We have just come back from a lovely week long toddler friendly holiday in the New Forest.
Pre-baby we weren’t really a staycation kind of couple. We had the odd nice weekend in Edinburgh or London, but as a lover of sun, I always preferred to holiday abroad. We have been abroad with my family loads, but once Miss Belle came along we decided we’d try holidaying at home with my in-laws. I was apprehensive because they prefer to be on the go all the time, whereas I prefer to chill, but in the interest of fairness, and with the promise of baby sitting, we gave it a go. Last June we went to the Cotswolds. This year we chose a cottage in Burley in the New Forest. We chose it because 1) it looked nice, 2) it was a good location and 3) it was on a farm, so guaranteed to provide some entertainment for Miss Belle, who’s new favourite word is Baa Baa.
Beautiful New Forest!
I’d never been to the New Forest before and didn’t really do that much research pre-trip, mostly because my husband always takes over and plans what we do. He reads the Lonely Planet guide to wherever we are going for about a month before the actual trip. I’ve learnt to just let him get on with it. Most of the time he finds good places to visit or eat, though there have been a few misses along the way. So, we arrived last weekend and other than expecting a forest and knowing it was about half an hour from the coast, I didn’t really know what else to expect. And, if you’ve not been, wow, it is beautiful!
We pulled off the motorway and ventured right into the countryside and I knew we’d made a good choice. As we approached the village and went over cattlegrids there were wild horses, ponies and cattle roaming about! Who knew this was a thing!? They caused the odd traffic jam, casually strolling down the roads, and the ponies were so tame. As we drove through Burley most of the houses had cattlegrids at the end of their drives. Amazing! Every time we drove past we wound the window down so Miss Belle could see and her little face lit up. It didn’t get old all holiday. She loved it.
Lovely coastline and pretty villages
We also happened to luck in with the weather. It was an awesome sunny week to holiday in the UK and be outdoors. On Sunday we got up and had a walk around the village then went to Lymington on the coast. It was another hit for Miss Belle who shouted and signed ‘boats’ allllllll day. We just had a wander around, had an ice cream and went to a playground. It was a lovely spot and I’d definitely go back.
On Monday we went to Portsmouth to the historic dockyard which has several old ships and the Mary Rose Museum. I am not a museum person. I hate standing around with an aching back all day trying to retain a load of information (which I always fail to do). And I don’t particularly like History as a subject either – I did Geography for my GCSEs. Anyway, we went on HMS Victory which Lord Nelson was captain of. It was interesting to have a look around an old war ship but you had to constantly duck so you didn’t hit your head. There were really steep steps which wasn’t ideal for carrying a small person, and generally it was a bit hard work with a walking-only-holding-your-hand toddler, but my husband and the inlaws enjoyed it, and actually so did Miss Belle.
We then went to the Mary Rose museum, and even I was blown away with that. How can you not be? A ship that sank over 400 years ago, brought back up to the surface and put together again after being half buried in the sea bed. Mental! It is definitely worth a visit whether you are interested in history or not. I almost found the whole excavation of it more interesting than the fact it was Henry VIII’s ship. We didn’t have time to do HMS Warrior or the submarine that is there but our ticket is valid for a year, so it’s another reason to go back.
What else did we do? Well it wouldn’t be a toddler friendly holiday without a trip to the beach. We went to Boscombe on a day forecast to be 24 and sunny. We got there and it was substantially windier than I had predicted, but we persevered and bought Miss Belle a bucket and spade (we’d forgotten one) and went to the beach – for all of about 15 minutes before a storm came. Still, there were sandcastles briefly, we she tried to eat. Naturally!
We then sheltered from the rain under the pier and watched the lightening. We made a run for it just as the heavens truly opened and we all got soaked. Ah, memories. Still, we had a nice lunch afterwards at the Urban Reef cafe. We walked to Bournemouth when the sun came back out, so that Miss Belle could have that all important 30 minute nap. 30 minutes! Nap longer child!!
The highlight of our holiday
On Wednesday we hired bikes and cycled 18 miles to Brokenhurst and back. The weather was glorious and it was my favourite day of the holiday. We put Miss Belle in a trailer because we thought that might be more nap friendly than a seat. She still only had about 30 minutes. She loved watching us all cycle past and looking at the views and animals. We stopped off for a delicious cream tea. The scenery was brilliant and I thought to myself how lucky we are in this country to have some super places to visit. (Or live, if you’re really lucky, and loaded. House prices there were MENTAL.) Poor Daddy had the trailer (and by the end of the day, three rucksacks). Matt’s parents are 68/71 and I’m amazed they biked so far (though they did both fall off, which was hilarious. Don’t worry they weren’t hurt!)
It was our third wedding anniversary whilst we were away. We had booked a table to go out for a meal. However, Miss Belle who is normally such a good sleeper, either really hated her room, her brightly coloured travel cot, or just knew we had plans, because she was a nightmare to put to bed every night. Some nights took an hour of us rocking her, patting her tummy, or just sitting by her cot. Only on the last night of the holiday did I manage to settle her and walk out of the room with her awake and not crying. I thought she was just unsettled because of the new surroundings but she even did this last night back at home. Maybe she was overtired? Who knows. I’m hoping she’ll settled down now we are home… Watch this space.
Anyway, we did manage a night at the village pub. And, we changed our anniversary dinner reservations to lunch on the last day and went to The Pig in Brokenhurst on Friday. It’s menu is called the ’25 mile’ menu because 80% of the produce is sourced within 25 miles. They go out foraging, have a huge walled kitchen garden, and create a different menu every day. It was delicious and a lovely fitting end to our holiday.
A great toddler friendly UK holiday destination
We hope to go back next year, and even go to Peppa Pig World (GULP) which is only about 30 minutes away. So there you are. If you are looking for a staycation you will definitely be able to find a toddler friendly holiday in the New Forest.
Where else would you recommend holidaying at home? Leave your thoughts in the comment box, I’d love to know so I (I mean my husband) can investigate.