Our Wales Canine Critic, Bear, took a dog-friendly holiday to the New Forest along with his two brothers, Shih Tzus Dougie and Louie. Together they sniffed out the best dog walks, pup-friendly attractions and days out, and stayed in one of our dog-friendly cottages in the New Forest! The dogs’ human, Leah, tells us what they got up to:
After a long and stressful year of recovery and rehabilitation from his two complete hip replacements, we could not wait to go on our Canine Cottages holiday and give Bear the opportunity to fully test-drive his new bionic hips and explore to his heart’s content! This was our first holiday with the dogs, so we were really looking forward to spending the whole week together and giving them a nice change of scenery - especially Bear after his many months of crate rest.
When the lovely Canine Critics team were searching for the perfect retreat for us, our main hope was to find somewhere near the coast (as Bear is a total water baby!) with plenty of scenic walks; and they couldn’t have matched us with a better location than they did – the New Forest.
Laurel Bank is very stylishly decorated while still retaining many period characteristics, which we loved. We were greeted with a range of special touches including cut flowers, refreshments, freshly baked bread and teacakes – not forgetting a big jar of dog treats and three squeaky balls!
The lower floor was open plan and had big patio doors leading into a large, enclosed garden which the boys spent a lot of time exploring. There was a really handy utility room equipped for all your doggy needs and the humans’, which was stocked with all the essentials! The weather was typically British during our stay (although we had some lovely sunny days) so the washer/dryer got plenty of use! For the smaller dogs, there were facilities in there to wash and dry them indoors and for Bear (who was ever so slightly too big to fit in the sink), there was a warm outdoor shower to rinse him off after his muddy adventures.
The owners even provided dog towels and even a shampoo specifically to ward off any ticks/fleas that they might encounter when out and about in the forest, which was a really thoughtful touch (and it smelled great too!).
Upstairs was decorated as beautifully as downstairs and had two great sized bedrooms and a modern bathroom. Our favourite feature of the cottage was the wood burner, which we enjoyed the novelty of lighting almost every evening. We were given a complimentary basket of logs to burn and access to a whole shed full of them if we wanted to buy any more after that, which of course we did! Cosying up, putting our feet (and paws) up in front of it whilst watching Netflix was the perfect end to a busy day.
We also had the luxury of a hot tub in our garden which was amazing to unwind in, although Bear was a little confused why we would sit in there for so long… pretty sure he thought it was just a giant water bowl!
The cottage is ideally situated in Sway, a quiet village in the centre of the New Forest National Park that has everything you could possibly need within walking distance. Whether you’ve run out of milk or you just fancy some fresh supplies for a cooked breakfast, the butchers, corner shop, dog-friendly pub, post office and pharmacy are all just a stone’s throw away.
Although surrounded by picturesque nature reserves, it’s just a short drive away from Lymington town where you’ll find plenty of shops if you’re in need of some retail therapy! However, we spent most of our time checking out the coastline and sniffing out some of New Forest’s infamous woodland trails. There were so many to choose from – the boys were in their element!
Despite the unpredictable British weather, we definitely made the most of every day we had in the New Forest. We spent the majority of our time exploring the woodland as that’s always been Bear’s favourite and the landscape acted as a beautiful barrier between us and the elements! We saved the coastal walks for the brightest days – because who doesn’t love the sea with a view?!
One of our first and favourite adventures was Blackwater Arboretum, perhaps the New Forest’s most popular attraction! We let Bear lead the way and he took us down the aptly named “Tall Tree Trail” – boy, they were HUGE! The area has a collection of nationally important trees, including some of the hardiest, heaviest and highest in the world – you could barely see the tops! With nice, level paths to follow and a convenient picnic area nearby, it was easy to spend hours exploring there.
Whitefield Moor was another big feature for the area; offering a variety of natural habitats and wildlife, we REALLY enjoyed this one. Among the stunning scenery, we also found the Ober Water stream which Bear had a great time paddling in! Like many of the surrounding areas, there were herds of wild horses roaming free around there and they were a real joy to watch. This was certainly one of the muddier places to visit though, so we were thankful of the doggy showers at the cottage when we returned!
Barton on Sea was another very popular spot for tourists, made even more so by the year-round dog friendliness! We didn’t look for any specific walks here – instead, we enjoyed pottering along the sandy front but there were plenty of beautiful walkways available for keen hikers. We also discovered that this beach is a great place to find fossils, although Bear was far too busy running around to dig for any!
Later in the week, we visited the lovely seaside town of Milford on Sea and followed the seashore trail along from Solent Way right down to Hurst Castle. It was unfortunately closed when we finally reached it (just our luck!) – but we still had a cheeky nose around the outside. It was still worth the trek over, if only to take in all the scenic views of the nature reserves and the Isle of Wight across the water. Despite the sun shining when we set off, the weather was less kind to us on the walk back over – thank dog we had a roaring log fire to look forward to back at the cottage!
Other great places to check out:
We had the BEST time in the New Forest, it really was the perfect place for us, and we can’t thank Canine Cottages enough for finding us such a gem! It was an ideal getaway for us; the dogs had an absolute whale of a time and didn’t want to leave.
We would definitely recommend this property and area to a furiend – in fact, we may even have to go back for more ourselves!