The New Forest is one of Britain's most naturally beautiful destinations.
Speckled with beach trees, ferns, and oaks, this eye-popping corner of South-East England is home to some of the finest camping spots in the country – two of the very best being Denny Wood and Matley Wood.
Denny is the larger of the pair, boasting room for 170 tents with an abundance of wildlife scampering, fluttering, and hopping in between. Pets are not permitted in this particular camping area due to ground nesting birds, but if you want to bring your pooch along for the trip, you can head over to the smaller, pet-friendly site Matley Wood. This is a similarly stunning but more tightly compact space, with room for up to 70 tents. Denny and Matley Wood share a campsite reception so if you're heading to Matley Wood you'll need to check in at Denny Wood first.
Whether you opt for Denny or Matley Wood for your stay in the New Forest, we've provided some suggestions on how best to spend your long weekend. This itinerary ought to be just the ticket.
Day 1 – Find out about the New Forest
After setting up your tent you’ll undoubtedly be itching to get out and explore, and the great thing about the New Forest is that you barely need to leave your doorstep to have an adventure.
Both Denny and Matley are close by to the village of Lyndhurst – which is widely regarded as the capital of the New Forest. Here you will find the New Forest National Park tourist centre, where the friendly staff will happily chat to you about the area and suggest even more potential activities to pursue during your visit.
If you’re a literature lover, you can then venture over to St Michaels & All Angels Church, where you’ll find the grave of Alice Hargreaves – the girl who was the inspiration for Lewis Carrol’s classic tale Alice in Wonderland. There’s also a related exhibition at the New Forest Centre, where you can leap into the source material and learn some fascinating facts about the story behind the story.
A fifteen-minute drive north (or two-mile walk, if you fancy a scenic stroll) is the civil parish of Minstead. This charming New Forest patch is home to both The Rufus Stone and Furzey Gardens – which pull in visitors all year round. The Rufus Stone is an iron-clad ornament that marks the spot where King William II was felled by an arrow, and has stood for hundreds of years ever since as a mesmerising historical reminder. Furzey Gardens, meanwhile, is an enchanting woodland spot adorned with winding pathways, lush green trees, 16th century cottages, and flowers popping with vibrant colour. All entrance fees to the garden go to charity.
As you can see, you don’t need to go far at all to have a fab first day when you stay at Denny or Matley. These activities are the perfect way to get your bearings before heading back to camp for some well-earned grub.
Day 2 – Explore Southampton
Once you’ve risen from your tent and thrown together an energy-boosting breakfast, assemble the gang and clamber into the car to hit Southampton. The trip is a short one from both campsites – a little over ten miles and taking anywhere between 25 and 35 minutes depending on traffic.
Southampton is a superb city with sights aplenty – one of the main attractions being the famous SeaCity Museum. Here you can learn all about the region’s strong connections to the infamous Titanic ship, all the while marvelling at the glorious range of maritime exhibits. Pretty much everything at the SeaCity Museum is tucked away below deck and undercover too, rendering it an ideal place to hide out if the heavens ever decide to open without warning.
The Medieval Merchant’s House is also worth a visit during your jaunt to Southampton centre. One of the oldest buildings in the area, this structure has been restored to reflect its 14th century appearance, dotted with facsimile medieval furnishings and ancient herbs planted thousands of years ago.
Need to tire the kids out before you head back to camp? If you’re after something that gets the blood pumping, the Alpine Snowsports Centre offers you the chance to strap on your skates and glide across the slopes all year round – catering for beginners and pros alike.
Day 3 – Pop down to Portsmouth
Waking on your third day, alleviate those end-of-vacation blues by tucking into a hearty breakfast at the campsite and heading down to the other major city in the area: Portsmouth.
It’s worth stopping at Fort Nelson in Fareham en route, which is about 30 miles from camp and can be reached in just under an hour by car. A family of national royal armoury museums, this venue is free to access and allows you to explore 19 acres of ancient war grounds via a guided tour, with commemorative gun firings taking place at various points throughout the year.
After leaving Fort Nelson, you can keep venturing south for another 10 miles or so (20 mins), and you’ll reach Portsmouth – a region well worth exploring if only for the historic dockyard. Situated here is The Mary Rose Museum – which houses the only 16th century warship display in the world. You’ll be free to snoop around Henry VIII’s favourite maritime vehicle and take some superb snaps of an absolute Tudor masterpiece. The HMS Victory is also moored at the dockyard – another ship exploration that guarantees fun for all the family.
For a fantastic weekend in the New Forest, Denny Wood and Matley Wood offer a sublime, peaceful stay, letting you escape the hustle and bustle of the world. You can reserve a spot at one of these camping sites right now by booking online or giving Camping in the Forest a call on 024 7642 3008. We’d be delighted to answer any questions you may have.
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