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
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).
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.