I recently visited The New Forest for a long weekend of glorious sunshine. It was a great way to escape the horrible gray, rainy weather we seem to have had in Scotland for the past couple of months. I would be staying at my brother’s house just outside Bartley in the south of England – next to the forest which is shared by wild ponies, cows and other wildlife. It’s such a tranquil place to visit it would have been the perfect place to relax with my knitting but alas I wasn’t allowed to take my needles on the plane!
The view outside my brother’s house – I’m so jealous!
I was travelling with my mum so our journey started off with a visit to the airport pub. Our flight was called about 20 minutes before we were due to take off so I figured we had plenty of time to finish our drinks and nip to the loo before boarding the plane (plane toilets scare me). However, I didn’t realise how far away our terminal was so we ended up being last on the plane which was a little embarrassing (but luckily they hadn’t had to call our names over the tannoy!).
It took an hour to fly down to Southampton so we had another glass of wine on the plane (we were on holiday after all!) and the rest of our travelling went without a hitch. It had been almost a year since my last visit to the pretty house in the forest so I was excited to pull into the long driveway and see the familiar field of sheep out the front. We were looking forward to spending the next few days exploring the surrounding towns and villages so we had an early night (after more wine) so we could be up nice and early the next day.
What’s left of Bishop’s Waltham Palace
We decided to get a head start on the day by heading out for breakfast and our first port of call was Bishop’s Waltham where we had delicious rolls of bacon and egg in “Stainers” cafe. Bishop’s Waltham is everything you would expect from an English village – quaint and friendly where everybody seemed to know each other. It’s the kind of place I would love to live one day and open up a little gift shop for the locals.
After filling our bellies we needed to walk off our breakfast by wandering around the palace which was now a ruin. We actually drove round in a large circle through the countryside before parking at the ruin across the street from the tea room – my sat nav was being mischievous and we hadn’t spotted it behind the trees!
After clambering over the ruins it was off to Winchester where we wandered through the market before exploring the Cathedral. I’m not religious in the slightest but I could appreciate the beauty and intricate detail of the building. The stained glass windows and carved statues all helped to create a moving atmosphere where it was easy to get lost in your own thoughts…until we decided to go down into the crypt to look for zombies.
Our legs were starting to tire so after we had confirmed that the crypt was in fact full of water and no zombies were to be found we headed for the UK’s oldest pub – The Royal Oak. It was after midday so we felt it was appropriate to have a drink and rest our legs under the wooden beams of the traditional old tavern. We didn’t order any food but there were plenty of yummy smells coming from the other tables so it seemed like a good idea to head to the supermarket before home.
It was safe down here – zombies can’t swim…
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing until it was time to head out for dinner. We were going to The High Corner Inn which is hidden away in the middle of The New Forest. It has a beautiful beer garden which we enjoyed in the sunshine before heading in for a delicious meal. The staff were so friendly and really went the extra mile to please. I guess a restaurant needs to serve amazing food with great staff to survive in the middle of nowhere!
We awoke to more beautiful sunshine and decided to head to Beaulieu. We wandered around this adorable town before going to the fete at the Abbey Church. I decided to try my luck with some raffle tickets and won a bottle of wine for the evening’s bbq – result! It was getting rather hot in the sunshine so we wandered back towards the high street for some delicious home-made ice cream at the Beaulieu Chocolate Studio (not before stopping off to say hi to the donkeys!).
It was too nice a day to head straight home so we headed for Hurst Spit next which is a strip of pebbly land which reaches out towards the Isle of Whyte. It wasn’t until we were about half way along that I realised how exposed we were and I had nothing to protect me from the sun which resulted in some pretty serious sunburn (and an embarrassing array of white lines left by my bag and jewellery!). We did make it all the way to Hurst Castle though so it felt like quite an achievement – not to mention a great way to burn off the cream tea and ice cream!
Hurst Spit – use suntan lotion!
That evening we were treated to an amazing bbq of rump steak with plenty of yummy side dishes, champagne and a lot of wine! It was such a pleasant evening that we could sit outside chatting well into the evening and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Miraculously I woke up without a hangover – it must have been all of the good food and fresh air that soaked up the alcohol!
It was our last day so we were going to take things relatively easy with a car boot sale in the morning where I managed to nab a bag of embroidery thread for only £1 – bargain! The only downside was it was all tangled together so I had hours of unravelling ahead of me!
It was another glorious day so we went for a walk to my favourite pub in The New Forest – The Gamekeeper. Here we had a leisurely lunch which because of the time of our flight was going to be the main meal of the day. I enjoyed a massive bacon cheese burger and glass of rose under the umbrella (I was burnt enough already!). Luckily we had a half hour walk back to the house to burn off all the calories, and I managed to get a power nap in before we had to leave for the airport – it really was the perfect Sunday!
I was sad to be leaving but the weekend had been the perfect mix of exploring and relaxing so I felt content to head back to my own bed. The frustrating part of our journey was being delayed by over half an hour and getting off the plane to discover that Edinburgh was cold, gray and very windy…the complete opposite of what we had been enjoying over the last four days.
I recommend The New Forest to anyone who has the opportunity to visit. It has everything you could possible want – friendly people, quaint villages, great food and beautiful surroundings and wildlife. I’m hoping to head back soon!