With family vacations to the UK becoming increasingly popular, taking the kids into the New Forest offers a range of interesting attractions for all to enjoy. After consuming a delicious full English or Continental breakfast in the relaxing environment of the hotel, head out for some fun in a part of England that still retains its pristine rural charm but is very far from being dull.
This is actually the biggest un-enclosed area in the whole of southern England, with more than 93,000 acres of ancient forest and heath which is home to an impressive range of animals, both wild and domestic. These include everything from cattle and donkeys to wild ponies, cattle and pigs.
William the Conqueror used the whole forest for his private hunting ground after kicking its Saxon owners off, and in 1079 imposed his own Norman version of Forest Law onto the whole area. The New Forest became a National Park in 2004, enjoying all the environmental protection that goes with it and attracting visitors in their droves. William would turn in his grave.
This is a brilliant place for a range of family-oriented activities such as riding and walking, and there are few better spots in England for seeing such a wide variety of plants and wildlife and enjoying the many nature trails.
The trees too are famous here and you can see just about every species England has to offer, from birch, oak and beech to hawthorn, blackthorn and plenty others besides.
Quite apart from the fabulous scenery and wildlife, The New Forest National Park has a great number of other attractions to draw both kids and their parents. In Beaulieu, the National Motor Museum has over 250 vehicles of all types and ages on display, including rare vintage cars, and the grounds around it are the perfect place for an afternoon stroll following a light lunch.
The Reptile Trail is especially popular with the kids. This trail covers 1.5 miles through the Forest, a circular walk that starts out from the New Forest Reptile Centre and ends back there. This conservation and education facility is open between April and September, and expert rangers lead tours through the Forest to uncover the many reptiles and amphibians that make it their home, with talks along the way.
On Longdown Activity Farm you can get close and personal to a variety of different farm animals and try living the life of a typical farmer for a day, including doing the milking and trying your hand at mucking out the cattle sheds. The kids will have a whale of a time feeding the cute calves and lambs and brushing miniature ponies, and there’s also a good refreshment area and a place for toddlers to play.
A strong sense of history is of course omnipresent throughout these isles, and in the New Forest this is represented by the great fortress of Hurst Castle, built by Henry VIII as a part of the string of coastal defenses. The whole family can have a great day out here enjoying the views, sitting on the 38-ton guns and walking the impressive battlements, with refreshments on hand and tours available.
Whatever your interests, you’ll find that the New Forest has plenty to offer all the family.