High Five: New Forest

June 18, 2014

The weather forecast said black cloud and rain; not ideal for a hen-do in the New Forest, but serendipity played its hand at the eleventh hour and dealt us a fabulous weekend of glorious sunshine. Not being a tiaras-and-t-shirts kind of hen, our bride-to-be was very happy with walking, hearty eating and drinking, so that’s exactly what we did. Here are the highlights:

We just about managed around four miles before pausing in a pub for chips, but the New Forest tract actually covers 145 square miles of heathland, marshland, forest, pastures and babbling brooks to amble through at your leisure, alongside cattle, ponies and donkeys, who roam freely.

The Passford House Hotel, a quintessentially English retreat near Lymington, with manicured lawns and borders full of flowers, a pretty courtyard, outdoor and indoor swimming pools, spacious public areas with squishy sofas, and good-sized rooms. The breakfast is definitely worth getting up for.

Visit Lymington with its two marinas, tea rooms and an open-air seawater bath. Lyndhurst, known as the capital of the New Forest since William the Conqueror established it as a royal hunting ground in 1079, has unique shops and cosy pubs. And Brockenhurst, where ponies and donkeys wander about the village streets.

Verveine Fishmarket Restaurant, located in Milford-on-Sea, was a real find with its traditional fishmongers at the front and award-winning contemporary restaurant at the back. The menu is innovative without being pretentious, the service excellent and the fish dishes delicious.

Try The Fighting Cocks Pub near Fordingbridge, a proper pub serving homemade fare in the middle of the New Forest. Landlord Tim was formerly a master butcher and makes the steak burgers and sausages on site, whilst only local New Forest game is used for the seasonal menu. Ales and ciders are on tap, and there’s a large beer garden with children’s area and an extensive wine menu.

Mika Bishop