Cool Places - The best places to stay in the UK

The Best Places to Stay in the UK

New Forest

A National Park since 2005, the New Forest offers a slice of largely wooded England that has changed little since it was created in 1079. Relatively flat and criss-crossed with gravel tracks, footpaths and even a disused railway, the woodland and open heathland is perfect for walking and cycling. The park also supports a healthy population of wildlife, including deer and its most famous residents, the New Forest ponies, which roam at will. The forest also flanks a large section of coast, and although much of it is outside the park proper, you’ll find some great beaches and harbour towns nearby. The best of these is Lymington, once a haunt of smugglers and now a yachties’ favourite and gateway to the Isle of Wight.

History

William the Conqueror created the New Forest in 1079, as a royal hunting ground. Residents were prohibited from erecting fences or doing anything that would get in the way of his hunts, and in return they were allowed to graze animals on open land. To this day, New Forest residents – known as commoners – retain their right to graze animals (mainly ponies, cattle and, in autumn, pigs who eat the acorns that can harm ponies); ancient rights that look set to continue after the creation of the National Park in 2005. Timber from the New Forest supported a thriving shipbuilding industry in Lymington, a wealthy town filled with handsome Georgian buildings. Though shipbuilding has declined – along with its other main trade, smuggling – the town remains extremely well-to-do thanks to its harbour, which is home to hundreds of yachts and small craft.

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New Forest

One of the country's newest national parks, the New Forest landscape is something special.
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