When it comes to the perfect U.K. break, there are few places more idyllic or more dog friendly than The New Forest. Located in the pretty county of Hampshire, in Southern England, this national park has it all – from woodland walks and stunning beaches to historic villages and country pubs a-plenty.
My husband and I lived in Southampton for 7 years, so we’re well-acquainted with this neck of the woods (excuse the pun) and couldn’t wait to return – this time with our 6-month-old Golden Retriever, Marnie, in tow. This was Marnie’s first weekend away, so I did lots of research in advance to make sure we had all the dog friendly spots in the New Forest covered before our visit.
Dog friendly accommodation in The New Forest
More and more hotels are offering dog friendly rooms, these days, and even Airbnb has a handy filter for pet-friendly properties, so there’s no reason to leave your furry friend behind.
The official New Forest tourist website is a good place to start your search, as they have a whole section dedicated to “dog friendly accommodation”. Next you’ll need to decide what kind of experience you want. A remote woodland cottage? A camp-site close to nature? Or a cosy hotel in the heart of a village?
We opted for Ormonde House Hotel, located just a few minutes’ walk from the main high street of Lyndhurst and close to all the main attractions of the New Forest. At just £69 per night, it was absolutely perfect for what we wanted – a spacious, spotlessly clean room with plenty of space for a dog bed and an easily accessible garden out front. They even had towels and a treat station at the hotel entrance – such a cute touch to make dog-owners and their canine companions feel welcome!
Dogs are allowed everywhere in the hotel, apart from in the restaurant but there is a separate conservatory area where you can dine with your pooch. There are also some great dog friendly dining options along Lyndhurst high street, just a few minutes’ walk away.
Dog friendly things to do in The New Forest
The New Forest is big – 220 square miles to be precise – so there are endless ways you can spend your time with your four-legged friend. Here’s a few ideas to make the most of this spectacular region.
Head to the coast
Most people don’t realise that the New Forest is home to some of the most beautiful coastline in England. And the best part is that most of these beaches are dog friendly!
We decided to spend the day at Highcliffe-on-Sea – a beautiful sand and shingle beach in Dorset, only 20-minutes drive from our hotel in Lyndhurst. The beach operates a seasonal dog ban between 1st May and 30th September, so if you’re travelling in peak season, be sure to check out the full list of dog friendly beaches in Hampshire.
The Cliffhanger cafe is the perfect place to start your visit at Highcliffe Beach. Perched high up on the cliff, this contemporary cafe has a huge outdoor area with plenty of picnic benches and breath-taking sea views. On a clear day, you can even seen the Needles from up here. There’s a small dog friendly area inside the pub, which can be pre-booked, if the weather isn’t looking so great.
Right next to the Cliffhanger is a a paved boardwalk that leads you down the cliff to the beach. From here, you can follow the path all the way along the coast, past Highcliffe Castle and eventually to Mudeford Quay. We didn’t go quite this far, as it was too hot a day for Marnie, but it’s a lovely scenic path however far you venture.
Go for walkies in the countryside
The New Forest is a walker’s paradise and no matter where you choose, you’ll be rewarded with peaceful scenery and plenty of open space for your pup to enjoy. New Forest Living has published an excellent article covering some of the best walks in the New Forest but here’s two of my favourites.
Fritham is a quaint little village in the north of the New Forest with a great dog friendly pub at its centre. Start your walk at the car-park near Eyeworth Pond, where you can spot ducks and explore some of the surrounding woodland trails before following the road to the Royal Oak for one of their famous ploughman’s and real ales. There’s a large beer garden with picnic benches and countryside views out back – perfect on a sunny day.
Another must-visit is Bolton’s Bench, located at the bottom of the high street in Lyndhurst village. This is often considered the gateway to the New Forest and offers unparalleled countryside views from up on the mound. The New Forest is famous for its wild ponies and there are plenty to spot around this way, so be sure to have a lead handy to avoid a “Fenton” type situation!
You can pick up various walking trails from here, including the 8.5 mile Lyndhurst Parish Circular walk, which takes you through the tiny, historic villages of Emery Down and Gritnam. Grab a map from the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst or you can view the route online here.
Mooch around the villages
There are plenty of charming villages to explore in the New Forest – Beaulieu, Lymington and Lyndhurst are among my favourites and all are accessible with dogs.
Lyndhurst is known as the capital of the New Forest and has a good selection of independent shops, dog friendly pubs, cafes and restaurants along the high street. Be sure to stop at Peggy May’s – a cosy little cafe on the main high street, serving up delicious breakfasts, cakes and English cream teas. Dogs are warmly welcomed and it’s the ideal place to start your day.
Lymington has more of a seaside feel to it, with colourful bunting strung up between white-washed cottages, whilst Beaulieu is your quintessential English village with its postcard good looks and picturesque riverside location. Although dogs aren’t allowed inside the village’s main attractions, such as the historic abbey or the famous Motor Museum, they are permitted within the grounds on a lead.
Grab some pub grub
The New Forest is full of traditional country pubs and many will welcome your four-legged friend with open arms. As well as those already mentioned, The Trusty Servant in the village of Minstead is one of the best picks in the area. This cosy country inn serves up great quality home-cooked food and local ales and welcomes dogs inside and out.
The Drift Inn near Lyndhurst is another great option, serving up locally sourced, gastro-style pub food and wood-fired pizzas. You can find a full list of dog friendly pubs and places to eat on the New Forest website.
Have you holidayed in the New Forest with your canine companion? I’d love to hear your top tips! If you’re exploring more of the UK, check out my travel guides, including top tips on exploring the Cotswolds, Oxford, Bristol and more.