Adventures in the New Forest
For year-round fun amid beautiful surroundings, head to Hampshire and treat yourself to a stay at Balmer Lawn Hotel
Balmer Lawn is a four-star accommodation perfectly situated right in the middle of the New Forest. The hotel may look shiny and new, thanks to a tasteful full refurbishment – complete with modern chandelier and baby grand piano – but its history goes way back as a 1800s hunting lodge. The hotel is independently owned, which really shines through from the team (complete with Manager Michael’s little dog!). Chatty, polite, and proudly championing the New Forest as the place to go – and quite right!
Highlight: Dogs are allowed in certain rooms, and are just as fussed over as the two-legged guests, with their own bowls and towels in the room, and treats aplenty to be had in the bar and lounge.
Of course there’s plenty to do outdoors – but we’ll get to that later. In the hotel grounds, you can chill with rented DVDs or board games in the lounge, visit the gym, play a spot of squash or golf, or enjoy a swim.
Highlight: The seasonal outdoor heated pool, without a doubt.
The woodland lodge theme of the hotel carries through into the spa’s relaxation area, and the treatments take place in softly lit rooms with soothing music. Headed up by the very welcoming Leanne, the spa uses ESPA products to give you a bespoke treatment from their extensive menu.
Highlight: The back, face and scalp treatment with hot stones lasts a blissful 85 minutes, leaving you with a supple spine, smooth skin and clear head.
The 2 AA Rosette Beresford Restaurant, lead by executive chef Chris Wheeldon, is seasonally based and hosts everything from traditional Sunday lunch to a sumptuous tasting menu, using fresh local produce. The serving staff are smart and well-versed on all the food and drink options.
Highlight: Where to start? The taste-perfect spinach & ricotta malfatti, melt in the mouth sticky beef short rib, impressive cheese board – and drinks-wise, the mild but wholesome Smokin’ Deer bitter brewed in the hotels own microbrewery.
The New Forest Lawn surrounding the hotel comprises 500 acres of very Instagrammable grazing land populated by numerous ponies, donkeys, cattle, and in the autumn, the occasional pig to gladly snaffle up acorns, which can be harmful to the ponies. A freshwater river runs next to it – which is extremely popular when the sun comes out – and quaint Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst are close by, complete with inviting tearooms and burgeoning farm shops. Hire a bike from Balmer Lawn, or ask at reception for maps (and even a picnic!) to make the most of the area.
Highlight: The roaming animals of course – in fact if you’re really lucky you might bump into the docile, orange Highland cows plodding around Brockenhurst.
There are plentiful walking options around the New Forest paths, including popular locations such as Paultons Park and Exbury Gardens with its steam railway. You can also take part in other action-packed adventures, such as New Forest Activities’ (newforestactivities.co.uk) archery, bushcraft, canoeing, kayaking. The instructors, including the very enthusiastic Luke, are clear, bright, and really know their stuff about the area. For example, did you know that one of the several million-pound houses along the (harmless) jellyfish-filled Beaulieu River was owned by a famous UK drinks dynasty? The giant bushes by the waters edge, shaped into Babycham glasses are a subtle giveaway!
Highlight: Don’t miss the New Forest Walking Festival (until Oct 28)
- Prices for Balmer Lawn Hotel start from £149 B&B in a standard room. Spa breaks start from £165pp including dinner, B&B and a 55-minute treatment. For more offers and events see balmerlawnhotel.com
More unmissable New Forest events
The Curious Arts Festival, July 20-22
This is an eclectic and awesome mix of terrific comedy and inspiring literary revelry, alongside the opportunity to try out lessons in poetry, filmmaking, life drawing and delicious cocktail classes. There’s also brilliant live music, including John Newman, Outlya and Flyte and lots of smile-inducing sights! See curiousartsfestival.com.
Cowes Week, August 4-11
One of the UK’s key sporting events takes place every August. Enjoy the mesmerising sight of thousands of boats as they compete in this prestigious event. The atmosphere is one of fun and excitement of competitive sailing mingled with and a vivacious social scene back on land generated by around 8,500 competitors and at least 100,000 visitors! Stay close by and watch from the many vantage points close to Lymington. See lendycowesweek.co.uk
Lymington Seafood Festival, August 11-12
A must see 2-day event with over 70 food and drink stalls celebrating the areas scrumptious harvest from the sea. Stop, look and taste offerings from artisan producers offering mouth-watering treats to take back to your cottage! Have no fear if fishy fare isn’t your thing, as there are plenty of meat, veggie and sweet options on hand. See lymingtonseafoodfestival.co.uk