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A dog-friendly guide to the New Forest

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Dog walking in the New Forest

With boundless open spaces, from woodland to beaches and countryside, the New Forest is an idyllic setting for a dog-friendly holiday. This part of Hampshire is particularly popular with pet owners, as there’s plenty of room for dogs to roam free, as well as cosy pubs and exciting attractions ready to welcome them.

To help you plan your dog-friendly cottage holiday, we’ve created a guide to the New Forest for you and your pet.

Parks and gardens

Exbury Gardens

Steam train at Exbury Gardens in the New Forest

Covering 200 acres, Exbury Gardens are perfect for a sunny afternoon out with your beloved pet. The gardens are famous for their beautiful collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and rare trees and shrubs. Your dog will love exploring the grounds which are equally spectacular on a hot summer’s day and a crisp winter morning.

As well as seemingly endless gardens, Exbury Gardens offers rides on a steam railway. The 20-minute journey passes through the Summer Lane Garden, blooming with colourful perennials and trees, and the Rock Garden, where passengers are given a bird’s eye view of the largest manmade rock garden in Europe. After your journey, stop for a bite to eat at Mr Eddy’s Tea Rooms.

With over 22 miles of pathways to roam, your dog is most welcome to the gardens, but be sure to keep them on a lead at all times.

Highcliffe Castle in the New Forest

Built in 1835, incorporating medieval stonework and stained glass from around the world, Highcliffe Castle is a spectacular example of Gothic Revival architecture. Overlooking the coast at Christchurch Bay, the castle is in a truly unique location, with plenty of opportunities for you and your four-legged friend to enjoy a stroll. Dogs are free to explore the majestic gardens and grounds. Although dogs are generally not allowed inside the castle, Highcliffe is holding a 'doggie open day’ in September, where they will be allowed to roam the castle, with treats and toys on offer as well as free entry for owners.

Moors Valley Country Park

Woodland at Moors Valley Country Park

After a good night’s sleep in your New Forest holiday cottage, you’ll be ready to embrace the great outdoors at Moors Valley Country Park. Lakes, trees and miles of enchanting walks can be found across the park’s 1,000 acres, offering plenty of opportunities to get active or simply enjoy the scenery on a quiet stroll.

Your pooch will love all the outdoor space and, when not in busier areas, they are welcome to roam free through the grounds. However if you’re stopping for a picnic or exploring the play trail, it’s advised you keep your dog on a lead.

Moors Valley is perfect for a day of cycling, too, and even offers bike hire on site. If you’re enjoying a family holiday in the New Forest, you may wish to try out the Go Ape Tree Top Adventure or forest Segway activities. For something a little more relaxing, enjoy a ride on the authentic steam train which runs past Moors Lake.

Attractions

The New Forest Centre

If you’re not sure where to visit first in the New Forest, and want to learn a little more about the National Park, head to the New Forest Centre. Packed full of displays and activities, this is a fantastic way to get to know the area and its history. Learn all about the New Forest ponies and other local wildlife, as well as exploring the gallery displaying art and workshops relating to the New Forest.

Buckler's Hard cottages in the New Forest

On the banks of the Beaulieu River, the charming hamlet of Buckler’s Hard is one of the most unique attractions in the New Forest. Step back in time in this untouched shipbuilding village, where ships for Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar were built. Today, Buckler’s Hard is a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Your dog will love the open space along the riverfront and can even join you on a river cruise. From Easter to October, a cruise along the Beaulieu River gives you the chance to spot local wildlife and discover the area’s fascinating history through engaging commentary. Jane Riddiford, PR Manager for Buckler’s Hard, said: “Dogs are welcomed at Buckler’s Hard as long as they are kept on a lead at all times. The New Forest has such stunning scenery for walks, which makes it the perfect destination for a dog-friendly holiday.”

Along with the village, visitors can explore the maritime museum, shipwright’s cottage and the yacht in which sailor and aviator Sir Francis Chichester sailed single-handedly around the globe.

Beaulieu country house and National Motor Museum

Beaulieu is an exquisite attraction home to both a grand country house and the National Motor Museum. This award-winning family visitor attraction can be found in the heart of the New Forest, holding over 800 years of heritage. The estate was once a royal hunting lodge and the property of the Crown. Palace House, once the gatehouse of the medieval Beaulieu Abbey, has been the home of the Montagu family since 1538.

Dogs are welcome to enjoy the gardens and grounds of Beaulieu, but should be kept on a lead. Roam the wilderness garden, Victorian flower garden and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Topiary, as well as beautiful paths such as the Mill Pond Walk. While you and your pet are free to admire the grand setting of the Palace House and gardens, the National Motor Museum and indoor spaces are only open to humans.

Dog-friendly pubs

The Compass Inn, Winsor

Famous for being one of the most dog-friendly pubs in the New Forest, The Compass Inn is an excellent place to stop for a cosy pub lunch or a pint in the sunshine. You will be equally welcomed at this Hampshire pub, which features a sign on its door stating ‘all dogs are welcome’.

Your four-legged friend will feel right at home as the pub walls are adorned with pictures of dogs and dog-themed ornaments. There’s even a dog wall of fame. Owner Mop Draper also hosts a regular dog walk with her Jack Russell, Boris. The dog walks are held on the first Sunday of every month and for £17.50 include coffee and bacon rolls, a one and a half hour walk in the forest and a delicious roast lunch and pudding.

Fleur de Lys, Pilley

Fleur de Lys pub in the New Forest

For a fine-dining experience, Fleur de Lys is an excellent choice. Pubs don’t get much more spectacular than Fleur de Lys, which can be found in the quaint village of Pilley near Lymington.

According to the owners, Fleur de Lys can be traced back to 1096 and has a list of landlords beginning in 1498, making it the New Forest’s oldest pub. The team said: “As well as being a pub rich in history, she’s also one of the prettiest, smothered under a huge thick thatched roof and the beautifully refurbished interior is traditional, welcoming and serene.

“She has a rustic busy bar at one end, a main restaurant seating around 30 in the centre and a snug room further on which is ideal for private dining or large groups. Vast open inglenook fires in each room means this will be the place to be in the midst of the winter, and during the summer laze in the pretty garden with a chilled glass of rose next to the original water well.

Dog with owner in pub beer garden

“Dogs are welcomed in the bar, garden and snug area, but not the main restaurant. Our resident pub dog Elvis is always on hand to welcome customers and four-legged friends, we have a plentiful supply of doggie treats and home-made beef stock ice lollies for when they are hot!”

For humans, there’s also a delicious menu on offer. The pub added: “Fabulous food is the main focus at Fleur de Lys, all food is freshly, locally sourced and prepared on site. Talented chefs produce dishes classic in style and rich in flavour.

“Puddings are a speciality and we have some wonderful cheese for the fromage fans. Sunday lunches are traditional roasts, West Country ribs of beef, and succulent Welsh lamb or pork with crackling and apple sauce.”

The Drift Inn, near Lyndhurst

The Drift Inn sits in the very heart of the New Forest. Complete with a cosy wood burner and an exceptional menu, this is the perfect spot to warm up after a brisk winter walk or to cool off in the beer garden on a summer’s day. The pub provides dog towels so they can dry off after their adventure, water bowls, lots of outdoor space and delicious dog biscuits. Expect tasty British fare on the menu, paired with a range of ales from Ringwood Brewery.

Rockingham Arms, Canada Common

Set within Canada Common - a prime walking spot for you and your four-legged friend - The Rockingham Arms is a cosy country pub. With ales on offer from local breweries including Upham Brewery, Dancing Cows and Ringwood Brewery, the pub is the ideal spot to kick back with a delicious pint and a mouth-watering pub lunch. Your pet won’t be forgotten either, with doggie treats available at the bar.

The Trusty Servant, Minstead

In a pretty New Forest village, The Trusty Servant Inn is a welcoming pub overlooking the green. This traditional Hampshire inn serves warming home-cooked food and real ales, and is very welcoming to dogs. Your pet will be free to sit anywhere within the pub and if they are well behaved, they’ll be rewarded with treats. Tuck into one of The Trusty Servant’s outstanding meals including duo of Hampshire pork with fondant potato, spring greens and Burley cider sauce, and slow braised salt beef brisket with horseradish mash and honey glazed parsnips.

The New Forest Inn

Ponies, donkeys, cows and pigs can often be spotted wandering around The New Forest Inn, so it’s little surprise that this delightful pub is also dog friendly. Dating back to the 18th century, The New Forest Inn is a traditional country pub serving ales from nearby Ringwood Brewery and Flack Manor Brewing, as well as a mouth-watering menu. Dogs are welcome to roam the bar, restaurant and the spacious garden.

With endless pubs, eateries, parks, gardens and attractions ready to welcome you and your pet, why not start planning your next adventure? There are plenty of New Forest holiday cottages waiting for you.

Image credits: Buckler’s Hard, Beaulieu, Train Photos, Fleur de Lys