Forest’s on your doorstepBy Nick Ive
December 03, 2008
With the credit crunch really biting and the price of foreign holidays soaring to new levels, there is a perfect alternative virtually on the doorstep.
While the New Forest is certainly not a hidden gem, it remains one of the south’s most treasured areas.
Boasting 571 squared kilometres of unspoilt and protected woodland, it is the perfect destination for anyone wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of modern city life.
A perfect base to explore the New Forest – Europe’s largest surviving area of ancient pasture woodland – is Cottage Lodge situated in the picturesque village of Brockenhurst.
Cottage Lodge, which has parts dating back to the 17th century, is the only 5 star bed and breakfast in the National Park and was voted the Best B&B in the park by the Guardian.
They also do plenty to try to help encourage sustainable and eco-friendly tourism, winning the 2008 Tourism Business of the Year award.
The superb 12-bedroom cottage was constructed in 1650 from reclaimed ships timbers (from the Kings Fleet, at Bucklers Hard) and has a string of awards to its name.
Family run, it offers all the luxury and mod cons you would want for a comfortable stay, while still maintaining its historic charm.
In the original building is the charming beamed Snug Bar or the Gillies Restaurant, which serve a delicious New Forest breakfast. All of the fresh ingredients are sourced from the local area.
There is also an honesty bar situated in the hotel which is well stocked with all sorts of beverages.
Accommodation at Cottage Lodge varies in size and cost, but all are tastefully decorated, modern, clean and well furnished. There is the standard en-suite, the standard en-suite west facing and the superior.
The one thing you can’t allow for is the Great British weather, but even if there is a downpour there is still plenty to do with some delightful pubs within walking distance.
The hotel also have a fairly extensive DVD and video library should you just want to relax in your room.
But it is the New Forest itself that brings people flocking and with so much glorious countryside on offer it is no surprise the National Park Authority, the Tourism Industry and the local community are keen to preserve all its beauty.
So there is a real commitment to trying to encourage people to journey to the New Forest without the car. There is an excellent train service which runs direct from Reading to Brockenhurst.
From the moment you arrive, everything is taken care of. You are greeted with coffee or tea on arrival, and then the only decision you have to make is where to explore first.
Cycling is the best way to enjoy the open forest with 192 kilometres of off-road cycling tracks. (Bikes can be hired for as little as £12 a day although they are free to take on trains, providing there is space.)
There is a host of superb local restaurants and pubs to choose from in Brockenhurst, all within walking distance, and Cottage Lodge will provide you with everything you want to know.
There really is no better place to spend a few days than in the heart of the New Forest. It boasts stunning scenery, history, wide open green spaces, forests and is also a short journey to the coast.
Nick stayed at Cottage Lodge in Brockenhurst. Rooms and B&B cost from between £28 and £54 per night Sunday to Thursday.
Visit www.cottagehotel.org for more information.