About the New Forest
The New Forest is a designated National Park in Hampshire, England, created in 1079 by William the Conqueror. It now covers an area of 150 square miles between Bournemouth in the west, Southampton in the east and Salisbury in the north, bordered by the coast in the south. The New Forest is just 90 minutes from London and 20 minutes from Southampton.
Today, the New Forest – or Nova Foresta, as William the Conqueror called it – has important historical, ecological and agricultural significance, where ponies, cattle, pigs and donkeys graze freely under centuries-old rights afforded to locals under ‘forest law’. This grazing has shaped the New Forest into what it is today – a wonderful place to explore on foot, by bike or on horseback.
The towns and villages scattered along the coast and through the forest have equal historical significance, with a rich heritage in salt working, shipbuilding, smuggling, iron working, fishing, maritime trade and national defence.
Highlights on our tours include:
This Georgian market town is set right on the coast and famous for salt-mining, smuggling and sailing. The latter tradition continues strongly today with thriving sail-making and boatbuilding industries, two busy marinas and sailing clubs that host yacht and dinghy racing all year round.
Lymington high street is filled with independent boutiques and shops, pubs and restaurants and a thriving Saturday market that dates back to the 13th century. Wander backstreets lined with centuries-old cottages, and down the cobbled, pedestrian-only road leading to the Old Town Quay, still used by a number of commercial fishing boats.
Stroll down the edge of Lymington River towards the open sea, past the yacht clubs, 19th century sea-water baths and RNLI base to the Solent Way footpath to enjoy fantastic views of the Needles and Isle of Wight. The footpath leads through a coastal nature reserve, recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and teaming with birds and other wildlife.
To the east of the New Forest, at the head of the tidal Beaulieu River, Beaulieu village is home to a pub and hotel, vintage car garage, gift shops, cafés and a delicious chocolate shop. The main street is lined with centuries-old houses and herds of cows, donkeys and ponies that wander around as freely as the village’s many visitors.
On the outskirts of Beaulieu sits the 13th century Palace House, home to the Montagu family for 500 years, and Beaulieu Abbey, founded by King John in 1204. Beaulieu is also home to the National Motor Museum, one of the New Forest’s biggest attractions, housing more than 250 cars and the World of Top Gear.
In the centre of the New Forest, this mystical village filled with traditional thatched cottages nestles in the lee of a hill surrounded by an area of true outstanding natural beauty. It is home to the usual forest ponies and cattle, art galleries, tea rooms and a cider shop – as well as ancient connections with witchcraft.
In the late 1950s, Burley was home to a famous ‘white witch’ called Sybil Leek who was often seen walking around the village in a long, black cloak with her pet jackdaw sitting on her shoulder. Witches, smuggling and dragons form a major part of Burley’s character still today, which is reflected in the souvenir shops scattered around the village.
Through our great selection of tours we also visit many other places within the New Forest and surrounding areas, such as:
Milford on Sea