My Cousin, Janet and I both celebrated our 70th birthdays this summer. She lives in Holland and I live in London so we decided to get together to celebrate and we decided on The New Forest. We were staying at The Beaulieu Hotel and this was right by Beaulieu Road train station (one of the smallest train stations I have seen with no ticket machines or staff) and I met her at the hotel. The main part of the hotel is very nice and cosy but we were in one of the garden rooms as we needed a ground floor room because Janet has mobility problems. Strangely enough the path from the main hotel to the garden rooms is all gravel which is difficult when you are using a walking frame. Our room was nice and looked out onto a field where we saw little rabbits hopping about each morning. However there was a strange green light by the door which could not be turned off and this made the room really light. I have never seen such a bright light in any other hotels. We didn’t have a car so we were dependent on taxis but there was also an open top bus “The New Forest Tours” (it runs from 6th July to 8th September) and it is a fabulous way to see the New Forest. We got a 2 day ticket for £17 each and there are 3 routes. The Green route which passed our hotel visits Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Lymington, Beaulieu motor Museum, Exbury Gardens and Hythe. All we had to do was make sure we knew what time the bus returned otherwise we would be waiting an hour! We explored Brockenhurst (rather small but has a nice pub called The Snake Catcher where we had good food and drink), Lymington (a very long High Street, nice church and a quayside which we didn’t actually get to). Riding on the top of the bus past the heath land seeing the horses, donkeys and cows grazing was lovely.
The next day we changed at Brockenhurst and travelled the Blue route. This went through Burley, Thorney Hill, Bashley, New Milton, Barton on Sea and Milton on Sea. We got off at Milton on Sea and had a snack in The Needles Eye Cafe from where you have a lovely view of the Isle of Wight and The Needles. We didn’t get to do the Red route but I believe it goes through the wild northern heaths of the National Park.
As a birthday treat we had booked a spa afternoon and afternoon tea at The Balmer Lawn Hotel. We had a lovely massage, sole use of the Jacuzzi and swimming pool and a delicious (very high calorie) tea. Back at our hotel they also had a swimming pool but it was very small and shallow so not ideal for serious swimming. The restaurant in the hotel is actually the pub next door which they own (The Drift Inn). The food was very good but it was the same menu every night and we were a bit like a captive audience as we had no car to drive to other restaurants. There was a very good member of staff in the restaurant who kept things running very smoothly. We did notice the difference when she had her day off!
So if you fancy a break in the New Forest I would strongly recommend that you use the open topped bus (but obviously this only runs during school holidays), otherwise you might need to have a car but it is a beautiful and peaceful part of the UK. However, one word of warning, on all the hotel receptions are a large jar of biscuits. Nice, you might think but actually they are dog biscuits! I realised too late having helped myself to one! (My Cousin spent the rest of the evening waiting for me to settle down in my basket!)