Ms B & I love the New Forest and usually try to visit at least once every two years. This post is about our stay last summer. Sometimes it takes us forever to finish a post. But rest assured, the New Forest hasn’t changed a bit since we first visited 8 years ago. We do double-check each venue and activity provider to make sure they’re still rated the same and up and running. In this case, for example, we are happy to report that The Terrace has hired a new, Michelin-starred head chef, since our visit (links below).
Our apologies that the photos are not aligned with the headlines of this post. This is because we wanted to spread the photos evenly and chronologically, while there are simply way too many animal photos to squeeze in.
The weather forecast for the weekend wasn’t great, which is funny, because during most of our past two visits, we had been violently soaked to the bone nearly non-stop. In the end we were reasonably lucky with just a bit of drizzle every now and then.
Short Train Ride from London
We left work early that Friday night and took the 6:05pm train from London Waterloo to Brockenhurst (1h30m, no interchange). From the station it is 18mins walk to the hotel of our choice: 3-star Forest Park Hotel, which is very basic, but reasonably good value in our view. We were not planning on spending much time in our hotel room anyway.
Taxi Ride, Dinner at The Pig
We had just enough time to drop off our luggage, when our pre-ordered mini-cab picked us up for the short 10min ride to The Pig restaurant (blog post here), where we had a dinner reservation. On a related note: in our view it is a good idea to pre-order cabs in rural regions and to be prepared to pay premium compared with London prices. Otherwise you might have to wait for a long time and won’t be offered a good price. We paid between £14 and £32 for the rides mentioned, £14 for this ride. At The Pig we greatly enjoyed the rustic yet at least in parts also elegant atmosphere. We were pretty impressed with our food. Two hours later another pre-ordered cab took us back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.
Breakfast at the New Forest Hotel
The next morning we had a tasty no-frills breakfast at our hotel, then off we were to do some hiking and exploring.
Lunch at the Formerly Michelin-Starred Terrace, Beaulieu
At noon we were picked up at our hotel for the 25min ride to Beaulieu, where we had a lunch reservation at the formerly Michelin-starred The Terrace at the Montagu Arms (review here, very disappointing experience). We arrived early, so had half an hour left to walk around town. Like many New Forest towns this time of year, it seemed to have been overrun by horses, ponies, and donkeys. The animals are all owned by farmers. But for many decades they have been allowed to roam freely around the New Forest during part of the year. At other parts of the year it’s pigs who are allowed to roam freely to pick up the acorns they like so much.
At 2:30pm we arrived early for our 3pm one-hour horseback riding session at Brockenhurst Riding Stables (blog post here), as requested. They do not allow you to do more than one hour if you’re a beginner. We had done some horseback riding with them before, when they had still been located closer to the New Forest Hotel (they moved recently).
Our group was rather large with several small children, which delayed us a little bit. We weren’t as lucky as last time, when we saw the famous “albino” deer (they’re not albino, just very white). Nonetheless, it was again great fun to ride the horses. Surprisingly good exercise too, especially during cantering and when climbing up and down little ditches and mounds cross-country, crossing little streams, trying, as a horseman or -woman to avoid touching some of the lower tree branches. It’s all very safe though, and you only move faster on open, even-surfaced terrain, and only if you want to.
A bit of Hiking, then Dinner
We spent the rest of the afternoon doing some more hiking and exploring. Considering I had hardly had anything for lunch, I was glad when we arrived at our dinner location at 7:15pm: Beresfords Restaurant, at the Balmer Lawn Hotel & Saltus Spa, 15mins walk from our hotel (review here).
Jetski Ride from Poole
The next morning we got up real early. We skipped breakfast, checked out, and (with all our luggage) took the first train to nearby Poole. It is a 40min train ride with two stops, no interchange. I had booked myself into a 90min jetski session with Jetski Safaris (post here): 60mins on the water, rest safety video, instructions, getting changed, etc. It should be noted that we weren’t able to find any place near the station in Poole that would have allowed us to store our luggage, so we felt very lucky that we had packed relatively lightly.
We walked via a few detours from the station to the jetski place (45mins walk if you walk directly). The safari itself was great fun.
Late Lunch at Rick Stein Sandbanks
Exploring Poole, Train Ride back to London
During the afternoon we explored Sandbanks and Poole a little bit more, watched the dozens of kite surfers go about their quite dangerous but fun business. By dinner time we were safely on our way back from Poole to Waterloo (direct express trains, very convenient, you pass through Brockenhurst once again).
We will definitely visit the New Forest again this year. It’s always so much fun.
If you’re looking for further ideas for weekend trips from London, check out our posts about Norfolk, the Cotswolds, and Canterbury. Our buddy Morag has also written a fabulous post about an extended weekend destination. Check out her article on Donside, Scotland.
Thank you for stopping by and hopefully see you again very soon.