The Best Walks in the New Forest

The Best Walks in the New Forest

In this article, you'll learn the following:
The New Forest covers 220 square miles of countryside, stretching from Southampton Water to the Avon Valley. It was established as William the Conqueror's hunting grounds in 1079. It’s now home to birds of prey, several deer species, 15,000 insect species and over 2,700 fungi species (two-thirds of the UK’s total)! Wildlife fills every landscape, from woodland and marsh to heath and coastline. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the UK’s best walking trails are in the New Forest. 

Planning a hike? Our list of the best walks in the New Forest has everything you need to know before lacing your boots. 

New Forest walk path

Getting to the New Forest by train

South Western Railway has direct trains to the New Forest from London WaterlooBasingstokeWinchesterSouthamptonBournemouthPoole and Weymouth.

There are nine New Forest train stations to choose from:
A street in one of New Forest's surrounding towns

Safety tips to enjoy the New Forest

The New Forest is a wildlife haven rich in biodiversity. Whether you’re exploring ancient woodlands, open heathlands or the coastline, you’ll encounter rare species in their natural habitats.

Follow these tips to stay safe and protect the wildlife:

  • Avoid feeding or touching the animals
  • Bring your rubbish or dog waste home
  • Refrain from lighting fires or barbecues
  • Stay on the main walking or cycle tracks
  • Carry water and snacks
  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear
  • Use suncream and insect repellent
  • Save emergency numbers

Map of the best walks in the New Forest

Lymington Town Trail

Lymington is a charming coastal town with a rich sailing history nestled between Southampton and Bournemouth. The town’s historic quayside is home to two large marinas, bustling with fishing boats and yachts, which you’ll pass on this seaside town trail.

Starting point: Lymington train station
Distance: 2 miles (3.2 km)
Average duration: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Accessibility: Easy walking on level ground
Closest SWR station: Lymington Town
How to get there: Take the train to Lymington Town, where this trail starts.

Ashurst Stroll

While it’s relatively short, this walk captures diverse landscapes for a varied experience. Starting in Ashurst village near Southampton, it passes through areas where New Forest ponies graze, through Churchplace Inclosure, a timber plantation, and finally into Ashurst Wood.

Starting point: Ashurst New Forest station
Distance: 2.8 miles (4.5 km)
Average duration: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Accessibility: Easy walk with some slight gradients, four gates and a woodland track
Closest SWR station: Ashurst New Forest station
How to get there: South Western Railway has trains to Ashurst New Forest station, where this trail starts.

Lymington Marshes

Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes is a coastal nature reserve covering 1,820 acres. Its grazing marshes, mudflats and saltmarshes are home to various species, including black-headed gulls, redshanks and oystercatchers. Passing through the marshes, you’ll enjoy stunning coastlines and rich greenery.

Starting point: Lymington Town station
Distance: 3.7 miles (6km)
Average duration: 1 to 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Accessibility: Easy walking along level ground with some narrow paths
Closest SWR station: Lymington Town
How to get there: South Western Railway has trains to Lymington Town, where this route starts.

Buckland Rings Trail

Buckland Rings Trail is the longest walk here and boasts the most varied sights. It’s one of the best circular walks in the New Forest. It starts and finishes in the historic village of Brockenhurst, where you might glimpse New Forest ponies, donkeys, or deer freely roaming the high street.

Next, you pass through Roydon Woods Nature Reserve, a collection of diverse habitats supporting woodpeckers, badgers, deer and more. Finally, you arrive at Buckland Rings, a prehistoric fort where Iron Age defences remain visible.

Starting point: Brockenhurst station
Distance: 6.8 miles (10.9km)
Average duration: 2 to 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Accessibility: Moderate
Closest SWR station: Brockenhurst
How to get there: The route begins at Lymington Quay. To get there, catch the train to Lymington Pier, then walk east along the coast, away from the shops.

For further details, visit the New Forest National Park website.

If you’re feeling inspired to walk a trail, discover our pick of the best free self-guided London walks, the best walks along the Thames and the best walking trails in the South West.

Book advance train tickets for the best price. Browse our ticket types to discover cheap train tickets, and check if you can save with a Railcard or GroupSave. Travel at any time on Sunday with a Sunday Out ticket. Take any return train with Semi Flex Return tickets.

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