One of the many beauties of The New Forest is its accessibility. On the train it’s just 90 minutes from London and in the car, just a few minutes after you leave the motorway you cross a cattle grid and enter another world.
That makes it a perfect spot for a short break, but equally great for a Saturday spree. Why not Sunday? Well because for this blog we’re starting at the Saturday market in the Georgian coastal town of Lymington.
Head off early in the morning – take care of the ponies on the roads of course – and park by The Quay. There’s a little café, The Boathouse, that’s the perfect spot for a hot chocolate for the kids and a caffeine kick for grown-ups.
Wander up the cobbled streets towards the High Street, lined with stalls with everything from New Forest produce, gifts and plants to great value fabrics and dog treats. Kids are entertained by the toy stall and a great little toy shop as well as WHSmith and Poundland.
The little bakery on the left is great for a take-home treat and you can get an awesome bacon sandwich from a van at the top edge of the market. Perfect breakfast for hungry teenagers especially.
The shops themselves are worth a visit with or without the market – they include boutique fashion stores, the fantastic Oakhaven Hospice children’s charity shop, luxury jewellers, art galleries, antique shops and the chains you associate with a yachty destination, the likes of Crew, Joules and Musto.
At the top of the High Street is an amazing florist, Yasmin Design, which is worth a visit, especially at Christmas when stunning hand-made wreaths and festive decorations are on display. Close by is Willow Lifestyle, a delight for all trendy homemakers.
Eateries include the obvious chain options such as Zizzi, ASK and Prezzo. There’s The Angel and Blue Pig hotel and pub serving a menu which includes the likes of steaks from a charcoal oven, with triple-cooked chips and garlic and watercress butter or a baked rosemary and garlic Camembert with charred sourdough and sweet apple chutney.
Stanwell House is a hotel, restaurant and cocktail bar worth a mention especially for those looking for a dog-friendly or family option for a drink, a cocktail, a relaxed meal or a stay (kids stay free).
For couples, the Elderflower is a fine dining treat, a restaurant whose Head Chef Patron Andrew Du Bourg was formerly Head Chef at the internationally-renowned New Forest country house hotel, Chewton Glen.
Once you’ve shopped till you drop you can always head back to The Quay for a pint with a view in the courtyard of The Ship. Or take a Puffin Cruises boat trip down the historic Lymington river with its fishing boats, super yachts and protected saltgrass marshes which are a haven for seabirds.
The Quay is a lovely spot for some quiet time watching the world go (or sail) by, perhaps read a book, have a picnic or sit and sample a crab sandwich from the shop by the shore. If you’re with little ones and quiet time isn’t an option, buy a line and a bucket from the little gift shop and go crabbing – the perfect (and cheap) way to spend a family afternoon by the water.