you are averse to public nudity, do not worry! The site is, rather morbidly, a spot where smugglers and convicts were executed and hung in the 19th century. These days, a plaque lays testament to what happened here and you will find the area still has a peculiar atmosphere.
After exploring Naked Man, you loop back across the heathland to the start. If you fancy a quick extension, however, try heading into the quaint little village of Burley for a look around. There are plenty of cafes, shops and places to eat in the village.
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The New Forest is one of the best places in England to see herds of red deer.
But if you are looking for the best deer-spotting opportunity within the national park, look no further than this route.
Situated in the heart of the New Forest, Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary is a fantastic place for all the family. With a free car park and lots to see, it is easy to spend an entire day here; roaming the grounds and admiring the wildlife.
With picturesque scenery, leisurely paths, and with deer and ponies mooching around without a care in the world, you will find this to be a magical area. There are lots of well-maintained paths to discover, too, making extensions very easy indeed.
This route finishes at the purpose-built deer viewing platform, where you can watch rangers feed the deer every day—a magical experience for young and old alike.
In this route, we take a break from the magical heath and woodland to experience the glorious golden coastline.
This hike begins by exploring the colorful town of Lymington; a place rich in maritime history. Home to one of the first yacht marinas to be built in the UK, there are always lots of fabulous boats to see, as well as an outdoor swimming pool.
Heading along the coastline, a short while later you find yourself at Eights Acre Pond. Until the end of 18th century, this area was the biggest hub of sea salt production in the country. These days, you will find it a tranquil stretch of water with great views inland and out to sea.
As you continue along the shoreline, you soon arrive in Keyhaven. This adorable little village has a pretty harbor that boasts fabulous views of the Isle of Wight and Hurst Spit. The area is a good spot for bird watching, so keep a look-out.
From there, you complete the circuit by heading over a delightful patchwork of fields before you arrive back in Lymington. This Georgian market town boasts narrow streets lined with pretty period cottages, as well as plenty of local cafes, restaurants and pubs; making it a great spot to explore, too.
If you want to experience the diverse beauty of the New Forest, look no further.
Taking in stately gardens, heathland, marshland, coastline, pretty villages, historic harbors and old castles, it may feel as if you have hiked through many different places.
From the village of Langely, head southwest until you reach Exbury Gardens. Housing a world-famous collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, rare trees and shrubs, the gardens also boast a miniature steam railway, adventure playground and tea rooms.
From there, head south over the heathland until you reach Lepe Country Park. Another blissful beauty spot, here you can enjoy a great stretch of golden beach, pine fringed cliffs, wildflower meadows and superb views of the Solent and Isle of Wight.
After you have had your fill at this nature reserve, head back inland to Langley. From here, you can finish for the day if you feel that way inclined. However, if you have time—and energy—why not follow this route east across the heathland to explore the seaside village of Calshot?
This picturesque little village is home to Calshot Castle. Built by Henry VIII to defend the sea passage to Southampton, it is now a picturesque English heritage site that is full of interest and boasts magnificent views across the Isle of Wight.
If you do not fancy walking back to Langley, you can catch the number nine bus from Clashot. For timetables, visit: bustimes.org/services/9-southampton-hythe-langleyfawley.
This short circuit packs a lot of punch for its size. In less than one hour, you can explore healthland, water and wetland of the New Forest—and see plenty of wildlife.
Starting from Whitefield Moor car park, you follow the footpath across Ober Heath. A red deer conservation area, it is a fantastic place to see the largest mammals in the country up-close.
When you reach Beachern Wood, head left and cross the river. From there, you follow a majestic track along Ober Water. Surrounded by shady woodland glades, with the tranquil sound of the stream flowing by, it is a magical place and the perfect spot for a picnic.
Upon reaching the road, you can take stock of Crab Tree Bog; a vast expanse of marshland that is home to lots of wildlife, making it an important conservation area.
The great thing about this hike is that it can be extended so easily. If you fancy going a little further, try following the footpath across Crab Tree Bog and looping back across Holm Hill and Red Hill. Or perhaps try exploring Ober Heath in a little more detail.
This leisurely hike enables you to see the tallest trees in the New Forest—and its oldest Oak tree.
Following the flat and well-maintained path, you first head on a loop of Blackwater Arboretum, which houses a beautiful collection of trees from many countries and some interesting wooden sculptures.
From there, you retrace your steps and follow the clearly-marked Tall Trees Trail. This fantastic circuit explores the remarkable Douglas fir and mighty redwoods that were planted in the late 1850s to create the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.
As you reach the midpoint of the Tall Trees Trail loop, we take short diversion to see the mighty Knightwood Oak. Also known as the ‘Queen of the forest’, this tree is thought to be the oldest in the New Forest at over 500 years-old. With a trunk girth of 24 feet (7.4 meters), it is also the largest oak tree in the national park.
If you do not fancy the diversion, simply follow the Tall Trees Trail back to the car park. Either way, this is an easy-going route that all ages and abilities can enjoy.