A joy to explore on foot, the New Forest has an abundance of trails and inns spread across this huge, ancient landscape of unenclosed pastures, heathlands and forest, home to thousands of free-roaming ponies and deer.

Telegraph Hill car park, on Bramshaw Telegraph at the junction of the B3078 and B3080, is the starting point for three- or four-mile walks to Islands Thorns Enclosure (a wooded area where roe deer roam), the open heath of Coopers Hill and pretty, secluded Eyeworth Pond before you reach Fritham and the Royal Oak pub (023 8081 2606; ales from £2.80, ploughman’s lunches £7.50).

Begin and end a short woodland walk at the village of Brockenhurst. From here, follow directions to Ivy Wood and the Lymington River. This is a real beauty spot: enjoy serene views of the untamed woodland before following paths and footbridges along the riverbank. You’ll soon reach the main road back to Brockenhurst, where The Foresters Arms does sturdy post-walk grub such as beef and Guinness pie (01590 623397; 10 Brookley Rd; mains from £7.95).

Dibden Inclosure lies on the edge of the forest, near Dibden Purlieu. From the car park, walk north out of the woodland, and continue with the trees to your left for one mile. The path turns sharply to the left following the edge of the wood and climbs up Horestone Hill, with views over the heath of Dibden Bottom, returning to the car park after a mile and a half. Finish with a Cask Marque approved ale at Gleneagles in nearby Hythe (023 8084 2162; Butts Ash Lane; ales from £3.20).

The six-mile loop of Hatchet Green leads north from the car park at Deadman Hill to the open heathland of Hale Purlieu, continuing past charming thatched cottages at Hatchet Green, Palladian-style Hale House and 14th-century St Mary’s Church. Loop back via the Horse & Groom in Woodgreen, with its log fires and pet alpacas (High St; ales from £3.10).

The two-mile-long spit of Hurst Beach culminates at Hurst Castle – a fort first built under Henry VIII and used until WWII. The shingle means it’s not the easiest of walks from Milford on Sea, but there are great views of the Isle of Wight, and in summer you can catch a ferry back to nextdoor Keyhaven, where the cosy Gun Inn has a selection of 266 whiskies (Keyhaven Rd; singles of whisky from £2.20).

The eight-mile route from Lymington to Brockenhurst takes in a variety of landscapes – from the boggy banks of the Lymington River to dense woodland further north. A half-mile detour along the way leads to the village of Pilley, home to the 1,000-yearold Fleur de Lys, a quaint, allegedly haunted pub that serves country favourites (ploughman’s lunch, fisherman’s pie) plus great ales and ciders (Pilley St; mains from £7.50).

Setley Plain, home to wild ponies and Highland cattle, is the setting for a circular three-mile walk. Start at Setley Pond car park, head north across the plain, then cross the A337 at the Filly Inn and walk east towards Roydon Woods Nature Reserve before turning south to Sandy Down and finishing at the stylish Hobler Inn (01590 623944; Southampton Rd; ales from £3.50).

A five-mile loop begins at Blackwell Common car park and leads towards Exbury. Head down for views of the Beaulieu River at Gilbury Hard, then double back to Exbury and walk one mile east to West Common. North of here is King’s Copse Inclosure, with wild ponies, green woodpeckers and willow warblers, and Holbury’s welcoming Bridge Tavern (Ipers Bridge; walker���s boards £9.20).

The five-mile loop of Godshill takes you by hills ablaze with green, brown and orange leaves. Begin in Godshill car park at the edge of the woods of Godshill Inclosure, and head through it to the village of Woodgreen. From here, join the Avon Valley Path heading up to Castle Hill Viewpoint, then continue to Godshill, and a deserved stop at The Fighting Cocks pub (01425 652462; Fordingbridge; ales from £3.20).

Where to stay
The Crown in Lyndhurst is a 15th-century black and white timbered building, with 50 guestrooms kitted out in modish shades of orange, claret and pale blue, and wonderfully peaceful gardens (High St; from £60).

The Master Builder’s House Hotel in the fantastically titled village of Buckler’s Hard is classic English country given a bold shot in the arm. Its restaurant does a good line in posh pub grub (Beaulieu Estate; from £130).

The boutique Stanwell House in Lymington offers countryside escapism and plush suites: one has a Hollywood theme and two come with their own terrace. You can also hire a yacht through the hotel (14–15 High St; suites from £220).

The major road to the area is the M27 from Southampton. Trains run hourly to the main train station in Brockenhurst from Basingstoke, Winchester, Bournemouth and London Waterloo (London Waterloo from £60), while services from Southampton connect with Lymington (from £20). Regular bus services operate from Bournemouth and Southampton (singles from £3.60). The national park is superb cycling territory: bikes can be hired in Brockenhurst, Burley and Lyndhurst (from £10 per day).

The article 'Mini guide to New Forest's pub walks' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.