An established Saxon settlement mentioned in the Doomsday Book, Milford on Sea is a bustling village on the Hampshire coast that is steeped in history.
In truth more like a small town, with an array of shops, bars and restaurants in the centre, the village sits on the edge of the stunning New Forest, between Southampton and Bournemouth.
With easy access to Isle of Wight from Lymington, enabling visitors to enjoy great days out, there is also plenty to do in an around Milford itself.
What to do
See the wildlife on Sturt Pond and Keyhaven Marshes. With kingfishers, cormorants, brent geese, curlews and egrets common sights, the area is excellent for birdwatching.
Take a leisurely seaside walk along Hurst Spit to Hurst Castle. An English Heritage property, it was built by Henry VIII as one of the most advanced military buildings in southern England. Protecting the Solent, it was home to many notable prisoners in the 17th Century including Charles I, who was kept at the castle before his execution during the English Civil War. The castle was developed and adapted for many uses over the years and was an active fortification during World War II.
After spending some time looking around the castle, catch a Hurst ferry back to nearby Keyhaven. The ferry – a local’s small boat – offers a quaint and relaxing meander through Keyhaven marshes and lovely views of the beautiful, white Hurst lighthouse.
Milford hosts an annual food festival, featuring stalls selling local produce, plus talks and workshops from celebrity chefs, as well as comedians and actors. Running for one week during April, 2014 sees the festival in its fourth year with guests including Michelin starred chef Atuul Kocchar, comedian Shappi Khorsandi and Coronation Street actor turned award-winning cheese-maker Sean Wilson. It’s a must for any foodie.
In addition to the food fun, the volunteers in the village community also arrange and run a Music and Arts Festival which takes place each summer, with local bands and singers performing. Welsh tenor Wynne Evans (the one from an infamous insurance company’s adverts) has also performed at the festival in the past.
Where to stay
Milford is home to many bed & breakfasts including the homely Bay Trees, a former poor house, and further down the high street the Carrington Farmhouse. This is a beautiful old white farmhouse that used to be the hub of a farm that stretched across the land behind it, all the way to Sturt Pond. Situated just outside the centre of the village, both are ideally located for access to the amenities and are just a short walk from the shingle beach.
The former farmland land is now populated by housing developments, and beyond that a quiet, family-run business: Carrington Park. Managed by the decedents of past owners of the farm, it is home to luxury, privately owned caravans. With wonderful views of Sturt Pond, the park boasts a David Bellamy conservation award and takes great care for the wildlife in the area. Short-term holiday lets here are not an option although the park does offer touring caravan club members the opportunity to use some of its land. Contact them for details.
Just outside the village sits Shorefield Country Park, more of a typical holiday park, this offers everything from camping, static and touring caravans, to chalets and lodges, as well as great on-site entertainment and gym and pool facilities.
Another stand-out bed and breakfast is The Beach House. This grade II listed Victorian mansion sits just 200 yards from the beach and from its patios and picnic benches punters can enjoy views of the Isle of Wight, the Needles and the Solent.
A short drive from Milford is the extremely luxurious Chewton Glen. A 5 star hotel, rooms start at around £325 per night, finishing up in the £1,500 region. One of the more exclusive places to wine and dine, it was recently voted one of the most romantic hotel breaks in the UK.
Slightly more affordable comfort can be found at South Lawn Hotel, a country house which offers a spot of peace and idyllic gardens for more modest pockets.
Where to eat and drink
The Cave is new to the village. A wine merchant’s by day and a small and cosy bar by night, this unique venue offers a bit of everything to the locals and visitors alike, including wine tasting sessions. If wine is not your thing then there’s beers and coffee available throughout the day too. A tastefully decorated, modern bar, it fits in well with the village community.
One of many good eateries in the village, the Britannia Thai is an especially enjoyable option, offering take-away as well as seating in their relaxing restaurant. It is also relatively new, opening in 2008, but has rapidly become a village favourite.
For a more traditional pub setting you can’t do much better in Milford than The Smugglers Inn. Set in the heart of the village, there’s plenty of rustic charm about the place, decent food, a good selection of beer and wine and a garden that backs on to the Danes Stream, which runs through the village. It’s particularly pleasant in the sunshine.
Tell me a secret…
The village’s All Saints Church has eight bells, called Faith, Hope, Love, Peace, Joy, Liberty, Patience and Victory, hung in 1928. It is said that the window on the south side of the Norman church was once used to smuggle beer to the bellringers.
Main photograph: © Copyright Steve Daniels and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.