It is located 1½ hours drive away from London with a direct route on the M3 towards Southampton and is now (created in 2005) designated a National Park. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.
Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Once you pass over the cattle grid into the New Forest it is like you have stepped back many hundreds of years to 1079 when William the Conquer named the area ‘his hunting forest’.
It is a genuine walker’s paradise with many circular and linear routes. There are many picnic site with toilet facilities, all of which are carefully sited to allow visitors safe and easy access to a variety of forest landscapes. All year round there are guided walks where local experts will tell you about the history, geology, wildlife and folklore beneath your feet. You can even explore the forest on a ranger-led New Forest event.
The New Forest is a fantastic place for cycling with miles and miles of traffic free off-road tracks leading you right into the heart of the forest with few hills to worry about so come and discover the New Forest for yourself. The open heaths of The New Forest are ideal basking grounds for adders and grass snakes, and the many pools dotted around the area make ideal conditions for frogs, toads and lizards. All of these can be seen at The New Forest Reptile Centre, which also offers woodland trails.
There are dozens of events throughout the year to help you get close to nature – from Dawn Chorus Walks to Deer Watches.
Try exploring the forest at different times of year and at different times of day. The forest is most atmospheric at dusk – you also stand the best chance of seeing deer, bats and nightjars.
Learn about the forest’s history and archaeology at our many museums and Heritage Centres. From stately homes such as Beaulieu to the Roman Villa at Rockbourne, The New Forest has it all.
You can visit historic villages such as Buckler’s Hard, where ships for Nelson’s fleet were built, using the mighty oaks from the forest. Another example of how man has harnessed nature is at Britain’s only surviving tidal mill, Eling Tide Mill.
There are many hidden treasures for you to discover if you know where to look. Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for Alice In Wonderland, is buried in the churchyard in Lyndhurst.
The ideal place to start your visit is The New Forest Museum & Visitor Centre in Lyndhurst with its exhibition depicting the history and heritage of the forest.
There are also some beautiful gardens to visit: Exbury, Hillier, Furzey and Spinners gardens and two beautiful historical cities within 1 hour of Ivy Roost Cottage: Salisbury and Winchester. Spend a day exploring these interesting gardens and cathedral cities.