with tips for cycling & hiking
The Forest is blessed with 10 sites and they all offer direct access into the forest. With the vast majority of them, you need to use your own unit’s toilet, but there are opportunities to camp with the benefit of on- site sanitary facilities.
Some have electricity but the majority do not and they are all seasonal sites, with the exception of Setthorns, which is open all year.
Overview of Sites
Name of Site
Number of Pitches
No toilets or showers
Toilets, showers, no dogs
Hard standings, no toilets or showers,no dogs
Toilets & showers
Hardstandings, electric, showers & toilets
No toilets or showers
No toilets or showers
Hardstandings, toilets & washbasins
Toilets & showers
Hardstandings, electric, MHS, no toilets or showers
What they do offer is a back to nature experience in the heart of the forest but we do find that they can get very busy in the summer and at weekends. Also in many, there are no set pitches and everyone is not as considerate as they should be. We can recall one instance, when we parked up in Ashurst, in what we thought was a private spot, only to find on our return from a cycle ride, that a family had virtually pitched up under our canopy. Also some of the sites are very large. Fortunately we do not have to camp now in peak periods and there are some smaller more intimate sites and also for that reason, we prefer the seclusion of the pitches at Setthorns.
Firstly be aware that cycling rules in the New Forest off road are slightly different to the rest of the country.
Almost everywhere else in the country, equestrians and cyclists enjoy comparable access rights. In the New Forest horse riders are allowed to roam pretty much anywhere but this is not the case for cyclists. Forest tracks are accessible as are of course the roads but the open forest as such is not, so look out for restrictions.
Your cycle ride starts on the old Brockenhurst to Dorchester railway line which runs at the bottom of the site.
Turn left and follow this until it reaches the road. This road directly in front of you once formed part of the original railway.
You now want to turn left and as you head slightly downhill you need to take the track on your right at the car park,after about ¼ mile, this forms part of cycleway 2.
You follow this track for just over a mile as it bends round to reach the main A35.
Cross the road with care and take the road virtually opposite and follow this for about 2 miles, passing Holmsley Lodge on the way.
After 2 miles this road meets a ‘main’ road, cross this and shortly after take the road on your left until it meets the road you crossed.
Turn right and go into Burley . On the way back you want to follow this road, as it bears left to leave the village. You do not want to return the way you came.
Burley is one of those quintessentially English villages and though unsurprisingly it is very geared up to tourism, this does not distract from its charm and you will want to spend some time here.
On leaving the village, you continue for about a mile in the direction of Bransgore and when you reach the old railway track you turn left.
You follow this and when you reach the small road, you can turn right and go back the way you came, or you can continue along the track until you go under the A35.
The advantage of the latter is you come across the old Holmsley railway station, which has now been converted into excellent tea rooms, so if you missed out on that cream tea in Burley, this is now your chance to put that right.
Holmesley Railway Station – Tearooms – Photograph by Stuart Buchan
You now follow the road, which used to form part of the old railway track, until you pick up the track again and back to the campsite.
If you are nervous of the road or have young children, then you could retrace and go back and pick up the Holmsley enclosure road and go back the way you came. This will only add about 2 miles to your trip. I do find, however, that people regularly cycle this road and it has the advantage that it is straight, so visibility is excellent, so vehicles can see you.
For a more detailed description of the cycle using the old railway path & beyond Ringwood, see
Tip: Make a mental note of the forest turnings on your way down, as you will need them on your return journey and trust me they all tend to blend into one.
This time you turn right and head towards Brockenhurst which is about 3 miles away. On your left after about a mile, there is a house and what looks like a ticket window. My nephew, who is a bit of a train buff, reliably informs me that this is where the train drivers received a ticket, to allow them to proceed along the track.
There are still many visual reminders of the railway track past, such as this bridge at Long Slade Bottom – site of our annual family get together.
The railway track ends when it meets the mainline railway and the B3055. Turn left along this road for a short section, underneath the railway bridge and rather than turning left and following the B3055 into Brockenhurst, go straight over on the minor road.
After a 100 metres take the road on your left and follow this into Brockenhurst. Turn right onto the main A337 and virtually immediately, take the road on your right, which forms part of cycle route 2.
Follow this for about a mile, over the river, and then take the forest track on your left, which still forms part of cycle route 2.
Continue to follow cycle route 2, until you come to a T junction, this is still cycle route 2, but after 200 metres you need to take the forest track on your right.
If you cross the railway line, you have gone too far.
Continue along this track for just under a mile when you need to take the track on your right.
Follow this for about 3/4 mile, until you reach a cross roads and then take the track on your left.
Keep going left for just over a mile until you reach, Furzey Lodge and a minor road.
Take this road to your right until you reach the main road and then turn left and follow this road, for about a mile, down into Beaulieu.
Beaulieu is a delightful village and there is more than enough to keep you occupied for a day, with the Abbey, Palace & National Motor Museum.
Plan your visit by visiting the website:
In the village on you right is a small road, which will be signposted to Bucklers Hard. It is generally accepted that you can cycle this route.
You follow the Beaulieu River, all the way until you reach Bucklers Hard.
No matter how many times I visit Bucklers Hard, I never tire of it, whether it is its iconic setting or the sense of history I am not sure.
Though the footpath goes through this old shipbuilding village, if you need to visit the attactions and it would be extremely amiss not to, then you need to pay the entrance fee.
Bucklers Hard could easily be a second day out in this area and I suggest could be combined with a visit to the Denny Wood Campsite. (See section on Denny Wood Cycle Routes)
North Terrace Bucklers Hard
If you do not want to use your own facilities then you can use this certificated site in Sway. It does have hard standings.
To access the rides, go up into the village and turn left on the main road.
Continue on this road for about ½ mile, ignore the two turnings on your right and the third minor one.
Take the 4th turning on your right which is a lane which leads into the forest and then follow the forest road round, through Setthorns, to meet up with the railway track. This is a total distance of about 2 miles from Sway village.
Further Information on Cycling in the Forest