The New Forest is just 90 miles from London, via the M3 then M27 – leave at J1 for either Lyndhurst and the south (A337) or Fritham and the north (B3078). From Birmingham take the M40 to J9, then A34 to Winchester to join the M3.
There are trains from London to Brockenhurst (1.5 hours), a direct train from Manchester (4.5 hours) and Birmingham (3 hours).
There are regular bus services to Lyndhurst from Southampton and to Ringwood from Bournemouth and Salisbury. Open-top bus tours run in the high season.
Brockenhurst, SO42 7QL
A chic restaurant with rooms where the attention to detail is superb, with proper coffee machine and mini-bar in each beautifully appointed room. The award-winning restaurant serves food sourced locally or from its own garden.
Double rooms from £139 midweek, room only.
Penny Farthing Hotel
Lyndhurst, SO43 7AA
A lovely reasonably priced hotel in two converted Victorian houses a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Lyndhurst. It has welcoming staff, clean rooms and great breakfasts, and offers family rooms as well as self-catering cottages nearby.
Double rooms from £44 per person including breakfast.
Beaulieu, SO42 7ZL
Monty’s is owned by, and next to, the elegant Montagu Arms Hotel (which has a Michelin Star). The Inn itself is quaint and relaxed, with log fires and a family friendly menu.
The Station House
Station Road, Holmsley, Burley BH24 4HY
A refreshing take on the tearoom, the Station House is where the A35 crosses the old railway line (now a cycle trail) from Brockenhurst to Ringwood. Great meals and cakes, proper pots of tea, coffees, local bottled ales and more are available.
New Forest Ice Cream
Look out for this locally produced real dairy ice cream and sorbet – available all over the Forest and beyond. As a bonus, almost all are egg, gluten and nut free. Oh, and they’re all delicious and a cut above the more familiar brands.
Royal Oak, Fritham, SO43 7HJ
It serves lunch only, but this 17th-century pub by the village green is highly recommended. The menu is largely based around a great value ploughman’s – no chips or sandwiches and children eat adult food. It doesn’t take card payments, but has a wonderful setting, beer and atmosphere.
Fritham to Frogham, 5 miles, Map OS Outdoor Leisure 22
This walk samples different Forest landscapes with the bonus of finishing at a pub. Start at the Royal Oak in Fritham, then head 100m north west along the road and turn left onto the cycle trail through the woods of Amberley Enclosure. You can follow the track all the way or meander off along parallel paths, until you exit on the other side onto Hampton Ridge. Drop down from there towards the Abbots Well car park and then it’s half a mile up the road to the Foresters Arms in Frogham.
An Unmissable Place
On the west of the Forest, Burley is a traditional New Forest village with picturesque thatched cottages where ponies and cattle roam freely. Its New Forest Deer Safari offers the chance to get close to red deer and it has a cycle hire shop, with golf, fishing and horse riding all available nearby.
On a Rainy Day…
The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu SO42 7ZN
A world-class attraction with more than 250 vehicles from land speed record breakers to Formula One racers. The ticket gets you into the World of Top Gear, Palace House, The Secret Army exhibition and the Abbey.
Take binoculars, and if you have a smartphone try running the free Cicada Hunt app. It detects the song of the New Forest cicada (unseen since 2000), which is at the limits of human hearing.