The ‘Capital of the New Forest’, Lyndhurst is a historic town in the heart of the National Park. It has been a main centre for the area since the Middle Ages. The Queen’s House still acts as the official seat of the Court of Verderers – the ancient legal system operated within the New Forest that protects the rights of the Commoners and where New Forest by-laws can be made. The Court meets six times a year in the Verderers’ Hall and is open to the public when in session. The New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst with a museum, regular events and activities, a gallery and a gift shop is a great place to start your exploration of the Forest. St Michael’s and All Angels Church in the town is famously the final resting place of Alice Liddell, inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is also buried near Lyndhurst at Minstead Churchyard alongside his wife.
Visitors are warmly welcomed at the 18 hole golf course just outside the town and Lyndhurst offers easy access to the central Forest’s many walking and cycling routes. The New Forest Bus Tour also stops here, making it easy to connect to other locations and attractions around the National Park and on the New Forest coast. Lyndhurst offers an excellent range of accommodation to suit all budgets and holiday tastes. Enjoy a stay in luxury hotel or classic Edwardian B&B in the centre, or families might prefer a cosy cottage with an enclosed garden. The family dog is often welcome too. There are also plenty of large country hotels around Lyndhurst ideal for a romantic break or if you are planning a wedding or business conference in the New Forest.
New Forest Centre
The New Forest Centre at Lyndhurst is an outstanding introduction to the National Park. The museum (which is free for under 16s) has exhibitions exploring the Forest’s geology, its history, wildlife, conservation and its ancient traditions including the park’s Commoning System still in use today. The captivating New Forest Embroidery created in the late 1970s which depicts various key events in the Forest’s history is also on display, and don’t miss a tour of the New Forest Gallery.
Children will find plenty to please like the interactive family tree at the heart of the museum – an old oak tree with flaps they can lift to reveal creepy crawlies and other Forest residents. The gift shop is well stocked with enchanting forest themed gifts, affordable toys and beautiful prints of the National Park. A reference library and room hire are also available, and lots of family friendly activities and events run through the year.
Lyndhurst main car park is a major stop along two routes of the three New Forest open top bus tour routes which operate daily during the summer season. The Green Route from Lyndhurst explores the south east of the Park taking in locations such as Brockenhurst, Lymington, Beaulieu and Hythe with its ferry services. The Red Route takes in the wild north of the National Park and runs from Lyndhurst to stops including Burley, Ringwood, Fordingbridge, Ashurst and the New Forest Wildlife Park.
The New Forest Reptile Centre located two miles west of Lyndhurst along the A35 uniquely holds the only complete collection of native lizards, frogs, snakes and toads including the UK’s only venomous snake, the adder. Many are native to the New Forest like the sand lizard that lives on the Forest heathlands, as well as amphibians such as newts and natterjack toads – another heathland specialist species. Animals are displayed in enclosures where you can safely view them, and there is a self-guided trail through the forest area as well as a woodland picnic area. The Reptile Centre is closed during winter, and reopens in the spring at Easter.
Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary
For a guaranteed view of deer, that can be elusive in the wilds of the New Forest, head to Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary just north west of Lyndhurst. You can often see a herd of fallow deer from the viewing platform which is also a great place from which to take photos. See if you can spot the unusual all white deer. There are also a range of graded walks through the woodland at the Sanctuary. All start from the picnic area and range from half mile walks to two mile trails. The woodland at the Sanctuary includes native ancient woodland as well as exotic species such as Redwoods and conifer. You can reach Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary from Lyndhurst via the A35, and off at Arboretum Ornamental Drive. The car park is two miles up this road on the right.