The New Forest is an idyllic escape for a romantic break. Less than a minute from the M27 motorway, or 89 minutes by train from London, those who come here never lose the sense that this is an ancient, natural and unique landscape with something to suit every visiting couple.
Native forests, huge skies, moors and coastline combine in an area which spans 193,000 acres. A journey across the national park takes you from the moors of Whitefield to the Ornamental Drive at Rhinefield with its towering Redwood trees, and down to the Solent at Lepe, Milford or Barton-on-Sea.
There are more than 143 miles of track to explore on foot, as well as the opportunity to make your own way across this beautiful landscape. Start off with the way-marked walks at Bolderwood, Blackwood, Knightwood Oak and Wilverly Plain. Tranquil and perfect at any time of the year.
Or take to the saddle – on bikes or by joining a pony trek – either way you’ll see nature up close and personal including some of our 3,000 wild ponies. Take a moment to admire them – they have literally helped shape our landscape and they are one of the reasons our pace of life is that much easier – it’s hard to move fast when the traffic jam is caused by ponies and the cattle which also roam the forest as they tread their own, ancient pathways to their favourite feeding grounds.
For those who are ‘deer’ to your heart why not take them to see the real thing? Bolderwood is one of the best places to glimpse deer as there is a purpose-built platform which overlooks a large meadow, a short walk from the car park. Sightings are not guaranteed but you will have fun looking!
Say it with flowers, by taking a turn about the paths and walkways of Palace House at Beaulieu to see the snowdrops, hamemelis and camelias, heralds of spring.
The great outdoors is at the heart of the Forest, but it is also renowned as a premier foodie destination with some spectacular restaurants, hotels and spas for those looking for a special, intimate, luxury break for two.
The Pig at Brockenhurst offers a 25-mile menu served in its own, Victorian-style conservatory. Why not add on a de-stress massage or a luxury facial from the Potting Shed or Shepherd’s Hut treatment rooms to increase the relaxed atmosphere?
Burley Manor is a grown-ups only restaurant with rooms, which launched in December – an old manor house re-imagined with an eclectic mix of traditional furniture, quirky, found artwork, and bold, vibrant fabrics.
If it’s ultra-luxe you want from a hotel stay, the New Forest has more than enough; from Lime Wood and its laid-back vibe, to Chewton Glen and its ultimate country house experience or, for a funkier feel, try their celebrated treehouses – peace and quiet with panoramic views thrown in.
For spas try all of the above or bliss out at SenSpa at Carey’s Manor, Saltus Spa at the Balmer Lawn Hotel, or Rhinefield House Hotel.
If you’re exploring the quintessentially English village of Beaulieu, why not check out the Michelin starred Montagu Arms? Roaring log fires in winter, a sunny terrace for spring and summer and year-round foodie gorgeousness. Here you can indulge in the romantic idyll of chocolate, and champagne from the Montagu Arms’ stunning wine cellar (just the 2,200 bottles of wine to choose from!) and visit the Beaulieu Chocolate Studio where you can buy it, eat it and watch it being made before your very eyes.
Hand-made chocolates have been a part of the village since the early 1980′s, and following the closure of the old chocolate shop, with the help of the Beaulieu Estate, owner Trevor Smith set up the Chocolate Studio in what had once been the village patisserie. The premises are now divided into two so that visitors can watch the emporium’s 30 different varieties of choccies, from truffles to chocolate spanners being made. Get your hands on a Brand New Forest card and save 10% here.
If your idea of fun is getting out and about and trying something new, the Forest is the perfect place to get going. New Forest Activities is offering couples 20 per cent off their usual prices for Valentine’s Day bookings. Try archery, cycling, kayaking or canoodle in a canoe in the Forest’s beautiful countryside together.
But if just getting some ‘us’ time is your priority, check out the New Forest’s country pubs, inns, boutique B&Bs, characterful cottages, camper vans, natural woodland log cabins or, for the eco-conscious, the Cottage Lodge Hotel near Brockenhurst.
All the information you need is at www.newforest.co.uk