The New Forest is one of the most un-spoilt and glorious parts of southern England. This unique area, full of picturesque villages, bustling market towns and winding country lanes is a great place for a short and relaxing break whatever the season. It’s made up of a well cared for mix of forest, pasture and heathland. The environmental impact of the many visitors has to be carefully balanced and the forest has a 40mph speed limit and lots of car parking areas. Here you will give way to the ponies and cattle grazing freely as they have done for centuries.
There are plenty of opportunities to see the famous ponies at close quarters and deep in the wooded areas there’s a good chance of spotting one of the 2000 or so deer. My wife and I took a short break to the area in early Spring staying at the delightful Balmer Lawn Hotel and Spa. Situated on the outskirts of Brocken hurst the hotel is ideally located in the heart of the New Forest and just a few miles from Lyndhurst, a firm favourite with visitors. Stop off at one of the many tea rooms and explore the local shops. Not to be missed is the New Forest Heritage Centre in the main carpark. This free to enter museum, gallery and reference library is dedicated to sharing the history and traditions of the New Forest.
With a gift shop and an excellent little cafe, it’s a great place to find out about this diverse and beautiful area. The Balmer Lawn Hotel’s name is taken from the lawn at the front of the hotel. There are 54rooms reached by a rather grand staircase near the reception area or via a convenient lift to all floors. We had room 10, and what a room! Luxurious accommodation, a large bathroom with shower and a super balcony with artificial grass and a wonderful view across the lawn and the forest beyond. With cricket matches in the summer, ponies, deer and cattle most months and the New Forest all around, this is the place to stay. A number of ‘dog-friendly’ rooms are also available. Using Balmer Lawn Hotel as a base, there are a lot of places to visit and attractions to see.
First up was the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu which houses more than 250 vehicles kept in immaculate condition. There’s a monorail, rides on a veteran bus, cars from the movies and World of Top Gear. Visit the Palace House and lose yourself in the gardens and then, like us, lunch in the Brabazon restaurant. We visited Brockenhurst famous for the water splash at the bottom of the High Street where animals stop to drink and just beyond is open heathland and some fantastic woodland walks.Lyndhurst is a must and if you have the time the Georgian market town of Lymington set on the coast between Southampton and Bournemouth is worth a visit. Famous for its sailing history, there are two large marinas filled with fishing boats and yachts, as well as two sailing clubs. The town’s narrow streets are lined with pretty period cottages and houses, as well as plenty of local pubs and restaurants. From Lymington, we made the short journey to Burley village made famous by its history of witchcraft. Other nearby attractions include Paultons Park, home of Peppa Pig World, Fairweather’s Garden Centre in Beaulieu, Rockbourne Roman Villa in Fording bridge, The Eling Tide Mill Experience at Totton, Buckler’s Hard a unique 18th Century village where warships for Nelson’s Navy were built, and the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum to name just a few. Do take a look at the New Forest website for a comprehensive list of attractions and days out to help you plan your stay.