Burley village and the surrounding area is about as perfectly pretty as the New Forest gets. You’re deep in the western part of the New Forest National Park here where life is slow and rustic.
Ringwood is the areas biggest (small) town and there’s plenty going on.
You’ll find ancient forests, heathlands, wild ponies, cattle & donkeys, and plenty of charming red brick cottages (many of which still have thatch roofs).
We love that the animals have right of way here. There is even a law court dedicated especially to the right to graze animals ‘wild’ here. Livestock, grazing, and cutting wood are managed under the Commoning laws. These were set up in the 13 century and are very much alive and followed today. It’s a slow and ancient way of living.
Witches are a part of Burley’s history that have become celebrated in the village. During the late 1950’s a famous ‘White’ witch named Sybil Leek lived locally. She wore a long black cloak and had a pet jackdaw who used to ride upon her shoulder. Because her costume fitted the idea of a wicked witch, the locals fell out with her and she moved to the USA. Her work on the occult and astrology is still available online and there are several local gift shops that celebrate the theme.
Public transport isn’t very straight forward, so you are better travelling by car. It is well set up for off road travel by horse or bike (on and off road). Trains come to Brockenhurst, 15 minutes away by car, but no further north.
Great places to eat and drink in Burley
The White Buck is a good local pub. Fullers own the pub and there’s normally a crowd full here enjoying the food & drink. You can still see the odd white roe deer buck (male with antlers) around in the New Forest. Keep your eyes open!
The Queen’s Head was built in the 16th century and was (as many pubs are across the forest) notorious for smugglers, vagabonds and highwaymen. If you visit, ask about the hidden cellar which was discovered beneath the floor of the “Stable bar”. It was hidden full of pistols, coins, bottles and other goods and was believed to be one of the hiding places of the local band of smugglers.
Noohn serve locally roasted coffee, sandwiches, cakes, homemade treats and more. They also offer made to order picnics, which can be collected before heading out on your New Forest adventure. Vegan and gluten-free options available.
Located on the main Burley to Brockenhurst walking/ cycling track, you will find The Old Station Tea Rooms. This former Victorian railway station is quirky and charming. They serve a range of refreshments including ice creams and cream teas.
Shappenstores sits in the centre of Burley village, trading here since 1908, the butchery provides high quality meat to local residents and visitors alike, as well as wide selection of hand-picked drink & deli products.
This small market town bridges the River Avon, and is a lively place with plenty of independent shops, restaurants and cafes. It has a charter that dates back to 1226.
Ringwood host a popular street market weekly on Wednesdays. The town is also home to New Forest Wines and Patterson’s fishmonger/butcher, who are both well regarded. There is a Waitrose and Lidl, plus 2 good bike shops.
Welsh Street has the best view of the river, the old arched bridge is well loved and used still.
Ringwood Brewery has been crafting their award winning beers since 1978. The beers are brewed in the traditional way using the finest natural ingredients, premium malted barley, together with hops from Kent and Worcestershire. Head there for a Brewery Tour experience where you’ll get the chance to taste the malted barley, sniff the hops and see the beer fermenting in the Tun Room. The afternoon will end with the opportunity to partake in a tutored tasting session and a complimentary drink in the Pin Room.
Eating in Ringwood
If you’re looking for a cafe then The New Forest Pantry is very popular and has a nice outside seated area. For more of a restaurant feel than Lovitaly is the place to go- they make authentic Italian food with fresh ingredients which is always delicious. Probably the most well known place is Framptons which is a bar/restaurant and the original venue that includes two more places also in the South. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner with a rather good cocktail menu available…
Out and about
Cycling – For those who cycle off road, there are marked tracks and the National Park team prefer you stick to these. This is mainly for the same reasons mentioned above, but also to try to reduce tire erosion on the sandy soils. If you stray, especially during busy times, you many have wardens asking you questions.
New Forest Cycling are based in Burley and close to the trails, they offer cycle hire and information on cycle routes for all ages and abilities. Their sister site, The Woods Cyclery, in Lyndhurst, is a leading brand in bike-packing, long distance tours and specialist trips and kit. They have a great and micro coffee shop on site.
For an inside scoop, you can read a locals take on cycling in the New Forest here – Phil’s cycling interview.
Horse riding – There is a great place just 20 minutes to the north of Burley, at Arniss Equestrian. You can ride from here for miles and this is some of the best, (and quietest) hacking in the county.
Walking – Head in almost any direction. The Ordnance Survey map won’t show many specific footpaths on the area because it is all free to roam. Try to stick near the tracks (there are many), not only because it’ll keep you away from the areas famous bogs and wet patches (!) but because you won’t disturb the nesting ground birds that love this area.
Golf – The 2x 9 hole courses at Burley Golf Club offer a rare opportunity to golf amongst the wildlife and panoramic views of the New Forest . The course is playable 52 weeks of the year, and the club is very welcoming of visitors.
Waggon Rides – For a unique experience learning about the history of the smugglers, witchcraft and the magical powers of the lay lines, be sure to book one of Burley’s horse drawn waggon rides. The tours run from April- October and last between 20 minutes – 1 hour.
New Forest Cider – This ones for the cider lovers! Traditionally brewed cider from the heart of the New Forest. Their products are made in the traditional way using English apples from their own orchards.
We love the streams to play in and hide and seek in the bracken and heath areas. But if and when you want more…
Just past Burley, 25 mins away, don’t miss Moors Valley Country Park. You only pay for parking and the site is huge, has two massive play structures, one for younger children in a giant sandpit. In the larger forest park area, it has 8 or so well built, creative play structures all themed on the local wildlife. You can cycle here safely, all off road. There is a very good café and visitors centre too. The site is also accessible for wheeled mobility transport. It’s a day trip destination for families and very well priced.
Small children will love the ‘Splash park’, in Christchurch. There is no swimming area, but there are paddling pools, fountains, streams, places to dam up, float toys and enjoy creative water play all around. Open in summer months. only.
For bigger kids, the New Forest Aqua Park is 20 mins away toward Fordingbridge. Do book in advance for their activities which include paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding and waterskiing. Teens will love it.
Feel the sand under your feet….. the nearest Beaches
The long and sandy beaches at Highcliffe Castle Beach and Mudeford Beach are both charming. There are good cafes along the coast here. Read our Insiders Guide to the New Forest beaches for more.
Hengitsbury Head is very close too. It is a site of significant archeological importance and has a great cafe and visitors centre.
The Mudeford spit is most fun to arrive by the ‘Noddy’ train, or take the little boat. A 20 minute drive then a 30 minute walk.
Even nearer, on the ‘main land’ Avon beach is white sand and lifeguards in summer. Here you’ll find The Noisy Lobster – a well loved and brilliant restaurant, deli and shop.