Cycling in the New Forest

The New Forest National Park is a fantastic place to go if you are looking to escape the city and spend a weekend away surrounded by nature. Situated in the South of England, between Southampton and Bournemouth, The New Forest provides plenty of activities to do and places to explore. It is ideal for family camping holidays offering numerous cycling and hiking opportunities, water sports, horse riding and even golf.

The New Forest became a National Park in 2005 and it has been designated an EU special area of conservation because of its unique wildlife. Here you will find ponies, cattle and pigs roaming around free on the streets of the villages, deer, otters, minks, and a large population of birds.

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Cycling in the New Forest

The best way to explore the New Forest National Park and enjoy its natural wild beauty is by bike. The National Park Forestry Commission has created a cycling map that you can download here, where you can find over 100 miles of off-road family friendly trails.

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To cycle in the New Forest you will need a mountain bike with good suspensions because most of the trails are off-road, through the forest or the open heathland. Accidents can happen all the time so be safe and wear a helmet. Make sure you have with you a first aid kit both for you and for your bike. If you want to know more details, Halfords has created a great guide on how to prepare your bike for a cycling holiday.

While cycling in villages pay attention to the cattle grids on the road and ride slow.  The wild ponies might be cute but don’t try to stop and pet them as they can be unpredictable. Under no circumstance feed the ponies, human food can make them very sick, or even kill them.

 

Camping in the New Forest

The New Forest National Park is a wonderful place to spend the weekend at, with plenty of cycle friendly campsites. All of the campsites are situated in beautiful locations, accessible from the cycling paths, surrounded by oak trees and near rivers, with prices starting from £10 per tent per night. You can pitch your tent in any of these campsites, enjoy a quiet night away from the city noises, and wake up in the morning listening to the birds singing. Most of the campsites are often visited by the local inhabitants, the free-roaming ponies and deer. You can even travel with a hammock and enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the forest, to relax after your day of cycling.

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Brockenhurst

Brockenhurst, the biggest village in the National Park is located in the heart of the New Forest and it is the perfect place to start your cycling trip from because of the main station to which most of the trains coming from London stop at. The village itself is very charming, with a main street full of cute shops, cafes and restaurants.

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Just outside of the village you can find the famous Pig restaurant, which organises each year the Smoked and Uncut festival, a food fest which is not to be missed. The Pig is also a perfect choice for lunch or dinner, offering a delightful culinary experience. Make sure to book in advance as very rare you can find a table on the day.

Being the gateway to the New Forest, there are plenty of cycling routes starting from here. You can choose to do circular rides, like the Brockenhurst to Lyndhurst (10.9 miles) or linear rides, like the Old Railway (9 miles, from Brockenhurst to Burley).

 

Burley

Burley is a small village in the south east of the New Forest, surrounded by the open heathland, where ponies and cattle are allowed to roam freely on the streets. A typical New Forest village, in Burley you will find beautiful houses but also traditional thatched cottages that remained unchanged with the passing of the years. The village centre has a few local shops and tea rooms where you can stop and have a cuppa before getting back on your bike.

But what makes Burley special is Sybil Leek, the white witch who lived here in the 1950s, before moving to America. She used to walk around the village wearing a long black cloak, having her pet jackdaw sitting on her shoulder. Back then the locals where very upset by her presence and by the increased number of tourists coming to see her. Today though, most of the shops in Burley are dedicated to witchcraft, selling a large selection of unusual gifts, antiques and crystals.

There are many cycle routes around Burley, most of them relatively flat and family friendly. The best cycling route that takes you around the village and its points of interest is the Burley Hill Fort Loop (9.3 miles).

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Lymington

If you like the seaside, you might consider cycling South from Brockenhurst, all the way down to Lymington, a beautiful picturesque harbour village, with cobbled streets and three marinas. Lymington is famous the numerous regattas that take place here every summer. Also, the village is one of the shortest getaways to the Isle of Wight, ferries running each hour from here to Yarmouth.

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Stoney Cross

Following the road towards Stoney Cross (avoid taking the direct Forest Road because it intersects with the A31 and you can’t cross on the other side) you will arrive to what I call the pony area. You might have seen a lot of ponies cycling in the New Forest but none as tall as your knees. I have only seen these adorable ponies in this wild area where not many people stop by because there’s nothing much to do here. But if you love wildlife, this is the place to go and spend the night, at Ocknell or Longbeech campsites. I remember cycling here one day and an entire herd of deer crossed the road in front of me. There must have been about 20 animals, all jumping in their own rhythms.  A suggested route for cycling in the area, not long but a bit challenging because of the hill is the New Forest Cycling Ride 6 (4 miles).

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Sights:

Besides the beautiful nature, The New Forest National Park is the home of other attractions that you can visit, accessible from the cycle paths. Here is a list with my favourites:

 

Bolderwoord Deer Sanctuary

Every day, between midday and 3PM, the forest rangers are feeding the fallow deer. The Sanctuary is the home of a few white deer as well, an uncommon colour for them. There is no guarantee that you will spot the deer but if you do, they are used to humans and they don’t run away. You can watch the deer from a viewing platform overlooking a large meadow which offers great photography opportunities.

 

Beaulieu Museum

Probably one of the most famous attractions of the New Forest is the Beaulieu Motor Museum, opened in 1952 by the late Lord Montagu as a tribute to his father. The Museum is the home of around 250 vehicles manufactured since the late 19th century, including some of the oldest cars every made. With a monorail passing through its interior, Beaulieu can offer a great fun visit for the entire family.

 

Hurst Castle

In the South of the New Forest, at the western end of the Solent, lies the beautiful Hurst Castle which offers impressive views towards the Isle of Wight. Even if it didn’t really see much action during the wars, the castle has been always modernised and kept up to date with the artillery of the time. Today you can still see two of the 38-ton guns installed in the 1870s.

Disclaimer: This post has been written in collaboration with Halfords. As always, all comments and opinions in this article are my own.

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover.
Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera.
Contributing to make the world a better place.

72 Comments

  1. I would love to visit the New Forest one day – one of my friends lives there and talks about how lovely it is. I think cycling would definitely be the best way to see it all

  2. Ooh, I want to go cycling in the New Forest! Those ponies sure are cute and fluffy- I bet it’s hard not to pet them. And I definitely want to eat at the Pig!

  3. Lovely post….. I feel Lymington would be my kinda the corner where i would not mind sitting hours!…hmmmm…..Enjoyed reading the post and the pictures are just beautiful !

  4. I wish we had more forests to camp in here in Dubai. But we only have mountains and beaches and most of the time, camping isn’t allowed 🙁 I would love to visit this place someday and stay at The New Forest National Park.

  5. This looks like an amazing way to experience the area. And what a beautiful part of England this is! It’s fascinating that the ponies can be found all around these towns, and that there is such a history of witchcraft too.

  6. I love animals and I love nature so visiting the New Forest would be ideal for me. I am not a good cyclist but I would still like to go and visit x

  7. As someone who just loves camping, hiking and the great outdoors, I would just love to visit New Forest. The scenery captured by your photography is just gorgeous and it would be such an experience to ride on bikes through there and camp among such beauty.

  8. Wow, that is wonderful. I’m especially interested in those camping spots, imagining spending a few nights there since I loooove camping 🙂

  9. We have never been to the New Forest but it looks amazing, what I love is that there is just so many things to do. Great for a weeks break, you would never get bored x

  10. New Forest national Park is so natural and a gem for nature lovers. I love those ponies or horses. I would like to visit Bolderwood Deer sanctuary.

  11. Ooh, I’ve never heard of New Forest before! It is truly stunning and I would love to ride through it for sure! I’m not a huge mountain-biker, but it would be a fun experience for sure. And I’d love to attend the food festival at the Pig! Sounds delish!

  12. Otters. Deer sanctuary. Bike rides AND friendly ponies? Why have i never heard of this wonderful place before? It really does seem the perfect spot to go to escape the hustle and bustle
    of life! Thanks for sharing this.

  13. This looks like an amazing place to visit and those ponies are just so adorable!! I have never been on a biking/camping trip before, but I can see why you would opt for that around there. I’ll have to add this to my bucket list 🙂

  14. Beautiful place! It’s perfect for people who adores the outdoors! I love that you can use a mountain bike to explore the New Forest! I think camping would be nice to especially if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.

  15. I live in England and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never heard of New Forest National Park. Next time I’m in the Bournemouth / Southampton area I’ll definitely make a visit. Those ponies are so photogenic, almost like those from Iceland. It must be an experience seeing them roam free around the villages with the pigs and cattle, so many unique photo opportunities!

  16. Most of the times when I travel I like to visit crowded cities and walk all day long, but from time to time I like visiting National Parks and admire their beauty. This place looks amazing!!!

  17. New Forest is a great place for nature-lovers. I would love to go camping here and be friendly with the ponies. Haha! They look like drawn from a story book. It is nice that there are trails for people who like to bike. I have read that the Pig restaurant offers excellent service, high standard, and relaxed atmosphere. I am eager to have a wonderful dining experience there someday. Sybil Leek sounds fascinating. I have crystals and I am always interested with antiques.

  18. First of all… Horses!!! I loved your first picture, I’m horse-bsessed! And I love that there’s a place where they can roam free: I just put this on our bucket list, we have to go now!

  19. This is totally up my alley! I love biking, camping and exploring conservation areas. Thank you so much for going through all the different areas I can hit, as well as the stunning photos. Hitting National Parks is always high on my list, but too often I forget to look them up in other countries. New Forest National Park is officially on the hit list.

  20. What a wonderful adventure and with great photos to boot! Your posts take me back to my school days in the UK and I miss it all very much. 🙂

  21. The Beauty of Nature and The Beauty of England, where I also live since last month. So yeah… thanks for all great recommendations! Definitely on my bucket list!!

  22. Lymington looks absoultely beautiful for a glorious bike ride. I would not mind cycling anywhere in this area.

  23. Those ponies are incredible! And kind of adorably chunky haha, I’d love to take a bike ride through the New Forest! Thanks for the great pictures and information!

  24. The ponies made me laugh! Too cute. While we don’t have a national park super close to where we live, my husband and I have decided that this summer we’re going to discover more parks within our state. He downloaded a guide to all of the parks in Iowa and we’re on a mission to visit as many as we can. Every weekend now we pack a little picnic and take the dogs along. It’s something we really look forward to. To your post .. New Forest looks so beautiful! How much fun to get to spend the day exploring all of the biking trails. Sounds like a little piece of heaven! x

  25. Such a beautiful place to visit. I love the ponies and getting surrounded with the natures. Thanks for this!

  26. I know of a lot of people who go camping in the new forest and I’ve always wanted to go!! I love a bit of camping and in such a beaut outdoor space whats better!?

  27. Wow, this is the kind of adventure I really like. I like cycling as well and pedaling in New Forest is something I would really love to experience. I like how you get to commune with nature and all the beautiful views that would satiate my eyes and soul. I as well love it since there is a huge space for camping site. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  28. Woww love all the natural setting and ponies. But what i love the most from your pictures is that sense of peace ! Great read ! Keep it up 🙂

  29. Wow the photos are breathtaking great suggestion the places appear to be beautiful and quiet. I love being outdoors enjoying nature.

  30. The New Forest is my NEW favorite forest! Those first few photos look like narnia! And the ponies are just adorable. I’d love to visit the deer sanctuary, also!

  31. This forest doesn’t look scary at all. It would be nice to bring kids here for camping and exploration. We’d love to see deers and ponies roaming around. 😉 The museum you mentioned is also interesting. perfect for little boys and little boys at heart.

  32. Wow, so many things to see and do, just in the New Forest! I’m guessing a week would not nearly be enough to explore the whole place. It sounds like a great place for a family or group of friends. You’d never run out of things to do. 😄

  33. I would love to visit the New Forest. I am not much of a “beach person” because I prefer the trees, greens and the mist. I would be a treat to see deers and ponies. This is definitely a great place to visit.

  34. Great photos! I feel like England and the countryside are the perfect places to go camping. I’ve never been camping in the US or U.K. But now I’m convinced the UK it is!!

  35. this is truly my ideal place , a place where you can freely embrace nature and marvel the beauty the nature has to offer.. your photos are absolutely breathtaking .. if only my time and my budget will allow me, I will surely include New Forest National Park in my travel list!

  36. Cycling here sounds exciting and adventurous! I liked the vast stretch of greens in the pics.
    I haven’t gone camping for long an d these pics really tempt me to get there. Such a lot of stuffs to do and experience!

  37. I can just imagine how great it is to cycle there everyday. The idea of the wind brushing against your hair. You can also feel the cool breeze in every hop of the horse. I think if I have the chance to go there, I can do that each day.

  38. First, those ponies look so adorable! Second, I hope we get the chance to go to New Forest one of these days. It looks like a great place to be one with nature.

  39. Wow! I really love going to places that are very green, I mean, full of trees and all things nature. It looks really refreshing and relaxing. Also, you captured the beauty of the place really well! Great job on the photos. Thank you for sharing, luv!

    ♡ Aica B.

  40. The New Forest seems like the perfect getaway for the outdoor enthusiast and the Pig Restaurant sounds especially tempting. If they threw in a restaurant that served venison, in addition to the deer sanctuary, it would be heaven for me!

  41. The view of nature somehow, brought sadness to my heart. Some photos reminded me of my old hometown – the river where I used to spend most of my youth swimming with childhood friends, the forest with big trees we used to climb to pick fresh fruits, flowers and ornaments. This made me missed my hometown so much. I was also saddened due to the fact that the river and the forest in my homeland that has been very essential part of my grown-up years is now fading…

  42. Your post reminded me of my childhood summer. I used to go cycling every afternoon in a nearby rice field. How I wish we have at least a park with trees close by our cities for people to also enjoy the perks of nature. Enjoy summer!

  43. Now I have another reason to go and visit the UK one day soon! I can imagine myself cycling around The New Forest and basking in the sun with nature’s glory all around me. I am sure my little man will also have an absolute wonderful time biking around here and catching a glimpse of those uber cute ponies and pigs! Such charming and quaint place to spend a weekend with the family!

  44. The New Forest looks like a wonderful place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. I love the idyllic setting and the beautiful way you captured it all.

  45. I always thought the New Forest was out of the question for me as I’m not a driver, but I hadn’t considered a train and a bike! Great idea, given me something to think about :).

  46. Oh we love the New Forest, visiting quite frequently for walks and other stuff to do with the children. Can’t wait to take them for a cycling trip there, sounds awesome!

  47. We are planning to visit New Forest so many days now that it is time to really do it! You got some lovely pictures of the sight! It’s been nearly 20 years since I was on a bike and did it at Yorkshire dale recently a month ago! Thought I would have a few falls but luckily nothing of those cycling skills were wiped off the brain so I was really enjoying it except for the first 10 minutes 🙂

  48. Ahh I love this! We spent many childhood holidays in the new forest on our bikes. Last year we took the children back there which was lovely. We are thinking about camping down there next summer, the kids were obsessed with the ponies!

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