A Visitor’s Guide To The New Forest National Park
Covering 140,000 acres across two counties, the New Forest National Park is one of the finest national parks in the United Kingdom, and has even been voted the best national park in the whole of Europe!
England’s Most Popular National Park, Just 35 Miles (50 Minutes) From The Castle Inn
If you’re looking for the perfect base from which to explore this stunning part of the world, The Castle Inn is a cosy, welcoming pub that is near to many of the sights and landmarks that the New Forest National Park has to offer. We have 12 stylish boutique bedrooms with super comfy beds and stunning bathrooms, as well as fresh, seasonal produce and delicious Butcombe beer on tap.
An Introduction To The New Forest
Created in the 11th century by William the Conquerer and designated as a national park in 2005, the New Forest combines its natural appeal with a long and interesting history.
While the majority of this Site of Special Scientific Interest falls within the borders of Hampshire, a small area in the north east crosses the border into Wiltshire.
It attracts millions of visitors each year, all eager to explore the vast areas of heathland and forest, while hoping to catch a glimpse of the many rare species of animals that live here.
Walking In The New Forest (SSSI)
The are endless opportunities for walking in the New Forest National Park, with many visitors flocking to this beautiful area of the country with the sole intention of exploring the many miles of peace and tranquility.
There are walks for people of all abilities, with many of the most popular routes starting and finishing in the beautiful towns and villages listed in this article.
We highly recommend the Tall Trees Trail Circular, the Burley Village & Long Pond Circular and the Lyndhurst Hill & Swan Green Circular, but you can take a look at the New Forest walking guide here.
Cycling In The New Forest National Park
Boasting almost 150 miles of traffic-free cycling routes, the New Forest National Park attracts cyclists from all over country.
With a multitude of routes that vary from a leisurely couples of miles through to full-day tours, there is something for everyone in this cycling hotspot.
With many of the picturesque New Forest towns and villages being situated just a few miles from each other, it is possible to combine exercise and fresh air with some sightseeing. For some route inspiration, you can take a look at the New Forest cycling routes here.
Once voted as Britain’s Most Beautiful Place To Live, the village of Brockenhurst is widely-regarded as one the most beautiful settings in the New Forest National Park.
Wild New Forest ponies frequently pass through the village, often joined by donkeys, cows and other animals that pass through without a care in the world. The much-visited Rhinefield Ornamental Drive starts in Brockenhurst and finishes in nearby Bolderwood.
Brockenhurst is also home to the oldest church in the whole of the New Forest National Park – the parish church of St Nicholas. Although the exact age is disputed, the church was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086, with evidence that suggests it had already been in place for some time. Regardless of the age, it is a superb piece of history and is well worth a visit.
Situated in the heart of the New Forest, Lyndhurst has been the unofficial capital of the national park ever since William the Conquerer designated it as a royal hunting forest in 1079.
It boasts one of the largest populations of any village within the New Forest National Park and is extremely popular with tourists, all keen to explore the array of shops, cafes and museums on offer. The small village of Minstead – which falls under Lyndhurst – is the final resting place of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
Lyndhurst also serves as the administrative centre of the New Forest, and the New Forest Heritage Centre is situated on the High Street. Here you will find friendly, knowledgeable staff who will provide you with some local knowledge on how to make the most of your visit to Lyndhurst, and the wider New Forest area.
With its close proximity to The Solent, it may come as no surprise that Lymington was once frequented by smugglers, all eager to avoid detection by the authorities.
Nowadays, this popular market town is frequented by tourists and locals alike, with the weekly Saturday market proving to be an increasingly popular draw.
The High Street area is picture-perfect, with many Victorian and Georgian buildings taking centre stage. Just off of the High Street is the St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, which tells the story of Lymington over the past 1,000 years, making it an essential stop on your New Forest journey.
Although a walk through any part of the New Forest will give you more than your fair share of exposure to plants, shrubs and trees, a visit to the national park wouldn’t be complete without stopping to see Exbury Gardens in all its glory. Covering 200 acres of unspoilt grounds, it boasts an unrivalled collection of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, including rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias.
For many visitors – young and old – one of highlights of a trip to Exbury Gardens is the chance to explore the vast expanse of grounds (parts of which are only accessible via train). The trip lasts around 20 minutes, with passengers now able to alight at various stops and take a later train back to the Exbury Gardens Central Station.
Built in the middle of the 16th century by Henry VIII, Hurst Castle was part of the coastal defence against invasion from France and the Roman Empire. Castles were built in four strategic areas to protect The Solent, with Hurst Castle providing protection of the western entrance.
As England reached peace with France and the threat of invasion subsided, Hurst Castle was used as a prison during the 17th century. It later returned to its primary use as a fortification during the Napoleonic War and, more recently, during World War II. Now managed by English Heritage, Hurst Castle is one of the main tourist attractions in the New Forest National Park. Visitors can explore the castle before enjoying the panoramic views of Milford-on-Sea.
While in the area, we highly recommend taking a look at Hurst Point Lighthouse – which is still operational to this day – having opened in 1812.
The Castle Inn
Located in beautiful West Lulworth, The Castle Inn is a traditional pub and hotel that boasts 12 sumptuous bedrooms and a history dating back to 1660 – making it one of the oldest inns in Dorset.
Rustic and cosy, The Castle is the ideal base for exploring the New Forest National Park and the beautiful surrounding countryside.
On the menu, our focus is seasonal ingredients, locally sourced produce and exciting pub classics, with award-winning Butcombe beer, local cider, wine and classic cocktails behind the bar.