Highlights of the Blue Route
Today a yachting mecca (and ferry port for the Isle of Wight), Lymington is an attractive coastal market town with a colourful past. The town's wealth was built on the three Ss of salt making, smuggling and shipbuilding, brought to life at the recently refurbished St Barbe Museum, on New Street, close to the Tour stop in Lymington.
With direct trains from London, Southampton and other cities (see Get here), Brockenhurst is a great place to join the New Forest Tour. Entirely surrounded by Forest, you can often spot donkeys and New Forest ponies wandering into the town. Brockenhurst is also the starting point for a network of footpaths and cycle trails – you can hire bikes from Cyclexperience, beside the rail station.
Burley is one of the most popular villages of the New Forest, with a cider farm, galleries and tea rooms as well as a tradition of witchcraft! It's also surrounded by some great Forest cycle trails and bikes can be hired from Forest Leisure. The Queen's Head pub is built on the site of the Stable Bar, notorious for smugglers and highwaymen.
New Milton has good rail connections and a wide range of shops, cafes and restaurants. Forest Arts runs a varied programme of theatre, film, exhibitions, music and workshops. Just before the town (Bashley Cross Road stop) a short walk will bring you to the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum.
We arrive at the coast at Barton-on-Sea with views of of the Solent, with its famous fossil-rich cliffs, safe beaches and cliff-top walks - perfect places to take in the fresh salty air. Fossil hunters can discover ancient plants, shells and sharks' teeth. After a bracing ride along the coast, the Tour calls at Shorefield Country Park.
Milford-on-Sea has a bustling high street, traditional village green and dramatic sandstone cliffs with views of the Needles. There are shingle beaches for swimming as well as seafront cafes and coastal walks.
Keyhaven & Hurst Castle
The pretty habour of Keyhaven is the starting point for exploring the atmospheric coastal marshes - the remain of 'salterns' from the area's salt industry - alive with ducks, waders and sea birds.
You can catch the little ferry from Keyhaven to Hurst castle, built by Henry VIII to defend the Solent from invasion during the Napoleonic wars. The castle houses a military museum and offers stunning views across to the Isle of Wight.